Wednesday, July 29, 2009

So...let's talk about your marriage (but sign this first)

Apparently, our marriage the topic of the next meeting with me, Jennifer, and M, our adoption counselor and the woman conducting our home study.

Our first meeting, held last Friday, focused on bringing M up to speed and her going over the huge amounts of paperwork we'll need to provide, among them being:
  • written confirmation from the Bristol, RI, police, the RI Attorney General, and the FBI that we are not bad people
  • our autobiographies (I'm hoping David McCullough will be available to ghost write mine)
  • financial reports, tax records, mortgage details
  • 3 letters of reference from friends confirming that we are not bad people
  • letters from our employers confirming that we are not bad people and that we actually are gainfully employed
  • medical reports
  • and the list goes on
However, meeting #2 tomorrow is when the fun starts. "Next week, we'll talk about your marriage," M says to us as we're wrapping up our first meeting. Of course, she gives us no clue as to exactly what we'll be talking about when it comes to our marriage so imaginations have run wild over the last 5 days as to the potential questions.

Once we get through that gauntlet, we'll have at least 2-3 more meetings with her, host M during a visit to our home, and then take part in an additional 10 hours of parenting education. And this is just for the home study. We aren't even talking about the next step of working with the placement agency to get out there as adoptive parents and hopefully be selected by a birth mother!

Seriously, China would not have to worry about overpopulation if they required everyone to go through this process before having a biological child. There's more paperwork than when we bought our house, though as I noted on my Facebook page the evening after our first meeting, "Of course, you can always sell your home. Kids are forever and appear to result in a correspondingly larger amount of things to be signed."

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Baseball for families

I was planning to blog about our trip to the Pawtucket Red Sox game last night and how we were surrounded by parents and kids, most of whom were having a great time. However, Jennifer beat me to it and wrote such a fantastic piece that I'm going to just point you to it and say "yeah, me too." Enjoy!

Thursday, July 23, 2009


During my recent 1-day jaunt from Rhode Island to Chicago and back by way of Baltimore (a trip highlighted by an act of unexpected kindness), I spent large part of the day in and around airports or on the airplanes that service said airports. For the first time, I spent time watching, really watching, the families traveling with children.

Historically, my observations of families with children in airports are usually accompanied by an internal dialogue that goes something like this: "Boy that kid is loud...How can they manage to get all that stuff in those bags?...ummm, yeah I think you're going to need to check that stroller...oh boy that baby is crying again...ah scored a moderately comfy seat by the window...oh no, I just made eye contact with the mother! Will my noise-cancelling headphones cancel out a crying baby?...oh boy here they come...ok polite smile...please don't please don't please don't...yes, they're heading farther back!" Of course, the Universe usually pays me back for such uncharitable thoughts by having a gentleman who looks like he ate all of the Marx Brothers sit in the center seat next to me, jab me in the side with his elbow, and fall asleep facing me and bathing me in a halitosis funk.

On Wednesday, however, I watched with a whole new eye. Someday soon that's going to be me. Other people are going to look askance at me and dread seeing me walk down the aisle of that plane. And so I watched these families in curiosity and with an eye toward shamelessly borrowing any pattern of behavior or coping methods that seemed to keep the children quiet or happy. What works? What doesn't? And will people forgive Jenn and me if we can't keep the baby quiet?

It's something of an urgent concern.

Odds are, we'll be adopting our Plus One from a birth mother living somewhere else in the United States. Eventually we'll have to go home. Do we drive? Do we fly? If we do, we're going to be those "getting on an airplane with an infant" parents that I'd always secretly dreaded. Not only that but we'll be getting on that plane with virtually no practice at the whole parenting thing. Usually, families head home with newborns in their cars and the relatives fly in to visit. Nope, not us.

Looking at resources on line, there seems to be a general trend towards "wait until the baby is at least two weeks old" but other sources say 3 months, some say it's OK any time just be prepared for the baby to get sick from all the people and germs in the airport. Conveniently, the TSA allows you to bring baby formula through checkpoints with you now so that answers the questions I had about whether or not we were going to have to find some way to make it once we got through the checkpoint.

We've got a lot to learn about this whole parenting thing. So many questions and every normal, familiar experience is now colored by the realization that the next time I do this, whatever this is, it will be in the company of a little tiny person who will be fully dependent on me and my wife. Nothing will ever be the same and I can't wait.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Time to get started

We returned home from watching "Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince" this evening (see my review here) to find a message from Alliance for Children in response to our application for our home study. Hopefully, we'll be able to connect tomorrow with M, the social worker we met with a month ago, and get the first of our interviews scheduled. It will feel like such a relief when we actually get underway.

Monday, July 13, 2009

The book of fatherhood

Since receiving a Kindle for my 40th birthday (an event chronicled here on Walks in the Marsh), I've been spending a lot of time thinking about my lifelong love affair with books. It was there from the start -- I was graced with all the books I could read and parents who firmly believed in the value of the library as well as owning books for yourself.

When I was young, the day rarely ended without being read to by my mom or dad. It was one way that they showed me, every day, that they loved me. I was introduced to Narnia, for example, by my parents reading a chapter a night to me in bed. I can still recite portions of "Tikki tikki tembo-no sa rembo-chari bari ruchi-pip peri pembo" in the same sing-song my mother used 35 or so years after she first read it to me.

When I was older, I'd hide under the covers with a flashlight to continue reading after my parents told me to turn the light off. Summers on Cape Cod found my grandmother and me going to the small library in Eastham at least once a week to select books to read at the beach or in the comfy chairs by the big expanse of glass as the stars winked at us from high above the small red cottage at the end of Old Farm Lane. Even now, my bedside table is stacked with at least 7 or 8 books and our "to be read" shelf in the kitchen groans under the weight of the treasures yet to be discovered and friends still to meet.

I realized recently that this is one of the reasons I want to become a parent -- to have the opportunity to raise my child to enjoy the same love for the written word that my parents instilled in me. Perhaps you could make the case that I'm confusing reasons to become a parent with things I desperately want to do as a parent. Personally, I don't see them as mutually exclusive.

If one purpose of parenthood is to share the world and your beliefs with your child so that they can have a happy, healthy, full life and be equipped to make the best decisions for themselves, I can't think of a better path to take than to help instill in them a love for reading (being a Red Sox fan might run a close second but that's a topic for another blog post). For me, becoming a passionate reader is the closest thing to a religious upbringing that I can offer my child being as I am generally uninvolved in any actual organized religion.

A week ago, Nicholas Kristoff's Sunday column in the New York Times encouraged parents to read to their kids and to get kids to read for themselves this summer:
So how will your kids spend this summer? Building sand castles at the beach? Swimming at summer camp? Shedding I.Q. points?

In educating myself this spring about education, I was aghast to learn that American children drop in I.Q. each summer vacation — because they aren’t in school or exercising their brains.

This is less true of middle-class students whose parents drag them off to summer classes or make them read books. But poor kids fall two months behind in reading level each summer break, and that accounts for much of the difference in learning trajectory between rich and poor students.

A mountain of research points to a central lesson: Pry your kids away from the keyboard and the television this summer, and get them reading.
And with that, he offers a list of the greatest kids' books ever. My favorite comment from his list: "The Harry Potter series. Look, the chance to read these books aloud is by itself a great reason to have kids." (Hopefully you'll be able to read this column via the a Times subscriber, I can't tell if this is subscriber-only content. If it is, post a comment and I'll at least least recap the books on Kristoff's list.)

Many of the books on his list are ones that I would have had on my own. I can think of so many others that I would add to the list.

This weekend, my 10-year old sister came to visit us for several days. Together, the three of us rode our bikes into town and to the newly refurbished Rogers Free Library to check out some books to read with her over the weekend. After so many years away from most childrens' books, it was like a family reunion for me as I walked among the shelves of books and found old and dear friends from my own childhood. Seeing Jennifer reading one of the books to S there in the library made me ache for the time when I'd be able to do that with my own child and give them the most valuable gift I can think of -- a lifelong reminder of how much I love her.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Abierto? Cerrado?

I was among the first generation of Sesame Street viewers as it premiered only a few months after I was born. I grew up loving the fuzzy monsters and the cast members (I met the late Will Lee who played Mr. Hooper when I was 5 or 6 when he performed at the theatre where my father worked, wept when he died, and still have the autographed black and white cast photos that he sent me). I learned numbers from the Count and sang along with Oscar and Big Bird. I don't remember much of my foreign language classes from junior high and high school but, thanks to the humans and Muppets repeatedly stepping in and out of doors or opening and closing windows on Sesame Street, I'll never forget how to say open and closed in Spanish.



Of late, I've been thinking about Sesame Street (looking forward to sharing it with Plus One eventually) as well as those long-ago lessons about "abierto" and "cerrado" as we consider whether we're going to be more comfortable with an open or closed adoption and, if open, to what degree.

When originally considering domestic vs. international, one of the appealing facets of an international adoption is that this issue largely goes away. We would have little if any information about the birth parents and there would be virtually no chance of future, unexpected contact. However, as we've moved closer to pursuing a domestic adoption, we're facing the issue again, along with all of its weighty questions about how it will affect our future and the future of our Plus One.

Seeking a better understanding of the other parts of the "triad", Jennifer has spent a great deal of time recently reading blogs by birth-mothers and adoptees and much of what she has found has been challenging. These posts, with their anger and sense of abandonment, also have made her think more about having an open adoptive relationship in which our Plus One grows up actively knowing and interacting with her birth mother.

For me, my instinctive reaction is to push back against that. Our goal is to become a family with a child. We will be her parents, we will love and care for her. We won't hide the adoption or deny our child information about her birth parents (if the birth parents provide information) but she will have one set of parents -- us. Yes, she will have a birth mother and father and I will forever be grateful that they trusted us enough to allow us to bring their baby into our lives but I am scared of what it would mean to have them actively involved.

Would it cause confusion in our child? Would it reduce the strength of the connection and bond we hope to create with our child? Would it make me feel any less a parent or be seen by my child as any less her parent? Am I simply responding to some primal fear or an irrational lack of confidence? By the same token, I've seen up close the disruption, fear, and worry that besets a family when a birth parent suddenly reappears after decades in the wilderness, even when information about the birth parent was available.

It's a decision with lasting, profound ramifications in the same way that choosing a name carries such weight that it can influence a child's entire life. How does one choose? As a prospective parent, how do I know that, together with Jennifer, we're making the right decision for us or for our child? How will our choice affect the birth parents and how will their expectations and needs affect us?

And so I find myself looking at a door but not sure how I want and need it to be.





Saturday, July 4, 2009


Now that our home study application has been sent in and we've settled on an agency to work with for a placement, I find my compulsive need for instant gratification kicking in. When will we hear from the home study folks? How quickly can we get started? As Jennifer will attest, I am sometimes lacking in patience once I get my mind set on getting something.

Attending Bristol's 224th July 4th parade today and seeing families and kids enjoying themselves simply ramped up my desire to keep things moving, to build the momentum, to reach a point where we'll actually be able to plan how we'll attend the parade next year and where we'll be able to sit out of the sun while Plus One naps (or doesn't...her or his choice).