Book club Monday-20 things adoptive parents need to succeed-chapters 4&5

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(For more info on the book we are reading, click HERE. All passages that are quoted are from Sherrie Eldridge's book, 20 Things Adoptive Parents Need to Succeed. To read our discussion on chapter 1, click HERE. For chapters 2 & 3, click HERE.)

It's been a tad quiet out there, but I'm gonna keep on slogging through this book. And I have to tell you, it ain't easy. I totally LOVED Eldridge's first book and learned a lot when I read it. But I am finding this book 1) feels like a rehash of our adoption training, and 2) seems to be more about her personal experiences as an adoptee than a guide for adoptive parents.

For example, she went on and on in chapter 5 about how to tell a child that they were conceived in a rape. And lo, guess what. She was conceived in a rape. Yes, traumatic to find out. And yes, I'm sure this passage spoke to many people who have children with this painful history. But if you are going to write a book that largely documents your own adoption experience, why not call it something like, I don't know, "My adoption experience"?

And throughout the book she continues to refer back to her website. If I wanted to read her website, I would (and I sometimes do). But I bought her damned book. So please put whatever is relevant in the book.

Sorry to sound so bitter. I'm really not. Just disappointed. And frustrated. And waiting to get to the good stuff in this book. But mostly disappointed.

So chapter 4 was a total waste to me. The Big Picture. Who the hell can ever understand the big picture of our lives, regardless of whether you are an adoptive parent/person or not? She breaks down different phases we might encounter in our adoptive parenting journey, but none of those phases were new insights for me, and I'm assuming most adoptive parents already know this stuff too. But I guess there could be some folks that don't.

The poem on page 52 (that was not cited with an author's name) gave me a little food for thought. Here's a few exerpts:

"If I live with secrecy,
I will learn to obsess about the unknown.

If I live with denial of adoption's complex emotions,
I will learn to suffer silently."

"If I live with parents who have unresolved grief and loss,
I will learn that they are disappointed in me and I must take care of them.

If live with parents who are not concerned about my missing history,
I will learn that my past and beginnings are not important.

If I live with parents who are not comfortable about the subject of adoption,
I will learn to shut down my emotions and become defensive when asked if it's an issue."

Chapter 5 had me thinking a little bit more. Of course, she advocates telling your child they are adopted from day 1. We totally agree with that too. But the question of how much adoption talk you have on a daily basis is something we are trying to figure out for our family. I know some families talk about it all the time. And because LM is on 13-months-old, we really aren't having any two-way discussions on the matter.

We do tell him adoption story during snuggle times, and tell him how happy we are to be his parents, and talk about where he was born and all the people who have loved him (birth mother, foster family, etc.). Some of this he might be absorbing. Probably not though at this point. It's more about us getting comfortable in talking about these things with him.

But how much is enough? And how much is too much? The author seems to advocate a high amount of adoption-related conversation. She cites examples like "I wonder where you got your love for Mexican food. Could it be from your birth mother or father?" and "Your voice is changing, son. I wonder if it's happening to you at the same time it did with your birth father. Do you ever think about him?"

I get that questions like these can open the door to adoption talks with your child. It lets them know that you are there for them, and willing to discuss those topics. But those type of questions also seem to constantly point out you are adopted. So how much is too much?

I know we'll find our way as LM gets older and we start answering his questions. And the amount of conversations we'll have on this topic will fluctuate as he ages and goes through different stages of understanding. What works for your household?

The most valuable thing I got out of chapter 5 was a tip to a few books that sound like interesting reads.

Talking with Young Children about Adoption by Mary Watkins and Susan Fisher.
Before You Were Mine: Discovering Your Adopted Child's Lifestory by Susan TeBos and Carissa Woodwyk

Since these chapters are short, and I want to get this book finishes, tackling 6-9 for next Monday.

As always, please comment, respond, share!


  1. I agree with you that those questions seem forced. I mean, is liking Mexican food genetic? I suspect not--probably more environmental, if you've been exposed to it regularly. And don't most boys hit puberty around the same time? So why would pointing out that a child's birthfather's voice might have changed around the same time be useful? Now on more specific points, we do like to reinforce connections to our son's birth family, but also to our family--for instance, he loves playing piano and his birth grandpa plays piano professionally, so we always say Bonsai got that from him. But my BIL is a drummer and taught Bonsai to drum when he was 5 months old, so we always say his love of drumming comes from his uncle. And both of our families as well as his birthfamily are very musical, so Bonsai gets his musicality from both nature and nurture. Or he loves basketball, and his birthmom plays (so do her sis and dad), and so do my husband and his siblings, so he gets that from both of his families too. He looks a lot like his birthmom and -aunt, so we point out those similarities sometimes--we have pictures around the house of his birthfamily and see them regularly, so this comes up pretty naturally. Of course all this is possible because we have an open adoption--obviously with less info about his birthfamily, we would have to do more speculation like the author suggests to help him feel connected to his birthfamily. But I agree with you that while it is something he should always know about his story, it doesn't seem helpful to be constantly making a point of it. I guess it's just a matter of striking a balance, and always being open with our children about their heritage, talking about their backgrounds and welcoming questions. Our son is only 2 so we'll see how this develops over time!

  2. First, the "Before your were mine" book is a GREAT book to help with the lifebook. It was the book I had been looking for to get me started and pushed me to complete my oldest son's book.

    Second, how much is enough? On Saturday night, the adoption group talked about how to preserve our children's birth culture and birth story. One of the pieces of information that I came away with is a little bit, routinely. This could mean each day but it's just a little something about Korea or his story here or there so it's just normal. It's a way to give our children the words, the vocabulary, to talk about adoption with classmates or other adults. It helps them know these are topics we can talk about. And, it gives it to them in little bites, instead of big chunks, which can help them grasp it all. Every family finds what works for them, but I thought this was helpful. It is easier when they are older and talking and you can just go off of something that is said in a conversation, but I like your point that right now you are figuring out the words and what to say. That's awesome.

    Oh - and doing all of this talking when it is just you guys (not out in public or with friends or other family) I think helps it to be something normal to talk about without making the child feel that you are singling them out for being adopted.

    And I agree about this book being a disappointment after the first. But there are still some interesting points which I think you are doing a great job of pulling out.

  3. I fell a bit behind (hard I know but the book got under the pillow of the sofa (for it's protection) and I forgot!) So... I've just read up to Chapter 4. I really liked the poem in Ch 4.

    That's great that you're already talking with LM. I don't bring up adoption on a daily basis but I think you're right that now is a good time to practice. I think I'll try it a bit more so that it becomes natural to discuss his story and I'll get better with wording. We do discuss Korea and his life, I had his foster-family's photo printed on a frame that the can play with so we discuss them a bit. I can tell by the way he reacts that he remembers and loves them, he must miss them. I tell him how lucky I am to be his mommy too, I really am. I should work on more one-on-one talks like you guys have though I think.

    I missed last week but I did get some things out of those chapters. The parents that I've met so far from my agency all seem to have had super-smooth transitions. Ours was pretty good I think but not without struggles and it's hard when other parent's won't admit to any struggles themselves. I've had a lot more support from my friend who gave birth around the same time was we became parents as she had a lot of the same feelings as I did as a new mom. Maybe those parent's were just "naturals" at it and bonding did happen really quickly though... who knows... I'm so glad for your blog though, I'm not alone!

  4. I just bought the book and haven't read it, but I found her first book to be peppered with lots of her own story as well. I'm not surprised to hear that this book is the same. As far as going on and on about a child conceived in rape, it's probably one of the most difficult parts of a child's story to discuss, and it's good that she covered it. That said, in her first book I skipped over several parts that didn't seem relevant to us. This book is probably going to be the same.

    We just did our last adoption class and it was hard to tell how much to talk about adoption. I think it's something we all end up navigating on our own partially because of our children's cues.


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