Book Club Monday

Our first book club Monday! I should be all dressed up in heels with lipstick on, welcoming you at the door with a fruity, umbrella-topped drink. But really, I'm on the couch, in my sweats with a cold cup of coffee and hoping LM stays asleep for more than 30-minutes so I can try and organize my thoughts.

For more info on the book we are reading, click HERE. All passages with page numbers are from Sherrie Eldridge's book, 20 Things Adoptive Parents Need to Succeed.

Since I've never been in book club before, I really have no idea what to do. So let's just dive in and see what happens. Use the comments area to chime in the discussion, ask questions, or give your own opinions on the book. What's important here is the conversation, and to build a community where we can support one another to become the best parents that we can be!

Suggested discussion questions from the book:
  1. How would you have defined successful adoptive parenting before reading this chapter? Use descriptive, powerful, one-word definitions. Then think of an example that illustrates your one-word (or several-word) definition.
  2. How would you describe the sweet spot of success for yourself as a parent of an adopted child? Have you experienced it? If not, what might you do to find it?
  3. Describe the difference between defining one's worth as a parent, or child, by performance instead of by person hood. How would both a parent and a child behave under each of these categories?
  4. What do you need from the group before meeting again?

My take: 

As I read, I highlighted the things that spoke to me, and I realized there's a bit of a theme. Here's the passages that stuck out to me:

"Perhaps they're studying the map for the exit called "Normal, which will lead them in the direction of knowing what is normal for adoptive parents and children." (pg xxii)

"You face parenting with an extra layer of challenges that the nonadopted world likely will never comprehend: your child's abandonment and attachment issues, unresolved grief, loss of the birth family and foster family, missing or painful birth histories...all occurring before your child came to live permanently with you." (pg 8)

"Your child's positive, negative or passive response to all of your input doesn't indicate success." (pg 8)
"Parenting Success, Adoption-style: to base love and acceptance of my child on his personhood, not his performance.  (pg 9)
"My love as a mom is one of commitment---one that doesn't quit even when they want to." (pg 10)

"...the core need of an adoptive parent's heart---to know that your child loves you." (pg 11)

I acknowledge that my concerns, at this point in our journey, are largely related to my role as a parent--my need to know I'm doing this parenting thing right. I'm also feeling a bit unsure of myself and LM's feelings for me. I hope know much of this will change as our relationship grows, but right now, three months into our relationship, this is where I stand. Maybe my concerns about my abilities as a mom speak more to my insecurity as a new parent than about being an adoptive parent specifically.

The worry about what is *normal*---yeah, I do that alot. Right now, I wonder "is this normal toddler behavior or is this because he's grieving?" and the thing I grapple with is that I'll never know for sure. That's tough for me because if I don't know what the problem is, how can I *fix* it? And even that statement is silly, because adoption isn't something you can *fix*. And really, what does it matter if anything is normal or not? I'm trying to understand how I can accept things as they are and not hold them against some imaginary bar of *normal*.

I love the quote about love being a commitment to our children. This quote really highlights my relationship with LM right now as he tends to push me away when he's hurt or frustrated even though I know that he wants the closeness. I have felt hurt when this happens, but struggled mightily to not go to that place of feeling rejected. I try to identify with how he must be feeling (frustrated, scared, etc.) and that keeps me rooted in his emotions instead of mine.

To address a few of the discussion questions--

1. My definition of successful parenting (adoptive or not) would be to raise compassionate and independent children by being encouraging, committed to them, and truthful with them. Those definitions hold for me after reading the chapter. I'm not sure I'd change that definition because we are an adoptive family.

3. This is a really key point for me. I tend to base everything on outcome. Right now, I'm embarrassed to say, that I frequently define worth by performance. I hold myself to that standard, which means that I often have a love/loathe relationship with myself depending on my performance at that moment. Not able to nail the perfect photo at a crucial time? I'm a terrible photographer and need to find a new profession. Handled a tough discussion with a friend in a sensitive way? I'm a great person!

I've also transferred this type of judgment to my relationship with The Man. He says something snippy to me? He's a jerk. He remembers to pick up milk on his way home? He's the best husband ever. There is no gray for me, it's all good or all bad.

That's my type-A perfectionism kicking into overdrive. And it's not healthy for any relationship, because the people who I hold to this standard are constantly in a competition with themselves. They don't know it, but if they aren't performing up to snuff, I'm noting that. This is exhausting, ridiculous and sad. I've been working on it for years, and there's probably some deep psychoanalytical reason why I do this. Maybe to keep me from feeling hurt when I'm disappointed. But it also gets in the way of having the close and intimate relationships that I want. It's still a work in progress, but I know that it's even more important to pay attention to now.

OK, your turn. What's your take?


  1. Hello! I've also changed out of my mommy jeans and am enjoying a nice, cool, strong mojito. Ha. A girl can dream.

    First some general thoughts on the book. I read her first book (or at least started to) before we were placed with our daughter, but never finished it. It was just too hard to wrap my head around the loss inherent in adoption while also working through the red tape and roller coaster that was international adoption. I think I was just emotionally maxed out. I'm finding I'm much more open to work through this stuff now, and I do think part of it has to do with having a real live daughter in the house whom I love and want to support. It makes all the difference.

    Anyway, to the questions.

    1. I think I used to define successful adoptive parenting as producing a "well-adjusted" child, i.e. no grief issues, no acting out or crazy behavior as a result of being adopted. Now I feel a bit weird about the term "well-adjusted," it seems almost like describing something mechanical, and aimed more towards validating my parenting rather than my child's feelings. Now I hope to raise a child that can be in touch with her feelings, grief and all, but who also knows how to find support for working through them so she can find as much peace as possible with that and so she can achieve what she wants to do in life (and no, that doesn't have to include going to Harvard or being a doctor...)

    2. I'm a little annoyed by the term "sweet spot of success" for parenting, honestly - it just seems sort of jargon-y, something you'd heard in business school or sports analysis. Parenting is messy and not all that precise to have a "spot." But I'll agree that truthfulness is a great principle for building any relationship, and of course also parenting. When our daughter was just home 6 months and clearly entering a new period of grieving, we did the storyboard recommended in the Patty Cogen book and talked about "the big day" - the handoff between foster and forever mommy. It was hard to talk about this painful experience - even with an 18 month old! - but we did see her processing this information and ultimately she worked through the wave of grief. It was also good practice for having open discussions with our daughter about adoption down the road.

    3. Performance versus personhood. Hmm. I think this is really a measure of external vs internal factors. Performance is achieving what is seen as desirable by the outside world - good grades, learning a trained skill (sports or a musical instrument), getting into a good college, becoming a (fill in your high paying occupation), and not getting pregnant or going to jail along the way. Personhood is more about knowing yourself, and developing genuine and lasting relationships with other people. I do see personhood as more important; the external stuff is a bit fleeting and often lucked into (by genetics or luck of the draw with the parents you get). Performance is important, we do need it to be materially successful in the world. But personhood feeds the soul. And I think good personhood is more likely to lead to a good relationship with my daughter, and isn't that the point of parenting?

    OK, now that I have a better sense of the pacing of this I'll slow it down (I had been racing to read through everything thinking you'd discuss the ENTIRE BOOK today). It is kind of nice to slow down and really think through some of this stuff, I'd otherwise just zip through it and not get as much out of it.

    Anyone else?

  2. Sarah, I totally agree with you on the sweet spot of success. Lame! Isn't the spot more like a moving target? Thanks for the tip about the Patty Cogen book and the storyboard. I haven't read her book yet but this sounds like a really great process. I get the reason for having catchy phrases, but this seems a bit too simplistic.

    Your take on performance versus personhood is super awesome. Absolutely valuing someone based on personhood is what leads to a better relationship. I haven't thought of it as external and internal factors, but it really is. I thought this point was well worth making in the book, because we aren't going to be able to control what our kids do down the road, but we can appreciate and love the people behind the actions.

    And no, we don't have to cram the entire book in, but what do you think about doing the next 2 chapters? Who knows, it might just be you and me!

  3. I'm a little late to the party...but I did read this book last year. I liked her first one better, but found it so refreshing that there was a book for us, the adoptive parents. I will admit I don't remember everything I read (I hope to pick up a copy and refresh my memory) but I'll add my two cents anyway.

    First, right now, I want my children to know that we love them always and forever, no matter what. No matter what. My daughter made a comment to me last week that stunned me - she was angry about something I did or said and responded by "I'll just go live with someone else." Um, no. You're stuck with me, babe. And I'm so glad you are. And so are you, you just want to make sure that you really are staying here and this isn't a temporary thing (understand that my daughter is 3 1/2 and has been home almost 3 years but now is really starting to understand her adoption story). I want my children to know that they can talk about any thing in their life - including the part of their life that was before they came home. That has required some growth for us as parents, but also a concerted effort on our part to talk about all of this with them.

    And the whole personhood/performance thing. I'm not type A, but I do know that I make comparisons. I sometimes find myself defending my oldest son for being "only where he is" and that he hasn't hit a milestone sooner. The thing is, that isn't who he is. He learns in his way, does things in his way, and I love him that way. So yes, it took him quite a while to learn to walk, not because he couldn't, but because he has to think it all through and figure it out first. And when he decided to do it, he did it with gusto. It took him longer than some in his preschool class to know his alphabet, but it wasn't that he didn't know it, it was that he wasn't ready to share his knowledge - he didn't trust that he knew it well enough yet. But when he did, multiple letters came out at once. It was really cool to watch. And a reminder to me to take him as he is, and not measure his worth by standards and timelines that I have in my head. He ends up there, within a reasonable developmental timeframe, but gets there his way.

    And finally, the big "aha" moment for me while reading this book and maybe her first one too, was realizing that my biggest fear was that my children would reject me as their mother because I didn't give birth to them. And that they would see their "true" mother as the one who did give birth to them. But I also realized that I am their mother and I couldn't be the mother that they need and that I want to be if I held on to this fear, because they need me to talk about their lifestories, they need me to help them understand, and that responsibility is awesome and humbling.

  4. My definition of being a successful parent? Loving, supportive, stable, devoted. In the past I thought I'd know if I had truly been successful if my child told me I did an okay job and they turned out 'well adjusted'. Now I think 'well adjusted' is a hard thing to measure. People are all designed a little different and so being well adjusted can vary a lot to I think. It's more like 'well-adjusted for your life circumstances and genetics' which is hard to ever judge. I hope that my parenting will result in a child who is proud of his birth culture and the one he's being raised in, and a child who understands that his family consists of two families who are both important to his being. All I can do is my best though, and all my child can do is his best and who knows what the result will be? So I guess I'm back to my first statement and have to stick to judging myself by being my best as a mother and hope my child will do his best in life too and love him no matter what.

    The sweet-spot of success confused me so I won't comment.


We'd love to hear from you but we aren't mind readers, OK? Just take a minute to share your thoughts and you'll make us really, really happy.