Category Archives: Parenting

Does Open Adoption Get Easier?

Last week I led workshops on openness in adoption in Seattle, Portland and Eugene (OR) for an agency whose values closely align with my own, Open Adoption & Family Services.* The staff members at all three offices were incredibly hospitious (to employ a term Jim Gritter coined about using the hospitality model in adoption), as were Monika and Heather, who generously opened their homes to me and let me hang out with their delightful family members.

The Portland workshop was attended by my bloggy friends Heather, JoAnne, Liz and Lisa. One of the questions that came up from the general audience, a woman who is preparing to adopt, is the question the Open Adoption Bloggers now puts forth to you:

Does open adoption get easier?

It was another participant who gave this insightful answer — in the form of another question: Does marriage get any easier?

Things change and get different. Comparing something at the beginning of a journey to something seemingly similar later down the line is like comparing apples and oranges.

And as someone told me when my kids were little and I was exhausted, wondering if parenting gets any easier, “little people little problems; big people big problems.”

I didn’t really get that notion back then. It had been years since I’d slept through the night. I was with the kids, not yet in school, all day. There was crying, frustration, and boredom (not to mention what the kids were experiencing). When my husband came home from work each evening I often felt like hiding in a closet for awhile just to be alone and regain sanity. The problems from this era did not seem small. They seemed huge and unrelenting.

Now I sometimes sleep through the night. The kids are in school much of the day, much of the year. And still we have issues and angst. Bigger issues and bigger angst with higher stakes. We are constantly negotiating household rules. We are helping the kids navigate school and friendships and relationships with teachers and coaches and each other. We have health concerns, treatment plans with the orthodontist, disagreements about fashion and makeup and high fructose corn syrup, negotiations about shower time, bed time, screen time. We mediate between our kids and with neighbor kids. We teach, we model, we teach more and model more. Are we teaching and modeling all the right things? Will we have covered all the important lessons before they are ready to leave home? In less than a decade?

They will be ready to leave home one day, right? We will raise them to be independent, won’t we?

Hence why I don’t always sleep through the night.

So I can’t say that parenting has gotten easier. I can say that it’s gotten different.

Maybe our open adoptions have gotten not easier but better. When we started we had just one first parent around — Crystal. Since then we have connected with Tessa’s birth father, Joe. After talking with AJ on the phone for a few years, we finally got to meet Reed’s birth father (and his parents, wife and daughter) for the first time when he came to town this summer. And we have hopes in seeing Reed’s first mom in the coming months.

The relationships with the people who created our children are gradually shifting from me as caretaker to Tessa and Reed as the owner-operators. So my role is also changing. Whereas my prime responsibility was at first to maintain a wide-open conduit between our family and our children’s birth parents and make sure there was no corrosion, I am now moving into more of a consultant role. As Tessa and Reed begin to helm their own relationships with Crystal and Joe, with Michele and AJ, I will be on hand to assist as requested, to comfort if needed, and to abide, always to abide.

As John F Kennedy advised, “Do not pray for easy lives. Pray to be stronger people” (gender neutralization mine).


 Some scenes from my night in Seattle.

Lori Holden leads open adoption workshop

Open Adoption & Family Services adoption workshop

Open adoption agency and workshop with Lori Holden

 Monika and the Seattle staff of Open Adoption & Family Services.

* Check these out on the Open Adoption & Family Services website:

Oversharenting: Are you guilty of it on Facebook?

The Today Show aired a segment this week that highlighted STFU, Parents, a site run by Blair Koenig. The blog, born in March of 2009 (from its About page),

…is a submission-based “public service” blog that mocks parent overshare on social networking sites…The site serves as a guide for parents on what NOT to post about their kids as well as a forum for non-parents to vent about their TMI-related frustrations…The blog covers a range of topics, from placenta smoothies to lessons in potty training to bouts with puberty, and never aims to be hateful or mean-spirited.

Last week, Blair shed her anonymity by appearing on The Ricki Lake Show. Coincidentally, she also just announced that her blog-to-book is coming out in April (Perigee Press).

I saw the teaser for the interview on my way out the door and it hooked me, even though the blogger and her blog had barely been on my radar. I try not to have anything to do with mocking for the simple reason that I don’t like being mocked (who does? I suppose some think any attention is good attention). When I returned to my computer I looked up the clip and found it sociologically fascinating. By that I mean I wonder what sociologists in 2052 or 2082 will conclude about our collective psyches at this point in the evolution of the human community.

The fodder for Blair’s site comes only from social media sites, not blogs. In fact, Blair said on The Ricki Lake Show that she recommends that people instead start a blog because it’s doesn’t hold an audience captive the way Facebook does (Facebook holds you captive?).

I poked around the site and yes, I found evidence of poop posts, mommyjacking (a commenter hijacks a thread out of eagerness to talk about her own child), sanctimommy (a holier-than-thou insertion to a Facebook discussion), and, as billed, things you can do with your placenta when your baby is done using it.

Finding the line
The most thought-provoking line comes at the end: “There’s a difference between sharing and oversharing.”

How do we draw the line between the two?

Carolyn Savage, author of Inconcievable and contributor for The Today Show website, shares 7 tips on doing so. Basically, if sharing has to do with nether regions or bodily functions, DON’T. And you should click over to read what she says about posting news of your children because, well, she had to navigate a verrrrrrry tricky story in writing her book and respecting the boundaries of the people involved.

My own decision-making process is to run possibly oversharing posts through series of sieves, attributed to Zen Buddhists, Quakers, and Rotarians:

  • Is it true?
  • Is it kind?
  • Is it necessary?
  • Does it improve on silence?

Just the act of pouring one’s thoughts through a sieve accomplishes what Blair Koenig suggests toward the end of the interview. To paraphrase, she preaches to post with awareness because it’s not just about you. Your words affect not only the children you’re writing about but also the people whose streams you show up in.

I bet that just one moment of reflection and self-awareness would reduce STFU’s fodder by at least half (and spellchecker/grammar checker would clean up half again). Much of the time when people post about their kids, they are doing it simply to feed their own egos — myself included. There’s nothing wrong with that unless the feeding comes at the kid’s expense. THIS is what requires the test of the sieves, the awareness, the mindfulness.

So why do I feel a little bit dirty after perusing STFU, Parents?
Is it mean-spirited? Only 12% of Today‘s audience say yes.  On one hand, I like to gawk, even though I don’t go out of my way to find train wrecks to gawk at. On the other hand, I would be mortified to recognize my own words on this site. I looked through my Facebook and Twitter streams to see if I could envision any of my kid-oriented proclamations on STFU. Could these get me ridiculed for oversharing?


AYCE crab legs

OK, so neither improves on silence. And neither were necessary (would anything on Facebook be considered necessary?). But, may I point out that both are free of grammar and spelling errors?

In spite of the site’s About claim, it does feel mean-spirited — toward people who, through ignorance or their own insecurities, have opened themselves up to it. The people on Blair Koenig’s site don’t know they’re being skewered (an assumption on my part). Even though the site anonymizes its subjects, the ridiculing happens without their permission or knowledge. Maybe the latter is a merciful thing.

But who am I to judge, really? I have not always been pure of heart on social media. I can’t say with 100% confidence that I didn’t get a chuckle at the possible expense of my children with these two examples. Maybe my sins aren’t as egregious as those of the poop moms, but that’s just a question of degree.

Have you been guilty of oversharenting? Where is your line between sharing and over sharing?

I am deliberately not posting links because I do not want to appear to endorse the practices of STFU, Parents. Nor do I condemn them. I think the study of how we relate with each other online is fascinating, though. If you want to know more about this blog or the bloggers appearances, a little googling is all you’ll need.

Tension release: From cranky to compassionate

Tessa and I had been on edge with each other all day. Finally in the early evening I invited her to cuddle with me on the couch.

“Neither of us slept well last night. I think we’re just tired,” I offered an explanation why we were both cranky.

“But mom, YOU don’t have a hurt hand, like I do,” Tessa raised her splinted wrist.

“That’s true, Sweetheart. But I’m carrying around a hurt, too. Just not the kind you can bandage up.”

“Really…? What!?” She bolted straight up, eager for some drama from her mama.

“It’s a silly thing, really.” I told Tessa about a conflict I’d been having with someone. Even though this woman was on the periphery of my life, I was giving the conflict with her way more prominence than it merited. I couldn’t shake the  malaise. It had probably contributed to my cranky.

Tessa, ever spirited, sprang to my defense. “Mama, you CALL that lady and tell her she’s a B-WORD and she should just SHUT HER MOUTH!”

I was shocked by Tessa’s force. It was as if my inner child, wounded from events of the last few days, were speaking through my child-child.

“I could do that, and I kind of felt like doing that,” I explained, “but if weapon-words did come out like that, in addition to hurting her they would eventually hurt me.”

“Besides,” I said, repeating to her what my parents had often said to me, ” you should never allow anything or anyone to lower the standards you set for yourself. If you think it’s right to behave a certain way, then you don’t let anything that another person does change what you know is right.”

“And another besides, Tessa,” I continued, “this lady has had a lot to deal with, a hard life.”

“What??” Tessa asked, and I told her some of the woman’s story, which caused her to softened a little.

“You know, don’t you,” I said, “that everyone is walking around with a story and that’s why we should always be mindful of being kind.”

“What do you mean?”

“Well,” I explained, “I didn’t know what kind of week this lady was having. You didn’t know what kind of day I was having. And when Sophie was mean to you this afternoon, she didn’t know that your hand was throbbing. If any of us had known, we might have been kinder. So why don’t we all just be kinder?”

She schnuzzled into me and we sat in silence, no longer cranky.

That night we slept well.

Images: Stuart Miles /,