Category Archives: Politics

Who gets to decide who is a second-best family?

Families living in adoption deal with ranking all the time. People wonder: which is more important — nature or nurture? I’m on a mission, as I stated in my keynote speech last week, to get people to stop thinking this way when it comes to biology and biography. BOTH are important to a child and neither can be weighed.

Ranking — putting similar but different things or people into a hierarchy — makes one better than another. It also grants the ranker some sort of special judging status. That’s why last week’s story about John Eastman, Chairman of the National Organization for Marriage, bothers me so. He has his own personal hierarchy about the validity of families.

L is for loserThe Huffington Post reports  that Eastman said, “Certainly adoption in families headed, like Chief [Justice of the Supreme Court] Roberts’ family is, by a heterosexual couple, is by far the second-best option.”

So the family I grew up in, according to Eastman, ranks #1. And the one I’ve created with my husband and my children, in his mind, ranks #2.

Now this can be interpreted in a couple of ways. One is that adoption is second best. I, along with other adoption writers, have covered that before. “Second” can be an ordinal number or a  of chronological number. I suspect Eastman was using the ordinal meaning:

Daddy+Mommy+biological child(ren) is best.
Daddy+Mommy+child(ren) via adoption is second best.

Less than.

Sub-prime.

Inferior.

But maybe this is not what Eastman meant at all. He says on the NOM website:

“An article by the Associated Press has been mischaracterized by The Huffington Post to grossly misrepresent my views on adoption. I believe that couples who adopt children are heroes and do a great service to society, and to the children they adopt. I strongly believe, based on thousands of years of experience and countless social science studies, that children do best when raised by a mother and a father within the bounds of marriage. I commend all those couples who selflessly give of themselves to raise a child who, through no fault of her own, has been deprived of a mother and father. There is nothing ‘second best’ about adoption.”

The stand that Eastman may have been taking — and perhaps even more odious than adoption as a runner-up — is that adoption is a good second choice, far ahead of other lower-ranking options.

Such as same-sex parenting.

NOM was  “Founded in 2007 in response to the growing need for an organized opposition to same-sex marriage in state legislatures, NOM serves as a national resource for marriage-related initiatives at the state and local level.”

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Know what I think is less than? Know what I think is second best — nine-thousand-six-hundred-and-twenty-eighth best? What’s less than, as a ranker, is not factoring in love and connection and commitment. What’s 9628th best is thinking you are superior and can pass judgment on others.

I reject Eastman’s rankings. He does not have my permission to judge me or my family or my views on what makes a family.

I prefer to think of family in this way, described by a Facebook status that came across my radar as I wrote this post:

In truth a family is what you make it. A family is made strong, not by number of heads [or other body parts] counted at the dinner table, but by the rituals you help family members create, by the memories you share, by the commitment of time, caring, and love you show to one another, and by the hopes for the future you have as individuals and as a unit. — Marge Kennedy, director of KidSmart Media

There are nearly 5000 comments currently at the HuffPo, and by my quick scan there is very little support for Eastman’s views (no surprise — it’s on the Gay Voices page). If you were to leave a comment about ranking and judging families, what would it be?

Image courtesy of imagerymajestic / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

The flip side of the adoption interview

Adoption Bloggers Interview Project 2012I’m closing out the last week of National Adoption Awareness Month with the second part of twin posts from the Adoption Bloggers Interview Project. Part 1 was where I interviewed Becky of Scared to Be Happy, and below is the part in which she interviewed me (originally posted on her blog).

(If you’re looking for some great holiday reading as you digest your food tomorrow or take a break from cleaning up/family time/shopping on Friday, make sure to click on the adjacent image. I’ve been slowly working through the list since last week and there are some fascinating posts in this project.)

Becky: What motivates you to write? Have you ever faced writers block, and if so, how have you overcome it?

I’ve always been a wonderer. I’ve always liked to see the same thing from different angles to understand it better. I find, when I’m writing a post, that in trying to be clear with my reader, I’m also finding clarity for myself. This is why some consider writing as therapy — it requires focus to take an idea or issue or emotion and reduce it to words. It’s the yoga equivalent of finding my core, of honing inward. Writing is introspective and causes me to be more honest with myself, with my motivations. I also like to write because it makes me more observant, more present as I move through my day.

As for writer’s block, I do get it every once in awhile. Sometimes I just take a short break from my blog (usually not more than a week).  Sometimes I just sit down with a blank page and commit to be there for an hour. If it flows, great. If not, so what.

Guess what…? Usually it flows when I commit to showing up.

Becky: If there were one misconception you could clear up about open adoption, what would it be?

May I address two?

The first is that open adoption is super-hard, that only exceptional people can “do” it. True, parenting in open adoption (OA) can be more complicated than parenting in a biologically-built family, but with complexity often come unexpected gifts that you don’t get from simplicity.

Know what’s hard? Relationships! In them we don’t always feel we have the power we want. We don’t always know how to get our needs met. We fear someone else being a “wild card” that makes things be beyond our control.This isn’t unique to open adoption relationships, though the feelings may be heightened in OA because of strong swirling emotions — guilt, fear, debt, regret, anger, sadness, envy.

The other misconception is that love can ameliorate all possible adoption-related issues for the adopted child. Some people are probably wired to be relatively issue-less, and others not so much. Parents (biological and adoptive) never know which they are getting. I remember thinking that my children would come to me as blank slates whom I could fully influence with my love and guidance (and my husband’s). I forgot that my kids would come to us with 23 pairs of other people’s chromosomes, which — surprise — pack a punch. These babies already had personalities by the time I met them as newborns — shocker!

So, because your child may have issues with identity formation as s/he grows up (and really, who doesn’t?) you might as well provide what you can to them about their birth parents. Maybe that’s contact, maybe it’s open-hearted conversations, maybe it’s just you not being threatened by their wondering and processing.

Becky: How do you feel about PAL (positive adoption language)? Do you think it affects the way your children view their family structure? 

I’m all for being mindful, for choosing one’s words deliberately. But if we’re too careful, if we tiptoe around the realities of adoption, we indicate that there is something to hide and that there is shame around adoption.

For example, I don’t say to my daughter, “Crystal put you up for adoption.” It sounds so careless and impersonal, like you’re talking about a discarded toy (more). In reality, Crystal’s decision was anything but careless and impersonal. Instead, I would say, “Crystal couldn’t parent a baby at that time in a safe way, so she decided we would be your parents and she placed you with us.” I try to understand how the words would feel to my child.

I wrote about this topic once regarding whether it matters if I say “we adopted my son” (which indicates it’s something we did – or “my son is adopted” (which indicates it’s something he is). He seemed to pick up on this distinction, as I found out one morning at Take-Your-Parents-to-School Day. But does it really matter? Some adult adoptees have said that being adopted IS who they are. Or at least a part of who they are.

As for language affecting how our children feel about our family structure, yes, I believe it matters. The more secure and issue-less I can be about the way we became a family, the better the soil from which my emotions and words grow, and the more secure and issue-less our kids will have the opportunity to be. For then they can be left to deal with only their issues and not mine.

Becky: What has been the hardest part of your adoption journey so far?

Once we set out on the adoption journey, back in 2000, most everything seemed to fall into place relatively easily. It was the infertility process that brought me to my knees. Once I learned how to relax the grip I had on controlling my life, I was in a better position to yin-yang my way through the adoption process and now the parenting process. I was always good at the yang part — making things happen; I had to get comfortable with the yin part — letting things happen.

Becky: What do you like to do to relax?

I enjoy practicing yoga. For an hour I try to bring my awareness to the confines of my mat. It’s a practice of focusing attention, of taming the wild-child that is my mind. Yoga yokes my mind and my body and helps me remember to be more present even off my mat. Through yoga, I’m beginning to “get” that life is a journey and not a destination and shed the “I’ll be happy whens.” In yoga, everything is a process and no pose is ever perfected. Even savasana, corpse pose — the pose of complete relaxation at the end of a class — even that one!

I also love to read  and write and do cool things with my kids like paint pottery. My daughter, 11, plays volleyball and my son plays whatever sport it’s the season for, so Husband and I spend a lot of time cheering them from the sidelines.

Becky: Being a self proclaimed new age libertarian, how do you feel about the upcoming election? 

I wish we could break free from our two-party system. The way it is, a candidate doesn’t have to get you to vote FOR him (or her); he only has to get you to vote AGAINST the other guy (or gal). So campaigns are based on smear and fear and that makes everyone feel dirty.My family lives in a purple state (and a purple home) and are thus bombarded with ads and robocalls and fliers that indicate only jerks, idiots and crooks want my vote. My kids have been told by the campaigns that no matter who wins, we’re all doomed — DOOMED I tell you. Husband and I have been doing some damage control surrounding these ubiquitous messages.

Becky: Tell about your upcoming book on open adoption.

I was thrilled to announce that my project had a heartbeat last December and that I was going to give birth, metaphorically speaking. I spent the next several months gestating The Open-Hearted Way to Open Adoption: Helping Your Child Grow Up Whole with the help of a lot of midwives (and their male equivalent; midhusbands?). My daughter’s birth mom, Crystal, is a contributor to the book, as are a host of other adoptive parents, first parents, adult adoptees and adoption therapists and advocates who shared their insights, viewpoints and wisdom with me — many who are part of this Open Adoption Bloggers Interview Project!

The book will be published by Rowman & Littlefield in April of 2013, and if you’re interested, you can read early reviews and pre-order on Amazon.

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It was a pleasure to work with Becky on this project! For more insightful adoption reading, visit The Adoption Bloggers Interview Project 2012.

Vote 2012: How well does your candidate really match your values?

Boy, we get ourselves into a frenzy every four years, don’t we? By “we” I mean Americans and by “frenzy” I’m talking about the our shared and increasingly destructive quadrennial experience that turns friends into foes, normally pleasant people into rabid haters (or at least Facebook de-frienders), and polarizes our country to the point that we struggle to talk about the candidates civilly, let alone the issues.

During the last presidential election season, I asked my readers to back up from the battle over candidates and examine instead their values around certain issues. And then match those values to what a range of candidates say about and how they have voted on such issues. OnTheIssues.org has configured a way to compare your values with those of various candidates (wider than the handful we are now down to).

(Let me take a moment to thank those of you who answered my four values questions last week. I enjoyed learning what you believe and why you believe it. I have finally added my own response.

Your turn to take the vote match quiz

Go ahead. There are 20 quick questions over four broad topics: Individual Rights, Domestic Issues, Economic Issues and Defense/International Issues. It shouldn’t take you longer than a minute or two.

For each issue, you can click to get clarification, as I did when I needed to know what was meant by “family values” being taught in public schools. Sometimes we throw terms around without having a common understanding of them. I mean, I want my family’s values taught in schools, but maybe not that family’s. For this question I clicked and found that it meant “Strongly Support means you believe: Judeo-Christian values are American values” and “Strongly Oppose means you believe: Separation of church and state precludes allowing school prayer.” I could also see the points in between the two stronglies and select where I most closely fit.

My top two matches and a few surprises

As in 2008, there were some surprises on how my VoteMatch test turned out. My guiding principle is freedom, both personal an economic, so there was no surprise in my top-matching candidates — Gary Johnson (60% match) and Ron Paul — except perhaps in the order they turned up. But I was surprised that Hilary Clinton matched me 2 percentage points better than Mitt Romney (mostly due to social issues) and that Barack Obama and Paul Ryan were tied at a 35% match to my values (though if economic issues were weighted more, Ryan would have had a higher score with me). And guess what? Sarah Palin was at the bottom of my list (18%). Not what you’d necessarily expect from someone who is still a registered Republican.

(And no, I don’t identify any better with the Democratic party. Neither major party seems to value or protect our economic and personal freedoms.)

So, who are your top two candidates and what surprises came up in your results?

If you’re a political junkie, you can also plot yourself on the Nolan Chart. Where do you fall?

Where are your values on the political spectrum / grid?Relationships of political terms