Wouldn’t You Like to Meet Your Birth Mother?

Written by Kay on . Posted in A Bratt's Life, Adoption Stories

At the end of Labor Day weekend, Ben and I boarded a flight home from the Chinese Heritage Camp in Denver, Colorado. Flying coach, we squeezed our tall bodies into our seats and readied ourselves for the uncomfortable experience. The flight attendant (I’ll call her Kelly) greeted us and as she oversaw other passengers, she talked to us. Completely entertaining in her giddy exhaustion after a long day of traveling, she got around to asking us why we’d been in Colorado. I explained the adoption camp, and  we talked about why I was there.

When the couple in the exit aisle proved unable to meet requirements, Kelly had us switch seats. It was a win for us because we instantly had the coveted leg room, and Kelly said it was a win for her because she got interesting people to communicate with. (Her jump seat was directly in front of me)

Once the flight was underway, she told me that it was ironic that we had connected that day because she is an adoptee. She explained that some forty-odd years ago her birth mother gave her up for adoption and she spent her first few weeks of life in a children’s home before being adopted.

Kelly said she’d had a wonderful life with awesome parents, and she was grateful to her birth mother for giving her that gift. She also said that over the years, she’s gotten the question a number of times; wouldn’t you like to meet your birth mother?

I asked her, “Well, what do you tell them?”

She smiled and explained to me that no, she would never want to meet the woman who gave her life. Why? Because she likes the image she’s held of her in her mind for all these years and would never want it shattered. You see, Kelly fully believes that her birth mother is kind, generous, and gave her a gift the day she relinquished her to a new fate.

Adoption.

It’s an amazing thing.

The Love of a Birthmother by Susan Scharpf

The Love of a Birthmother by Susan Scharpf

 

Searching for birthparents in China (when an adoptee starts to question)

Written by Kay on . Posted in Adoption Stories, Book Recommendations

 

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(Illustration Credit: Mother Bridge of Love)

Recently I received another of many similar letters from an adoptee, asking me if I had any advice on how to search for her birthparents in China. While this is the words from one wise girl, there are others out there like her:

I recently read your book, Chasing China“. I absolutely loved it! I was very touched by the story. I was adopted from China. The whole aspect of “the finders” was quite intriguing. I would like to seek out my biological family, and don’t know where to start. Do you have any suggestions? I don’t think I’ll be able to travel to China anytime soon. I also have complete support from my adoptive parents in this search. I would really appreciate any advice you could offer on going about this. I understand the concept is like searching for a needle in the haystack, but I still would like to at least try. 

At first because I thought she might be underage, I was hesitant to answer. And while I was considering just how to answer, I asked the advice of the pros….the adoptive parents in my circle. I received some amazing advice and in addition to advising adoptees that they should read my memoir, Silent Tears; A Journey of Hope in a Chinese Orphanage, to get an idea of the culture of a social welfare institute (orphanage in China), I am working on putting together a document that will consists of tips, groups, websites, and advice pertaining to finding birth parents in China. You are welcome to ask for it via contacting me on my website, or I’ll also be discussing it on my newsletter. You can subscribe here: http://eepurl.com/q9_2X

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In the meantime, I received another message from another adoptee. Her words brought tears to my eyes and made me realize (or re-emphasize) that I need to treat these inquiries with the utmost respect and compassion. Her name is Mallory Anderson and she’s a young woman who I think you will agree, has a way with words. She has given me permission to share her note:

Hi Kay Bratt, Not sure if you know me, but my name is Mallory Anderson, and I noticed your recent post about a young women who is wanting to find her birth parents. I am adoptee from China, and I remember as a young adopted kid from China, the thought of my birth parents sometimes came up and I would have mix feelings about it. When I saw your post last night, it really touched me, and reminded me of how I used to feel as a young child. Torn between the amazing parents I was meant to have, and yet not knowing of how I came to be here. For the past few months, I’ve been feeling that I in any way I can, I should help others as they deal with these feelings. But now that I’m older, I know that my past doesn’t define who I am, or who I will become. What I’ve been through has shaped me into the kind of women I am today. I just wanted to give my personal opinion since I was adopted and have no clue who my birth parents are. So a little about me, I was adopted when I was 3 and a half, coming to American in December of 93. Growing up for me, there was never a doubt that my adopted parents were the parents that God gave me, or the parents I was always meant to be with. I love my parents so much, and I am exactly like my mom. But sometimes it comes to my mind, and you can never fault adopted kids for thinking this way, of who were my birth parents? As an adopted kid, it’s always a running thought of who were they. Now that I’m older and know more about China, how the whole adopted situation goes on, as well as the politic in China, I’ve been a little more interested in myself. I definitely do not think of her asking is bad, and whether she is younger or older, it’s important to listen, to hear what she is searching for. This is about her and how she feels, and it is always important to respect all feelings when it comes to a situation like this, but it will effect her more than the adopted parents. So personally if there is any way of making her feel better about her birth parents, I would try. I hope this helps, because I noticed all the post were very helpful parents or caring friends, so I thought it would be nice to hear from an adoptee from China.

Best wishes, Mallory Anderson

Well, yes, Mallory, it is helpful to hear from an adoptee and I appreciate you taking the time to pour out your thoughts as well as grant permission for them to be public. While every adoptive parent I’ve ever come in contact with is very supportive in their child’s requests to know more about their pasts, if there are any out there who are questioning the pros and cons then maybe your words and that of the first adoptee’s above (thanks goes out to her, too!) will help them gain a new perspective. Many thanks to all who have contributed to the document of Birth Family Search Tips that I am compiling and will freely give out to all who ask (as long as they are 18 or older).

~Kay Bratt

Kay Bratt’s Red Skies! The Fourth book in the Tales of the Scavenger’s Daughters

Written by Kay on . Posted in Adoption Stories, Book Recommendations, China-Inspired Book Recommendations

Red Skies, the 4th novel set in the world of

The Tales of the Scavenger’s Daughters

 Download today and find out why so many readers have become invested in this family of daughters.

Download from here: http://amzn.to/1hLjZdc

RedSkies-800 Cover reveal and Promotional

“I feel empty, as though I’m leaving behind a piece of myself.” As the daughter of the town scavenger, Mari grew up knowing hardship, but she could have never anticipated the struggles facing her as an adult. Feeling alone and isolated, she dreams of a better life. On the other side of town, a little girl is forced to live on the streets, but silently she longs for the one thing she’s never known–a family. Max, a struggling American photojournalist, arrives in China with only one goal in mind; to face his demons and put an end to his own unbearable suffering. In Red Skies, the fate of three people who’ve never met will converge in profound and unexpected ways.

From the bestselling author of ‘A Thread Unbroken’ comes a fresh glimpse into the life of Benfu’s remarkable family.  Be swept up in this emotional yet hope filled story of Red Skies, set in the world of Kay Bratt’s ‘Tales of The Scavenger’s Daughters’.

*Red Skies is the 4th novel to the series but can be enjoyed first, last, or in between the other books. It can stand alone or be read as part of the series. So dig in at any time! Download from here: http://amzn.to/1hLjZdc

Introducing Kay Bratt’s…The Scavenger’s Daughters! (With a Sneak Peek!)

Written by Kay on . Posted in A Bratt's Life, Adoption Stories, China-Inspired Book Recommendations, Short Story

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*Confetti! Confetti!*

So for the last year I have been writing, editing, tweaking, sweating, dreaming, writing, editing, tweaking some more….and finally I can introduce to you the fruits of my efforts (and those of the team behind me).

I do hope you will be in love with this family as much as I am.

The Tales of the Scavenger’s Daughters

Having survived torture and imprisonment during China’s Cultural Revolution, Benfu escaped to find love with his compassionate and beautiful Calla Lily. Together they build a fulfilling life around the most menial of jobs—Benfu’s work collecting trash. As he sorts through the discards of others, he regularly discovers abandoned children. With unwavering determination, he and Calli spend decades creating a family of hand-picked daughters that help heal the sorrow and brighten their modest home. But all is not perfect and when crisis threatens to separate their family, Benfu—or possibly his band of headstrong daughters—must find a way to overcome the biggest hardship yet.

Inspired by a true story, and set against the backdrop of a country in transition, The Scavenger’s Daughters is a sweeping present day saga of triumph in the face of hardship, and the unbreakable bonds of family against all odds.

  

The Scavenger’s Daughters is Available for pre-order NOW at Amazon!

And…..Coming in December 2013…

 Book Two in the Tales of The Scavenger’s Daughters,

TANGLED VINES

Scroll down for a Sneak Peek of The Scavenger’s Daughters:

Chapter One

Beitang City, Wuxi, China, 2010.

On a cloudy day in early January, Benfu stood outside his house and held the red pail under the spigot, waiting for it to fill. Today was a good day; when he pumped the handle the old pipes didn’t moan and rattle too much before deciding to cooperate. But he didn’t mind it so much either way—like him, the piece of iron was ancient but stubbornly kept going. And anyway, they had a history together and if a man could feel affection for a thing, then Benfu absolutely did. A silly fondness, but there all the same, for it was the very same temperamental water spigot that had been the matchmaker that brought him and his precious Calli together so many years before.

When the water reached the top, he pushed the pump handle down and carried the pail across the street to the old widow’s house. Quickly he filled the tins for her chickens and used the last of the water on her pot of herbs hanging in her window box. He looked at the chicken droppings and considered cleaning it up, but that was a task Widow Zu usually took on and he didn’t want to deprive her of that joy. And anyway, nothing was worse than the smell of chicken dung on a man’s hands.

Chuckling, he returned to his yard across the street, got on his bike and headed out for the day. Twenty minutes later, he pushed his rusted three-wheeled bicycle slowly up the steep hill and turned the corner. Around him the streets were coming alive. Morning vendors were opening their stalls and stacking displays of fruits and vegetables, sweepers cleaned the sidewalks, and early commuters bustled to work. As he strained to push the bike, the cars, electric scooters and other bicycles rushed past him. Most paid him no attention, for he was just one of many laborers out at the crack of dawn trying to get an early start to the day. With his weathered brown face and deep wrinkles he blended in, but unlike some of the men his age he passed who were doing their morning Qigong exercises or sitting at makeshift tables’ playing cards, Benfu still had a job to do. Even though he had lived on earth for over six decades, he could not retire.

He struggled the last few feet, listening to his water canteen bumping against the metal bar it was tied to and thought about how much the city had changed over the years. At least his side of Beitang City—Old Town Wuxi as some called it—still kept some of the old charm, while new Wuxi had grown with businesses and even many foreigners coming in to make their mark. Benfu was a transplant—he’d been sent to Wuxi as a teenager by his parents to escape the danger of Shanghai during the Cultural Revolution. It was for his protection, they’d told him as they cried and bid him goodbye. What they had thought would be a better life for him was a time of trauma and hardship. And though he’d never intended to stay for so long, fate had intervened and Wuxi had become his home. But that was long ago and he’d survived many more hard times since then. Times that were better left unspoken of, times that made a day like today feel like child’s play.

At the top of the hill, Benfu mounted the bike again and with shoulders bent over the handlebars to add more weight, he pedaled slowly. He was already tired and that irritated him. He’d always been known to be bigger and stronger than most, but for the last year he just couldn’t shake the cough and heavy feeling that had enveloped him. Passing the line of street breakfast stands, he winced at the sudden squeaking from the rusty back wheel of his bicycle. As it began to bump and turn haphazardly, he hoped it would last the day, at least until he could ask his daughter to take a look to see if she could repair it.  If she could, that would save him some valuable coins that he could avoid paying the local repairman. He was lucky to have the transportation, and the three-wheeled bike was fitted with a makeshift cart on the back, allowing him a way to haul things home without carrying them in a basket on his back as he’d done for years before.

Benfu passed the cigarette store and for a moment he fought the sudden craving that overtook his thoughts. His wife had finally got her way when he’d stopped smoking a few years before, but there were days he could almost taste the sweet tobacco, he wanted it so badly. A welcome distraction, he heard his friend call his name from where she perched on the next front stoop, peeling peanuts.  His mouth watered at the sight of the treats in her bowl. He would have liked to be able to bring some peanuts home to add to their own simple dinner. Occasionally the woman saved a small bag behind her to hand over to him, but not today. He had many friends in the neighborhood and one had even complimented him long ago by telling him he was a big man with an even bigger presence. He didn’t quite know how he had a big presence but it had sounded nice. Always known to be soft-spoken and one to choose his words wisely, when he had something to say others usually listened.

Zao, Benfu. Cold day, eh?”

Benfu raised his hand to the woman and smiled. “Good morning to you, too, Lao Gu. Yes, very cold. But don’t worry, spring is coming soon!”

These days he was so used to being cold that he no longer thought much about it. At least there hadn’t been any snow this season—saving him the trouble of carrying his load when he couldn’t get the cart through. Sure his cough was worse in the cold, his old joints ached, and his gnarled hands cramped from the hours spent wrapped around the handles, but instead of dwelling on it he chose to focus on other matters. Matters like finding enough discarded items to earn enough for a day of meals for his family and if he was lucky—enough to put some savings toward their monthly rent bill. But first, his self-imposed obligation needed to be fulfilled for the day.

Zhu ni haoyun, Benfu.” She wished him luck and went back to peeling. No small talk was needed because there wasn’t anything new to discuss. They’d been passing each other for the last fifteen years and only stopped to catch up every month or so, unless either of them had news worth interrupting their chores. The woman was widowed and Benfu had known her husband back in the hard days. But those were times they didn’t talk about.

Benfu continued with his cart and hoped his morning would be uneventful. He didn’t wish to find anything out of the ordinary as he turned past the block of buildings. He really didn’t. He always wished to find nothing except trash. But sometimes something other than trash found him.

Now in the alley between two buildings, he guided his bike around soiled refuse bags and a line of jumbled bicycles, then heard the first mewl coming from a pile of boxes. He hoped it was nothing but a new kitten, strayed from its mother.  That would be the best scenario, for Benfu could help it find the rest of the litter and then go on with his day as usual. But the closer he got to the huge pile of trash, the more that hope faded. He’d heard this same sound before and he scolded himself that he should have known the difference from the start.

Sighing, he stopped the bicycle and climbed down. He walked over to the pile of cardboard boxes. Lifting them carefully and tossing them aside one by one, he dug down until he finally found the right one. As he paused to look at the labeling on the side of the cardboard, a couple at the end of the alley stopped and pointed at him, then moved along.

Gently he picked up the box and carried it to his cart. He carefully set it on top of the pile of trash he had collected on the way over. Opening the two flaps, he peered into the box and immediately connected with tiny dark eyes.

Aiya,” he muttered softly, so as not to scare her. The baby was very young—maybe only a few hours or possibly a few days. She lay in the box fully unclothed save for a scrap of a red shirt with frog ties and a few balled up newspapers scattered around her.  Benfu wrinkled his nose as the smell of urine wafted up from the soaked box.  He noticed her umbilical cord still hung from her tiny button, already turning dark from the lack of sustenance running through it. From the weak sound of her mewling and the mottled color of her skin, she didn’t have much time left.

Faster than most would think an old man could move, Benfu struggled out of his worn red overcoat and laid it on the ground in front of him. He then lifted the infant and set her on top of it. As he knelt down to wrap the material around her, he ignored the throbbing in his knees and rubbed her tiny feet and hands. He counted under his breath as he quickly massaged each petite toe and finger. While working to get the blood running in her body again, his eyes met hers and held.

With the surprise of being suddenly discovered, she had quieted and serenely stared up at Benfu, her dark eyes twinkling at him. She was beautiful, this one was, and he wondered what sort of ailment she might have that would have prompted her parents to relinquish her to a new fate.

“Hello, nuer. I’ve come to take you home.  Just hold on and we’ll get you all fixed up. And we’ll add one more scavenger’s daughter to the world, yes we will.” He wrapped the coat all around her, making sure to double the sleeves around her icy feet. He gently laid her back in the box and after checking to make sure he had made a sufficient tunnel through the material for her to breathe through, he closed the flaps again.  Looking around, he hoped the remaining cardboard would be there when he returned, but for now he needed to hurry.

Turning the bicycle around he shivered from the sudden gust of wind that blew through his clothing. He climbed aboard and slowly began to pedal, willing the stiffness in his knees away. As he picked up the pace and began his journey home, he sighed and looked over his shoulder again at the box his newest treasure was nested in. He ignored the nervous fluttering in his stomach that reminded him how hard it would be to feed one more hungry mouth, and instead gave thanks to the Gods that he had found the baby girl before it was too late.

Home is a Roof Over a Pig is in my Top 10 Books for the Year!

Written by Kay on . Posted in Adoption Stories

To say I loved this book is putting it mildly. Aminta Arrington’s Home is a Roof Over a Pig had me laughing, crying and reminiscing about my years spent living in China. Most interestingly, with this book I learned so much about China that I never knew! My book is now tattered and worn, as I’ve folded down many pages and highlighted text of passages I want to come back to and read again. You will also find out why Arrington chose such a strange title, a question I had from the start but now know.

If you love China and are interested in the culture there as well as a very honest depiction of what it would be like to live there as a foreigner, then I promise you won’t be disappointed to pick this book up. And get it in print—because you’ll want to read it again and probably loan it out!

(I loved reading about their visit to a traditional Chinese home for the holidays. As I was reading I was kicking myself for missing out on doing so many of the cultural things that Aminta and her family experienced. I had five years in China and could have squeezed so much more in! But I enjoyed seeing the adventures through this author’s eyes. You will too, I guarantee it!)

Blurb:

When all-American Aminta Arrington moves from suburban Georgia to a small town in China, she doesn’t go alone. Her army husband and three young children, including an adopted Chinese daughter, uproot themselves too. Aminta hopes to understand the country with its long civilization, ancient philosophy, and complex language. She is also determined that her daughter Grace, born in China, regain some of the culture she lost when the Arringtons brought her to America as a baby.
In the university town of Tai’an, a small city where pigs’ hooves are available at the local supermarket, donkeys share the road with cars, and the warm-hearted locals welcome this strange looking foreign family, the Arringtons settle in . . . but not at first. Aminta teaches at the university, not realizing she is countering the propaganda the students had memorized for years. Her creative, independent (and loud) American children chafe in their classrooms, the first rung in society’s effort to ensure conformity. The family is bewildered by the seemingly endless cultural differences they face, but they find their way. With humor and unexpectedly moving moments, Aminta’s story is appealingly reminiscent of Reading Lolita in Tehran. It will rivet anyone who is thinking of adopting a child, or anyone who is already familiar with the experience. An everywoman with courage and acute cultural perspective, Aminta recounts this transformative quest with a freshness that will delight anyone looking for an original, accessible point of view on the new China.
*If you read Home is a Rood Over a Pig, please take the time to write an honest review on Amazon. Your efforts are greatly appreciated!

 

Chasing China by Kay Bratt

Written by Kay on . Posted in Adoption Stories

As reviewed by Samantha March, Author/Blogger/Reviewer

Mia is beautiful, talented and has the world at her fingertips. But what makes her different than the average college student who juggles a heavy workload and a rat of a boyfriend? Many years ago she was born to an unknown family in China but soon discarded to fend for herself in a busy train station.  Fate stepped in when Mia was taken to the local orphanage and adopted at the age of four by her American family. Life has been good for her, or at least as much as she has allowed it to be while pushing her deep feelings of abandonment to the back of her mind. Finally she has decided that in order to move forward, she must confront her past. Mia takes a journey to the mysterious land of her birth and embarks on a mission to find answers. As she follows the invisible red thread back through her motherland, she is enamored by the history and culture of her heritage–strengthening her resolve to get to the truth, even as Chinese officials struggle to keep it buried. With her unwavering spirit of determination, Mia battles the forces stacked against her and faces mystery, danger, a dash of romance, and finally a conclusion that will change her life.
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Samantha March says: “Well, this is quite the emotional story. I love how much you learn from reading, and this is definitely a book that educated me on a topic I had never previously heard of. The orphanages in China are just one of the appalling factors that I was informed about, and just a lot about China in general. My heart broke reading about the children that are snatched from their homes in order to beg and steals on the streets – and what happens if they don’t bring anything back for the captors. The cover-ups that go on from government officials and authorities made me feel like I was reading a juicy spy novel of sorts– until I was brought back to reality. These are real situation that are happening every day. Wow.
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Bratt weaves Mia’s journey with a delicate hand but a strong voice. Mia is so brave and such a beautiful heroine. I loved the romance angle as well, except there were a few times where I thought Jax’s dialogue was a bit peculiar. To my ears he sounded much older than his age. There were a few editing mistakes that I caught along the way as well, but nothing to really deter me from the plot. Overall, I thought this was a really great book that I think people should read, for the story and for the educational experience you can get. I look forward to reading more from Kay Bratt.
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****4 stars ****

Buy Chasing China at Amazon as a print or ebook!

 

 

Mei Li and the Wise Laoshi FREE one day only!

Written by Kay on . Posted in Adoption Stories, Contests and Give-A-Ways

As a huge THANK YOU to those of you who have supported my work, read my books, given Amazon reviews, participated in giveways, and helped to get the word out by sharing links…..I’ll be holding a promotion and putting my new release, Mei Li and the Wise Laoshi, for free for one day only as a Kindle e-book. If you do not have Kindle, you can download the book to your PC or Smartphone–and even your Ipad.

I hope this will give you parents a chance to screen the book and decide if it is one you will add to your children’s collection. I also hope (fingers crossed!) if you download it for free, you will take the time to put a short 1 or 2 sentence review on Amazon letting others know your thoughts.

Again, I can’t thank you all enough for believing in me and encouraging me to continue my dream of being an author. You’ll never know how much it means to me. I hope that my ‘giving away’ of thousands of dollars in royalties with this freebie will adequately show my appreciation.

Please be sure to get your free download from Amazon during the free period of 12:00 am (midnight) 1/2/2012 until it ends on 11:59 Pm PST on 1/2/2012. For those of you like me who are still in a holiday fog, the 24 hours starts tonight! (what I consider Sunday night but is really Monday morning)

I will be so anxious to hear what the kids say about Mei Li! Here is a short blurb:

Mei Li has just about had it with Cameron’s teasing, and she daydreams of having a fairy godmother. Instead she is granted with a wise old teacher from China who appears at her bedside! With his magic cane and his gentle ways, Laoshi takes Mei Li on an adventure to China and back to the day she was born to show her how her story began. Together they perch on a shaky pagoda and look at the Great Wall of China, a flowing river, and even pandas as the wise old Laoshi guides her through some hard questions she has been holding in her heart. Laoshi teaches Mei Li that a family is not just about who you were born to, but can also be created through the amazing gift of love.

Kay Bratt Releases a Children’s Book! Introducing Mei Li and the Wise Laoshi!

Written by Kay on . Posted in A Bratt's Life, Adoption Stories, Contests and Give-A-Ways

Available just in time for Christmas from CreateSpace and Amazon and now on Kindle and soon to be on Nook!

Mei Li and the Wise Laoshi

By Kay Bratt

Illustrated by Monika Vass

Mei Li has just about had it with Cameron’s teasing, and she daydreams of having a fairy godmother. Instead she is granted with a wise old teacher from China who appears at her bedside! With his magic cane and his gentle ways, Laoshi takes Mei Li on an adventure to China and back to the day she was born to show her how her story began. Together they perch on a shaky pagoda and look at the Great Wall of China, a flowing river, and even pandas as the wise old Laoshi guides her through some hard questions she has been holding in her heart. Laoshi teaches Mei Li that a family is not just about who you were born to, but can also be created through the amazing gift of love.

Just in time to wrap and put under the Christmas tree for that special adopted child in your life!

[Buy now at CreateSpace, or Amazon]

..and of course we have to include a giveaway to celebrate what has been one of my most difficult projects yet! So share a link to this blog post on your fb wall and/or website and come back and comment that you did it. Last day to get in the drawing is Friday, Dec 9 @ midnight EST. The winner will be drawn on Saturday, December 10, just in time to get you out the prize of a signed collection of Kay Bratt books. You’ll receive an autographed Silent Tears (with brand ‘spankin new red/white cover), an autographed Chasing China, and of course an autographed Mei Li and the Wise Laoshi with a special note written to the child of your choice.

You will get an extra chance to win for each Amazon review you have written for a Kay Bratt book. Just be sure to alert me in the comment you leave below and tell me which ones you reviewed so I can double check and add your chances!

    

Thank you for your support of Mei Li and the Wise Laoshi!

Happy Father’s Day!

Written by Kay on . Posted in Adoption Stories, Contests and Give-A-Ways

This coming Sunday will be Father’s Day and in many households means a huge celebration.  In the adoption community, this day can be bittersweet as the child gets older and begins to understand that somewhere out there is (or was) a man who was instrumental to their creation.

We have touched on the subject of acknowledging birth mothers and the special ways that many have implemented that gesture into their lives—and I am interested to see if Father’s Day is similar. Do you help your children remember their birth father on Father’s Day? Is the subject of a birth father broached? If you feel you want to share ideas, how old is your child(ren) and what gesture does your family use to acknowledge their birth father?

Let me take this opportunity to say Happy Father’s Day to all the dads out there who in the moment that they have taken on that responsibility for a little one—have changed their lives to become a better man in order to protect, guide and mentor the child in their lives.

In recognition of all the amazing adoptive fathers out there, I’d like to give away a book published by an interesting and talented adopted father of Chinese daughters.  Photographer Richard Bowen, the adoptive father of two Chinese girls, is a founding member of the board of directors of Half the Sky Foundation. I keep his book, Mei Mei; Little Sister, on display in my house and when I feel myself forgetting the little faces I knew so well in China, I only have to open the cover to be transported back to those days. It truly is an amazing and emotional book.

If you participate in this post by commenting about how you celebrate Father’s Day or how you acknowledge your adopted child’s birth father, your name will instantly be in the drawing for the Mei Mei; Little Sister photo book. Drawing will be held Sunday, June 19. So comment below!

And..if you don’t know what to get the dad in your household, a copy of my book inscribed with  a note or even little scribble (or even their traced handprint) from your child would make the perfect gift—and you still have time if you order today. Here is the link—what  are you  waiting for?  

Silent Tears; A Journey of Hope in a Chinese Orphanage

A Common Sense Letter by Kay Bratt

Written by Kay on . Posted in Adoption Stories

Dear family, friends and nosy strangers to interracial families,

Since my experiences with China and adoption, I have learned so much and I want to share some of my newly acquired wisdom with you. It is my hopes that this letter will serve as a crash course in proper etiquette when communicating with a diverse family. Adoption in itself is a miracle—a way to unite a loving child with people who have a desire to build their family in ways other than or in addition to biological means. Please don’t ruin their joy with your rude comments and intrusive behaviors. Don’t allow racist comments to slip out of your loose mouth—words can hurt and children have feelings, too. Give the family what they need—space, privacy and respect. I know that your curiosity is driving you mad, so let’s discuss some of the most common questions and comments that you should never verbalize to an adoptive parent.

How much did they cost? Absolutely nothing—didn’t you know trafficking is illegal and no one can buy another human being? If you are interested in adoption and are wondering if you can afford to embark on the amazing journey, any adoption agency on the worldwide web can discuss with you the fees related to the process.

Can she speak Chinese? Considering many international adoptions are finalized before children learn the art of verbal communication, do you really think it is possible that she can speak a foreign language?  However, when she is old enough, if she expresses interest in learning the language of her homeland, then we may consider a private tutor. Why—is there someone you can recommend?

Can she speak English? Don’t your children speak English? I know—why don’t you ask her yourself? (And believe it or not, they can also handle a fork and only use chopsticks for fun!)

What are they? Alright, Einstein, do I really need to point out to you that they are children? How insensitive and if I ever hear someone ask that question, they should be prepared to receive a tongue lashing.

Is it true that the Chinese people do not want baby girls and the orphanages are full of them?  Oh—are you interested in the subject of child abandonment and institutional statistics? I wish they could help but as you see, they are busy spending time with their family. Feel free to check your local library for some research material. The point here is, don’t spread slander and stereotypes—especially in front of children.

Sometimes families include more than one adopted child—when you see two children in the group that are the same race, please don’t ask, “Are they REAL sisters?”  Yes, they are real sisters and those are real parents living a real house and they should really not be forced to have this conversation. Move on, please.

And of course, the all familiar question of, “Do you know who their REAL parents are?” If you are crude enough to ask this question, I hope you get this answer: “Yes—we are their real parents. If you are referring to their biological parents, that sort of information is personal and any details we know would be up to them to share when and if they desire to.”

Another real question that should never leave your lips is, “Are their real parents dead?” Again, the people who they call mom and dad are their real parents and you should know better than to ask a question that is so personal (or can cause immense emotional turmoil) such as the subject of biological parents or death. 

Please do not ask an adoptive parent, “How many of your own do you have?” All of their children are their own—they are not separated by categories of who birthed them.

If you work in a medical setting and a parent comes in with their child of a different race than they are, please do not ask for more proof of guardianship than you would any other child—that is insulting and discriminatory.  Haven’t you ever heard of adoption? Obviously the medical card or information presented should be enough and the parents should not be made to go through an inquisition to receive medical attention for their children. That goes for immigration control as well—why should they have to present more proof of guardianship for their adopted child than they do for their bio child?  

Do not—I repeat do not—grab the hand of a child and assume they are lost just because they do not ‘look like’ the people they are standing near. You may just find yourself on the wrong side of goodness when you are being arrested for attempted kidnapping. Of course, we all want to help a child who cannot find their parents but use the context clues—is she standing near a woman and calling her mommy?   Does she look distressed or lost? If not—back off, people.

Why didn’t you adopt from your own country? This is a totally out-of-bounds question and there is no way to present it in a way that is acceptable. Be prepared to answer why YOU didn’t adopt from YOUR own country, because that question should go both ways. Parents choose international adoption for many reasons but the most common thread is that they were people who wanted a child—and their child was in need of a family.  The birth country is completely irrelevant, though some people may have reasons to why they chose China, India, Russia, etc, to start their search. Those reasons are none of your business.  If you are interested in learning the pros and cons of domestic vs. international adoption, you can find many websites that can enlighten you.

Don’t approach and exclaim, “Oh my, she is so cute! I want one!” Like any parent, a compliment given about their child is appreciated, but please don’t act like they are a floppy-eared Golden Retriever or the latest style in purses.  They are not an accessory or status symbol—it is a child, most importantly—it is their child. What would you say if I ran up to you and your children and bellowed out the same comment? You would think I was crazy—right?

Please, please, please do not tell a parent who has an adoptive child, “Oh, they are so lucky that you adopted them.”  I have corresponded with hundreds of parents and the most common sentiment they admit to me is that they are the lucky ones to have been blessed with such amazing children. Also, these parents did not go out of their way to ‘save’ a child and that term is offensive—please don’t use it.

On that note, do not tell a child, “Oh, you are so precious; I think I’ll just take you home with me.”  Or “Oh, you are so precious; can I be your new Mommy?” You have no idea if the child has had attachment issues or possibly still remember their abandonment, or recalls being placed with strangers away from those who love them.  A comment like that may bring back a flood of painful memories or plant a bundle of new fears in the mind of a child. What is said in a few seconds could take years to forget. You can just leave it at “Oh, you are so precious.” Enough said.

And no—sorry to burst your bubble but just because their children are Asian, does not mean they are math wizards or science geeks.  Just like your children, they are born with different gifts and talents and as they grow, those are still being determined.  However, by the time they are grown, I’m sure they will be geniuses in the subject of how rude it is to stereotype people according to their genetics.

Don’t be surprised if when you are dumb enough to ask an inappropriate question, you see a mom suddenly grow horns or bare fangs.  Despite our ingrained rules of politeness and minding our manners, our instinct to protect our children is stronger. When a mother senses their children are going to suffer emotionally because of thoughtless words from a stranger—she is going to do what needs to be done and shut you down.

Not all parents are opposed to answering questions about adoption or their children— you may just happen to find a parent or child that really loves to talk about their adoption story. If that happens, count your blessings. First be sure you feel a welcoming atmosphere before you approach a family, and then if you are sure you can pull out your can of common sense and put it to use—keep your comments or questions to a minimum. Ask yourself how would you feel if the tables were turned and a stranger walked up to you and asked personal questions about your children’s lives? The safest route is to let them guide the conversation to what they feel comfortable discussing.

In closing, you may wonder exactly what would be appropriate to say to an adoptive mom or dad when you just want to show your support of their choice to adopt and your admiration for their handsome family. Here are a few appropriate words to use when approaching an interracial family:

“Your family is beautiful and so well-behaved!” (We all love to hear that comment, obviously!)

 “I have a grand-daughter that looks just like her!” (Only if it is true, of course, and can be a way to test the waters to see if they are open to talking about adoption.)

“Did you create your family through adoption?”  (Again, be alert for clues if they do not want to engage in adoption conversation and if you do feel welcome, keep the questions on the non-personal side.)

A good rule of thumb would be to remember that these people—just like you—are very busy and each time they venture out together it is valued family time. If they have not shown that they want to be spokespeople for adoption, let them finish their meal, activity or event without being interviewed, stared at, or whispered about.  You will find that families from the international adoption community are usually patient, kind and willing to communicate about their story— if it is an appropriate time and place, and if you understand that there are some details and information that will not be shared under any circumstances.  Remember, they have moved mountains to get their children—so let them enjoy the rewards of parenthood.

Thank you to the members of the International Adoption Community who gave me the research material for this piece! Your patience with the rest of the world is duly noted—Kay Bratt.