Tag Archives: Allison Garwood

My Son Thinks I Stole Him

Okay, so my son was asked to work on an autobiography project recently. It brought up a hurricane of memories, feelings, anxieties, sadness, questions, etc. around being adopted.

Last night, I snuggled him in his bed and asked him about the friends he has confided in about being adopted. I wanted to know what they said or did that helped him to trust them. And I’d like to try to be more like them in that way. One thing I noticed is that he found friends who have also been through a life-tragedy that they keep inside. Another common thread was their enthusiasm for adoption. And finally, their encouragement that things would turn out ok.

Then, he talked about his fear that I would be mad or sad (or both) upon hearing what was going on inside his head. He referenced a time when he told me that he wished I had the same skin color as him. He said I got mad at him.

In my head, I am pleased that he wishes I were black. The books and experts warned that all interracially adopted children wish they looked like their parents. I knew it was coming. I was dreading what was promised to me by those sources: my son would inevitably wish he were white. But he didn’t, he wished I were black. I take that to mean that he is glad to be black. I hope. But, this is where I made my first blunder.

I regret contradicting him and telling him that I didn’t get mad. The point is that he felt like I was mad, and that’s all that matters. I wish that I had instead asked what I had done to give him the impression that I was mad. Someone at an improv show once explained that comedy and improv are about saying “yes” to your partner. You can never say “no.” I need to do that for Luc when he shares his thoughts. I have to find a way to always say “yes,” and to always focus on learning from him.

His latest belief is that we stole him, and since he couldn’t talk, he couldn’t object. He struggles to understand and believe that his birth mother had to give him up for adoption, especially since she kept his three bio-siblings. To be honest, nobody warned me about this one. I’ve gotten nasty comments from various African American adults over the years, but I didn’t think Luc would buy into that idea.

In the end, I told him about Dixie and John Bickel (God’s Littlest Angels, Haiti). They are an incredible American couple who went to Haiti to start a baby hospital. I know that she works tirelessly to help Haitian parents find resources and work in order to be able to provide for their children, and keep them at home. She only accepts children for adoption if every other possibility has been exhausted.

I don’t know any details behind the decision for Luc to be adopted. But, as I told him, I trust Dixie and I trust Mama C (our name for Luc’s birth mom). If I didn’t trust them, or if they had found a way for Mama C to be able to care for Luc, I would have absolutely supported it. Because I love Luc so much that I would have wanted him to be able to stay with his biological mother if at all possible. But, again, I trust Mama C and I trust Dixie.

Adoption never comes with out a huge price. The loss is incomprehensible to anyone who doesn’t actually experience it. Even to me. I feel the loss more than a parent with no adoption experience, but I can only guess about the pain Luc, Mama C, and Luc’s bio siblings endure. I wish I could fix it.

Another part of adoption is the need to accept was is. We don’t have to like it. We don’t have to fully understand it. But we must not waste resources wishing or, worse, trying to change what is. Luc wishes he could live with his birth mother. He thinks that he loves her more than he loves me. And yet, he loves Reed and me and knows that we are his parents on that deep take-it-for-granted level, like how we think of oxygen and gravity.

And I wish that I could make this okay for him. I wish I could say or do something that would take away the daily heartache for Mama C. And I don’t understand why her biggest, life-altering loss is my biggest, life-altering joy. And I don’t know how to feel about that.

But, it is.

Of course I am sad for his confusion, but I think that the messiness is healthy. It indicates that he is already working through the gigantic mountain of issues that come with being adopted. It’s not pleasant for him, but it will make him stronger, and hopefully healthier.

For now, all I can do is show unwavering support for my son.

Am I doing this right??


P.S. For the record, our adoption is 150% legal. At no time was there ever anything but transparent, complicit obedience of the law (both letter and spirit).

Autobiography School Projects Are a No-No

Luc was asked to write an autobiography in class. I’ve been really really really loudly communicative and clear with all of his teachers that family tree projects and autobiographies are extremely difficult for adopted kids. So, I’m a little annoyed that this project proceeded.

When I talked to the teacher and the head of the lower school, the teacher said that Luc’s first sentence was something like “I was born in Haiti, and brought to this beautiful land…” They thought this indicated that Luc was in a good place with it. Wrong!! That is Luc overcompensating for feeling boxed into a corner and told to write about his deepest tragedy.

It has brought up loads of feelings and issues and sadness and fear and anger and etc. I didn’t really feel like they believed me when I told them this. It’s hard for people to understand unless they are adoptive parents with lots of research under their belt. They have to try to trust me.

A friend just called and said her son found Luc crying at recess. Luc opened up about being adopted from Haiti and shared a lot of his story with his friend. The child wanted to help Luc and told him it would be okay. But Luc asked how he could know that when he doesn’t know what it’s like to be adopted and he has parents who look like him.

The conversation opened the friend’s eyes and his Mom’s eyes to see that Luc has to wrestle with enormous issues every day that the rest of us know nothing about. It’s my job to fight for him to be able to do that on his terms, in his way, in his time. And I hope I get it right.

He’s such an amazing, strong, brave kid. What a blessing. I’m so thankful to God every day that I get to be his mom.

Intentions vs. Consequences

All of the adoption parenting books talk about the adoptee’s burning questions and curiosity about birth family. I thought I was ready for it. We’ve had some conversations about it, and I thought I was doing just fine. I thought I was on top of that game.

Last night, my son broke down and spoke really honestly about how much he wishes he were not an “adopted kid.” I think I kind of get that. I wish for him that he didn’t have to endure allllll the questions. I wish people would not force him to teach anyone he encounters about adoption, birth families, Haiti, and “real” moms. Each of the answers to those questions has come with an overwhelming burden of loss. He hasn’t been able to wrap his own head around this complicated concept yet. He’s not ready to teach. He may never be ready to teach.

There was something about the depth of his sorrow that sent me to a selfish head zone. As much as I claim to be his REAL mother, will I ever fully receive that honor?

Over the years, it’s felt like a punch in the gut with a wrecking ball when I’ve watched people casually erase me from my son’s lineage. When we go out with a black friend, a stranger will tell the friend how cute Luc is, instead of me. If I stand more than two feet from my son, strangers ask him if he is lost. When we went to the ER for Luc’s concussion, every staff member confirmed “Is he your son?” before proceeding. Many people feel a compulsion to tell me what a wonderful thing I have done for Luc, and what a kind person I am. Sometimes they tell me God will reward me, and I inform them that He already did.

Semantics seem minor, but they feel big to me. When people add the qualifier “adoptive” before parents, it stings. I don’t think I’ve ever heard someone do that to my face, but it hurts even when they are describing someone else. I think if they did it to my face, it would hurt deeply.

Perhaps the worst is how people assume that adoptive parents don’t love our children as much as biological parents.

So, ya know, anyway … yeah.

Define Neighbor Please

Background: Our church Life Group meets at our house on Friday evenings. Right now, we are reading a book about racial reconciliation called “More Than Equals” by Spencer Perkins and Chris Rice. We are on Chapter 4, which focuses on knowing who your “neighbor” is as Jesus intended. It seems like an easier concept to grasp than it is. First of all, Jesus did not intend for us to show kindness only to people who are lovable. He noted that anyone can do that. Really allowing God to change our hearts enables us to love the unlovable.

A helicopter arrived and hovered over the house. Then sirens. More helicopters. I joked that I was having flashbacks to our days of living in Inglewood. We all laughed, and then spoke a little louder so that we could hear over the distracting noise. Our book paraphrased the biblical parable about the good Samaritan, and then suggested we read the actual story in the Bible. We did, and we began to debate who was and was not our neighbor. More helicopters arrived and hovered over the house. What about the the person I thought was my friend who stabbed me in the back? More sirens. What about the next door neighbor’s son who used really offensive terminology to inform us that a gay couple lives down the street? Helicopters still hovering loudly. What about Republicans? (Kidding.) My husband noticed a news truck parked at the entrance to our street. So anyway, was Jesus suggesting that we have to be kind and generous to someone after they hurt us or just that we be open minded to a group of people who tend to oppress?

My sister, visiting from GA, was working on some writing in another room. She came in with a worried look on her face. “I’m sorry to interrupt, but can we pray for whatever is going on out there? It sounds really serious.” “Oh! Yes! Of course!” we all replied as we suddenly realized the noise we were trying to talk over might actually be a call to prayer. It turned out that a drunk driver had been running from police, exited the hwy and while crossing a bridge near our house had smashed into another car. The damage was horrendous and everyone had to be cut out of their cars. Thankfully, nobody died.

We had been doing EXACTLY what Jesus was preaching against in our lesson! We were so focused on our curriculum and getting through the chapter in our book that we didn’t even think to notice the practical application LITERALLY just outside the door. Wow. Duh.

Who is my neighbor? My neighbor is anyone God tells me to embrace. Will I change my focus from my to do lists and agenda so that I can hear the nudge next time?

Book Question: What would the racial climate be like if we lived out unconditional forgiveness for others?

    Notes from group meeting:

  • Things we can learn from putting ourselves in situations and groups outside of our comfort zones: it’s possible, and we are stronger than we thought; we learn more about other perspectives; no group will ever be 100% what we want
  • In loving our “neighbor” as Jesus taught, what does that mean regarding people who are an immediate threat? Types of people who are probably a threat? People with belief systems we want to avoid?

I Never Win Anything

When I arrived, the hallway on the 9th floor was filled with (I assume) 125 people. Role was called. And then, the stunning news that 5 lucky people had been chosen by a randomization computer script to be on call. Meaning they could go home immediately and not even think about reporting again until a week later. At that point, they were to call the Magical Phone Number of Potential. They would likely learn that their service was complete!

The first name was called: a young, very overweight Latina. I decided she could use a break. I approved.

Then the second name: an older white man sitting way down at the end of the hall (indicating he had arrived early and prepared). He seemed humble and bookish, so I approved him too.

As each person passed me, I showed them I was genuinely happy for them (and I was! …. I was. Well, I was trying to be happy for them) by smiling and whispering, “Congratulations!!”

The third name: an oldish (60’s?) African American woman who smiled so big as I congratulated her that I thought she was going to hug me. Approved.

The fourth name: some dude standing in front of me whose last name started with G. Too close. Too emotionally searing. I did not approve. But I pretended I did, even as the hot tears filled my eyes. I never win anything, I sniffled to myself.

The fifth name: Allison Garwood. WHAT?! I gasped audibly. The crowd gasped audibly in reply. I looked at everyone and smiled and thanked them. And the band played some song as I walked carefully down the catwalk, trying not to offset the crown that had been placed precariously on my— oh wait, that’s Miss America. But there is no way Miss America is more excited to win than I was. Amazing and awesome.

Therrrrre she iiiiiis, Mrs. On Caaall Juror Eight-Oh-Nine-Fiiii-hiiiive…

The Fashion Industry Is Trying To Kill Me

I used to keep a blog by this title. In it I posted links to articles about 20 year old girls stepping off fashion runways and dying of heart attacks. I stopped posting for a while. But the media is still telling me that my best look is emaciated famine victim. I disagree. So I juxtapose 2 images against each other to remind myself what true feminine beauty looks like.

Today’s installment:

Erdem Wilhemina 3/4-Sleeve Floral Sheath Dress ($840 at Neiman Marcus)

Erdem Sheath ($840 at Neiman Marcus)

Neiman Marcus shows me that if I stop eating and bathing for six months, I too can be worthy of this expensive Erdem (which sounds a little like “murder” when read backwards) dress.

Or…

Fuzzi, Sizes 14-24 ($595) at Saks

Fuzzi, Sizes 14-24 ($595 at Saks)

Saks Fifth Avenue shows me that if I keep eating a healthy diet, exercise, and lay off the heroine, I can embrace my curves and look like a beautiful woman in this expensive Fuzzi dress.

Like Serving Vegan to a Foodie

Okay, so I get that vegan food doesn’t taste as good as non-vegan food. I’m not trying to disprove that or to recruit new converts. I eat vegan because I take a medication that makes my metabolism similar to that of a large, dead man. Eating vegan is the only way I’ve found to avoid having to buy a new wardrobe.

God blessed me with special gifts in a few areas. Cooking is not one of them. So, I shore up that weakness with a subscription to a service that delivers ingredients and full-color glossy instruction cards to my home. And still I feel pride each time my kitchen doesn’t catch fire. I’m good at celebrating the small victories.

eating our vegan sloppy joes

Luc and I love our vegan Sloppy Joes. Everyone else? Well…

When I invited the child of a couple who own shares of Cooks Illustrated stock to our home, I knew meal time would be interesting. My brow began to glisten as the 6 year old enthusiastically shared stories of his father’s flambe victories. I had pulled out my big gun (Snobby Joes) but was beginning to realize it was more like a fly swatter.

The child with the sophisticated palate was unimpressed with lentils in tomato sauce and maple syrup. He actually gagged while dutifully trying to choke down my second try, the results of my no-fail delivery service. Finally, I gave him an apple and put some Costco banana bread in the oven.

What do you do when your kid really likes a kid and you really like the parents, but they are foodies? You know that every time they come to your house, some thought will run through their head along the lines of “I need to eat before I go over there, but I should probably try to swallow a few bites of whatever gruel she serves.” How is it fun for them to come over? Maybe the new plan should be the path of least resistance: delivery from someplace delicious.

On the bright side, people love to cook for my son and husband. My boys are unceasingly amazed by the deliciousness of everyone’s cooking … by comparison.