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Bi Bim KAAN August 11, 2011

Filed under: KAAN — Elizabeth @ 2:35 PM

So it’s time to wrap up my KAAN coverage.  There is just no way that I can really convey everything I learned and all that I experienced.  But I promised to try, so I will just hit some of the high points for you.

  • One of the sessions I went to centered around the question of whether or not adoptive parents have any role in a search for birth family.  I have a strong desire to reunite Matthew with his birth family if at all possible, so I was definitely interested.  (Notice the wording in the previous sentence:  I have the desire.  Matthew?  Who the heck knows??  And as I’ve come to learn and understand on this journey–it is SO not about me.)  We heard from a number of adult adoptees with different experiences, some who had searched, some who had not, some who wanted to, some who had no interest, some who took that journey with their adoptive family, some who lovingly asked their adoptive family to step back and let them do it on their own.  And after a lot of discussion, I’ll give you the short answer.  No.  It isn’t our place.  We can support them if they decide to do it, but we simply should not take those steps on our own.  Was I bummed by that?  Yes.  Will I respect it?  Yes.
  • Also, one speaker really encouraged everyone to “work on your stuff” before sharing your story with others.  For adoptees, their “stuff” might center around abandonment or identity issues.  For adoptive parents, our “stuff” might be that we experienced infertility and haven’t properly grieved that yet.  The point is, your “stuff” is really going to cloud your experiences and your story and you might end up taking some anger out in a misguided way.  For example, the spring after Matthew came home, we were at the zoo, and some lady starts telling me how she thought it would be cool to adopt and she seemed to have this idealized vision of adoption and I really wanted to shove some reality down her throat.  Especially when she said something like that it couldn’t be harder than bringing a newborn home from the hospital.  That steam coming out my ears?  Yeah that was my stuff–an incredibly rough adjustment period.  And I needed to work it out–without assaulting a lady on the zoo train.
  • The generosity of the adoptees to who shared their stories was so helpful and I had a lot of questions.  Here are some of the tips that they very generously shared.
  1. Do culture camps or language classes AS A FAMILY.  Singling out your child just makes them feel even more different than they might already feel.
  2. Normalize experiences with Korean culture so that it doesn’t feel like an anomaly.  Kids always resist anomalies.
  3. Find a mentor for your child–an older teen, maybe, who was also adopted from Korea (or at least Asia).  You don’t have to call them a “mentor” or make it feel so official–this can just be someone who comes for dinner sometimes or maybe to your kids’ birthday parties.  As the relationship grows, your child will probably feel comfortable opening up to them about some of the feelings they would not want to share with you.
  4. Your kids are getting teased.  PERIOD.  If they haven’t told you, it is because they might not even understand themselves exactly what is happening and they don’t think you will understand.
  5. Help your kids develop the skills to respond to questions about why they are different.  This wasn’t mentioned at KAAN, but the W.I.S.E. Up Powerbook is a great resource to use as your child begins elementary school.

There was just so much more that I learned and experienced at KAAN, but like I said, you kind of had to be there.  One of the best things about this conference was the way everybody accepted each other.  If you spend any time reading a variety of adult adoptee, first parent blogs, and adoptive family blogs, you know that sometimes there can be such an air of volatility between ALL members of the adoption triad.  Part of me was afraid that I would be tiptoeing over landmines and worried about saying the wrong thing when asking a question.  But it was such an environment of understanding and that was so refreshing.  I hope I’ve encouraged you to consider attending if you ever get the chance!!!

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14 Responses to “Bi Bim KAAN”

  1. deb jacobs Says:

    you got sooo much out of kaan! i am so happy for you xx

  2. Becky Says:

    Well, I don’t have the same “stuff” as you, but I would still feel like telling that lady at the zoo a thing or two. I guess it’s the whole “adoption is the easy way” attitude that some people seem to have. It just feels so dismissive of all the loss involved in adoption. These are some great points, especially about it not being our place as adoptive parents to search for birth parents. I am guilty of wanting to do this as well, but I do recognize it is not my place. And I think language lessons AS A FAMILY is so so important.

  3. claudia Says:

    This sounds like SUCH a good conference!

    I’m sort of surprised by your conclusion on the first point. I do get why people want adoptive parents to butt out of this stuff (no, honestly, I do!) and I guess that the Korean situation is different because there are probably really good records, from what I’ve heard, and Matthew is much less likely to face a black hole if he searches as a young adult. I just… can’t help thinking… that it’s got to be a good thing if kids get to know their birth family as KIDS. If the other half of themselves is something they can know, and not have to wonder about. But hey, you already know that I thought that!!! 🙂

  4. This conference sounds fantastic. Was it a 2-day conference? I know you already mentioned that next year’s KAAN conference is in Albany, which might actually work for me…and it’s in the summer, which is also good. Maybe we could coordinate it with a family vacation. Any idea what weekend it is in 2012?

  5. Melissa Says:

    I kind of agree with you about not searching them out as a child. We are in the position that birth parent’s sought us out and we’re having to navigate how much to share. At this point we’ve shared pictures but not letters because they are much too full of grief on the birth parent’s part for a child to handle. Not sure when we’ll be able to share those actually.

    And lots of good tips here!

  6. Lori Says:

    I’m so glad it was such a wonderful experience for you!

  7. Jenny Says:

    thank you for sharing the rest you learned, it is SO helpful to me. I keep sending your KAAN posts to Kyle, so he’ll get on board with going with me, he thinks that I should just go, but I want us all to be on the same page.

    Here’s a little pet peeve for you and perhaps, you’ve experienced it. Every time (I swear to you it seems like that I’m going with almost always) someone finds out my kids are adopted they begin to tell me about how they thought they might adopt, they want to adopt someday, they once looked into adoption. It actually cracks me up now b/c if my experiences are true most everyone in this world “would like to adopt someday” so those 147 million orphans better get ready, I hear that maybe someday, they kind of think that they might like to think about maybe doing something like that. It’s like they think I won’t have anything in common with them or want to be there friend if we don’t have that in common :).

  8. Anja Says:

    I was also adopted from Korea when I was a baby. My parents are German and I grew up in Washington DC in a very german community. We went to a private school where my sister and I were the only Asians! I never felt out of place. I was proud to be different, to be able to tell my own personal story. Adoption was discussed openly at home. I never once had the urge to find my birth family because I had everything that I needed: loving parents and a big sister (also adopted from Korea). I think adoptees want to find their birth parents if they feel that something is missing in their lives.

    You´re doing a great job raising those two precious boys!

  9. Yvonne Says:

    Thanks for the recap – I found it interesting to see the diversity of things that you discussed. And I love seeing that statement about learning Korean/going to Korean culture camp as a family. We completely agree! Still trying to figure out the logistics of some of that, but we want to learn too. And thanks for the link – I’ll be checking that out. So glad your experience at KAAN was positive!

  10. Christine Says:

    Thank you for making the effort to put yourself out there in the Korean adoption community so we can all reap the benefits of this information. I have learned so much from you as to how your family and Matthew have been and will continue to be affected. Keep on opening up our eyes so we can be a better support for you!

  11. Summer Says:

    Thanks for sharing. We just returned from a Vietnamese Heritage Camp a few weeks ago, our third year to go as a family. I enjoy the presentations by the adult adoptees the most. They seem to be the most beneficial to me. We are trying to become more involved with adoptees now rather than just within a Vietnamese or Korean community per the adoptees advice. I agree with you about birth families. Many of the Vietnamese adoptees suggested it should be left up to the adoptee themselves about when and if they should search.

    KAAN sounds awesome. Hoping to make it next year!

  12. Pix Says:

    Wow! KAAN sounds like it was a really valuable experience for you. Hoping to work it into our schedule soon. And thanks so much for sharing this stuff. Really great advice (especially about working through your own stuff, although I’m not sure even that would help me deal with someone like that lady at the zoo!).

  13. Elizabeth Says:

    Ok, I’m a big fat loser who has no time to read blogs and I’m finally catching up. So look out! Comments will ensue, I say.
    #1 and 3 on your list… I LOVE. Like super-love. The idea of a mentor is so cool to me.
    #4 makes my heart ache for my babies.
    And that woman on the train? Um… can I hand her my youngest and see how simple she thinks it is to adopt? Maybe a day with Ingrid and Matthew would change her mind? 😉

  14. Karen Says:

    HI! Did I meet you at KAAN? I agree–the adoptive-parents-with-young-children group was very small. Would have loved to have seen a lot more folks in this category there. I attended alone, as my husband had to work that weekend, but I am soooo glad I was able to go. I learned a lot!


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