Tuesday, 15 July 2008

Talking with the Colorado Parents of the Year

Rocky Mountain News
Monday, July 14, 2008

Q: What’s the secret to being good parents?

Kari: I don’t know if we have any secrets other than for us in our situation with kids who were adopted from another country I think one of the few secrets to that is that we experience their walk through understanding their adoption and understanding the loss that goes with losing your country and your birth culture with them.

Meaning that we share the story with them. We talk about the truth of the stories. And we don’t have any hidden information.

I think in adoption that used to be the case. I don’t know if there was shame associated with it or whatever, but people didn’t share the whole truth. And with our kids we’ve been talking about the truth since day one.

Of course, since being adopted means that there’s loss involved, both our kids have to face and learn about loss early in life. And I think that’s a good life skill to have because all of us face losses in our lives.

So as parents we walk through that with them. We celebrate adoption every day. We celebrate who they are and their uniqueness every day. I think that’s one of the things that I’ve always noticed with friends who have non-adopted children, biological children.

Maybe because they look different to us, we really see whom they are coming out. That’s not so much a reflection of who we are, because they don’t look like us. Maybe it’s a little easier to separate yourself and say, watch this person emerging and what can I do to support that, whatever it is, instead of putting my own opinions on it.

George: There was a woman we met a long, long time ago, way before Kari and I were married. And she said the only thing you can really give your children is a happy childhood. We have always remembered that. It was like a runoff line that she gave us and we’ve always tried to do by that and to live by that with the kids.

I think that would be my one advice for all sorts of things: try to give your children a happy childhood. It’s not about money. It’s really about spending time with them and doing things with them and finding out what they’re interested in and kind of playing with them at that level. Because really what they want is your attention and your time and your love.

Q: What would you say were the most challenging aspects of your two adoptions?

George: The first adoption was patience, because at that point we had no children and so you walk by the bedroom that he or she will go in and the fact that once you start the process, a lot of things are beyond your control.

So it requires a lot of patience, a lot of faith and a lot of support for each other while this process is going on. I’d say that’s the biggest thing with the first adoption.

The second one, you already have a child, so you don’t think that much.

Kari: On our second adoption it seemed that the information that we were being given was that Shanti was gross motor delayed. She was older. She was almost two. And so we basically had to sit down and say to ourselves, you know, are we accepting a special needs child, a child that will be physically handicapped?

What could we really infer from this medical information that was coming from across the planet? So it really was kind of a leap of faith.

Interestingly, by the time she came to us, she has totally overcome her gross motor delay.
Apparently she had problems with her legs. They didn’t work properly for the first year. But by the time she came to us she was quite capable of walking and she bounced on the trampoline and now she’s our athletic one. So you know, you just go with it.

Q:What brought you to Cambodia in the first place?

Kari: Before we went on our adoption trip, we, like most folks, didn’t know much about Cambodia other than it was next to Vietnam.

We’d heard of Pol Pot. We’d heard of the Khmer Rouge, but we really didn’t know. And so we were basically praying a lot about adopting.

You get into that world and there’s a lot of information…it’s overwhelming. You just have to step back a bit.

So anyway, we were actually starting the process of adopting from China. Primarily because we were with other people who were adopting from China and they were telling us where to go and what to do.

But one of those people put us on an e-mail list that was four families who had adopted from China. And on that list one day, someone posted a message about these children in Cambodia, that there were all these children waiting to be adopted.

I called it the fatal click because with that click, up came these faces of beautiful children
And I said to George, I have to find out about this. So over the period of the next two weeks, I called everywhere I could find for information about Cambodia and the adoption process.

Then one day, I called my mother. My mother was in Maine. I told her, ‘Mom, you’re not going to believe this but I’ve been learning about Cambodia.’

And she said, Cambodia! I just came from the hairdresser and this woman was there and she had adopted children from Cambodia and I got all the names for you of people to call.
And she started reading them off and I had already called the same people.

And as I was having this conversation, George walked in the door with National Geographic had a cover story about Cambodia and he plopped it down.

And I just looked at him and said: OK. Got it. You don’t need to send any more signals. We got the message.

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