Sunday, 11 May 2014

A family gathering - using the A-word

My nephew was confirmed yesterday. It was a lovely, beautiful and very moving affair. Coming of age.

A slideshow of his life was running on a loop in the background. I was moved to tears. In the blink of an eye my nephew has become a young man. That intoxicating mix of handsome and groofy, confident and insecure, bullitproof and vulnerable that is the teenage years. All at the same time.

The family met. Eating, drinking and merriment ensued to the soundtrack of cacophonic laughter and happy banter. Digger was zooming in and out of the everyone’s legs. Happy as anything. He s a social being. He was much admired. As always at such gatherings the older kids took the younger ones under their wings. The boys played football, and were gentle with the little ones. And the girls held hands and chatted. But they all carried and kisses the young ones.

Some people we haven’t met since Digger moved in. And so they didn't know he is adopted.

Some couldn’t work out how Digger got his AMAZING eyelashes (certainly not from us!). And some thought it was amazing how Digger looked so much like Pierre. Well, well. People see what they want to see.

Once Digger was out for the night there was a lot of opportunity for grown up conversation. Admittedly, the conversations I was involved in mainly concerned kids and parenting and our own childhoods. And I ended up talking a lot about adoption.

Actually I woke up this morning (hence this blog) and was tired of talking about adoption. I had been open and honest. And did my best to explain why certain mainstream parenting styles, like crying it out, is not a good idea for adopted children. Bla blab la. It was very interesting. But also tiring.

Next party I think I will really try not to mention that word again. I think with practice I will get better. At changing the subject, at fending off too prying questions.

‘Is his dad very dark? Does the dark hair and the brown eyes come from his dad? The olive skin is obviously not from you. It is from his dad?’

To all of which the answer is:


It’s great to leave it at that. It makes people think. Even for a second. And gives me peace. Enough time to move away.

But all these questions are only one side of the coin. The other side is me wanting to tell people what it is like, trying out new thoughts and ideas, and an urge to let them know there are other ways of parenting that what we learned.

Things like yelling ‘Stoppit. STOPPIT NOW!!’ ‘Oh for Christ’s Sake. STOP CRYING.’ isn’t really going to get you there. I have yet to see a child stopping to cry at emotional gunpoint. Especially in front of other people. Shaming, in my book, is bad. And for many it is lazy parenting, of re-lived childhoods. You see?  I really must come off that high horse. It’s doing my own head in.

‘But’s that how we were parented! If it was good enough for us, it sure is good enough for them.’ And then we move towards that awkward conversation where I try to voice how perhaps that wasn't the best thing. Or that perhaps didn’t work that well. Sigh.

Anyway, yesterday’s family gathering was a lovely and loving environment to try these prying adoption conversations out and reining in my own need to speak about it. And parenting.

Once Digger speaks and understands more I think and hope I will be better at these conversations. 

For his sake.


  1. Having conversations about parenting with anyone is challenging at the best of times in my experience. Everyone has different opinions. People don't tend to understand the subtleties of parenting adopted children and actually all adopted children are individual so there is no one size fits all approach for adopted children either. There is much from my childhood parenting I don't want to copy. I can feel it all bubbling up at times of pressure and stress. Some mainstream parenting techniques work fine for us and other don't. It's even more pressurised as an adoptive parent because all the theorists are telling us to be careful about encouraging feelings of shame. We can end up tripping ourselves up trying to get it right. Ultimately every individual parent needs to try and work out what works for their individual child.

    It sounds like you ran the gambit of all the adoption questions in one hit at the party. People don't always understand not to ask about birth relatives and it is hard not to appear rude. It's bad enough doing it one person at a time but at a party it must have fly very intense. Hope the next gathering is less stressful. Xx

    1. Thanks Gem. You sum it up very eloquently. Yes it was a particularly intents evening. Same thing happened later on that same week, but it was a very different experience. In short: More positive. And I agree with you - there is so much I do not want to copy from the parenting that made me. And yes, it pokes it less than pretty head up when I am under pressure, stressed and tired. In fact, I think the next few blogs will move into that territory. This blogging sphere is great for exchange and thinking aloud. Because everyone's experience is different. We all have to do it for ourselves. And it is BIG for all of us. xx

    2. It is and I fear we all feel under more pressure than most because we are often parenting children who are needing the best parenting available. It's the best job ever to have to encourage you to spend the whole day beating yourself up!