Letters from Lillian

Adolescent Service Plan
China Adoption With Love, Inc.
February 20, 2013

Dear families
We are very touched by your responses to the letter we sent on December 31, 2012 regarding attachment throughout adolescence. Some families visited our office and I visited families at their request. I met many families and their children at the Chinese New Year Party. All the meetings and support mean a great deal to me!

First of all, I want to thank all the parents for their unconditional understanding and acceptance of the parental role and hard work. Gloria wrote: "I have three birth children and three adoptive, my adoptive daughter has a severe language disorder along with other medical disorders. My oldest birth daughter has a severe birth defect discover only a few years ago which will make her completely deaf, my second birth daughter lives with cancer. One of my adoptive daughter has a substance abuse problem. They are all my children, you try to forgive yourself for not knowing what you have passed on. When they laugh, when you enjoy their accomplishment, your blessed to have them. To all that come to you adopted or not you deal, they are your children and because of that you love even when it doesn't feel like it. I feel sometimes I'm not the best mother, but I am a mother." Janet Mitchell wrote: "The journey the girls and I have had over the last fourteen years has not been perfect, sometimes it's really hard and yet the joy and love that abounds is worth every single moment! I feel the reason we are doing okay is that we ask for help, seek opinions, make a decision together and love each other." Robin wrote: "I see my daughter, who is now too at the eye rolling stage and "NO" back to me when I request a chore be completed and I do not think she is any different from any other child be it adopted or not. She is just growing and learning to express herself more and seeing how she can push the boundaries. Yes, there are many times I ask for advice from my younger sister with the three older children or my other friend with the single daughter. Yes there are times I want to pull my hair out but that's what I signed up for. To be a parent is to ride the waves of your family's life and all that is to come, good, bad, or indifferent."

Second of all, I want to thank our families for all their thoughts and ideas about what to do next. Many of our families work in the human service area and their opinions are very insightful. Audrey wrote: "-Regarding race, we in this community can take a lesson from how many people in the African American community raise their children. You have to tell your kids that they will be discriminated against by some who won't like them because they are not white. Others will be kinder but will say things like, 'You have such fat cheeks!' or 'Your nose is so flat.' When it happens in primary school, the parent must be the advocate and go talk with the principal or teacher. You must be the example in these years so that, in high school, your child can advocate for themselves. You cannot say 'it's ok, they don't understand' and let it slide under the table. -Dating in high school: In a white majority community, most male teenagers don't have the confidence to cross the racial divide and ask out a non-white....some do, not most. This needs to be explained to your kids when they are the one not asked to semi. College will begin to change things and adulthood will be even better because individuals have the maturity to cross the color barrier. -Try to find something your child is good at. Make it fun, encourage them. Art? Sports? Lego league? But know not to push if they really resist. -if you can afford it, go back to China. This works. It gives kids a perspective of their origin and let's them see that their community is not the world. In fact, travel, travel, travel even if it's only domestic travel." Jean wrote: "we adopted Eva in 1996 when she was 9 months. She is now a junior in high school. I have a couple of comments I want to share in light of your well written article:

  • I agree that Eva is more like her non-adopted friends than she is different
  • What looks to me as 'running the show' in Eva- is the same for all of us- " wanting to look good" - and "avoiding looking bad"
  • She got some very useful tools as a young child that has helped her think about herself in the world she inherited- for that I am most proud that I had the ability to give her those tools. The "tools" (for lack of a better word) I gave Eva - was a set of 'distinctions' that she learned in 2 weekend courses (the 1st course at age 8 and the 2nd at age 12) where she learned how to think about herself in ways that empower her and those around her. [Landmark Forum for Young People- Landmark Education.com]. The second 'tool' was to support her in creating her context or passion -which has turned out to be art. Art is where she goes for comfort and self soothing, for joy and solace. She is an accomplished and prolific artist."

Many families who live far away also responded to my letter on adolescence. They urged me to keep writing on all related subjects. Some families loved the idea of me taking their children to China to visit their orphanages. I brought all the ideas to our social work team and our board of directors. Our social workers do not think it is a good idea. Visiting orphanage and finding place is a very emotionally vulnerable moment and the attachment figure, meaning parents, should be there holding their children's hands. In terms of the possibility of holding workshops in our office on subjects such as racism, beauty, etc., the social workers and board members all said it should be a parenting matter because it is so sensitive and complicated.

I am not scared of sensitive and complicated matters. The problem is that I do not know enough about racism or beauty. The Chinese culture has no concept of race in its social ranking system and the Marxism strengthened the tendency by emphasizing class conflict. When I work in the Supreme Court of P. R. China, I had chance to meet justices from all over the world. They were all very confident, wise, and humble, in full elegant display of their education and responsibility. For justices from African countries, I still remember their beautiful outfits, silk like skin, and warm smiles. In this country I only have chance to meet people like our adoptive families, who are open-minded and appreciate the Chinese culture. Yes, when my daughter was a teen, she came home complaining about racism sometimes. I always thought she was playing victim so my response was always very rough. I always asked her if she got good grades and had good friends. If you knew you were not less, why felt upset? Or I would tell her that this person might had some problems with parents or teachers but did not know to handle it. We all had our moments and let out on people who did not deserve it. So, just forgive and forget. If you were upset, it was like punish yourself with other people's problems. Yes, I play race card intentionally with my daughter. For example, I would tell her that as Asian woman, we have to try ten times harder to reach same level of white man. Or, to get in to science as numbers do not discriminate. I almost felt sorry that I did not do a good job on my daughter on racism. But, she was so rebellious against my words that she might have learned it the right way!

Same on beauty. The Chinese culture is very negative on outside looking. All dynastic declines are attributed on beautiful women and all successful governmental officials in thousands of years married ugly (literally) women. The communist ideology pushed it to extreme before the open-door policy in 1979 that a short story titled "Red Skirt" was deemed as landmark of a new stage of the Chinese modern literature history. While China has changed a great since 1979 and beauty is a big business in China nowadays, the against-beauty culture still lingers. The female officials with average looking always have more respect from people and the pretty ones are challenged for their moral standards. Personally I never paid attention to this matter consciously until my daughter spilled some thoughts on looking. She was in tears sometimes and asked me why everything came so easy for her friends: sports, grades, boys, etc. I tried to test water by commenting that she was beautiful but she always told me "No, I am not!" Anytime I told her that inside beauty was more important, she would tell me I said so because I did not believe we were beautiful outside. To be honest, my husband and I were so happy that she was not as pretty. As human, we only get limited amount of energy. It is better to use the limited resources on grades than on boys. Of course I got blamed again after she got in college. She was not experienced and asked me sometimes why other people felt hurt when she did not do anything! In past weeks I ordered some books about beauty online (some costs only 1 cent! $4 a book including $3.99 for handling and shipping!!!) Frankly there are so many good theories and stories. The problem is it is too many and too complicated that I have to go back to my cynical self: so what if other people think we are not beautiful? These people do not count. Let us concentrate on the things we value and forget all this trash talk. We can move way ahead in learning while those people wasting their time picking on others. Of course I will continue to read and write on racism and beauty, not for our teenage but for myself. I will share with you if I feel my thoughts are relevant to parenting adopted Chinese children.

Now come to the subject of this letter: what we propose to do next? From the responses we have received, we realize that the needs for the families and for the children are very diversified. Given all the different needs, the agency proposes a "buffet" kind of service plan, where the adoptive parents and teenagers can choose the level of support they would like.

I have to share with your my struggle with this leadership training idea. While I love this idea, I am not so sure who could do this: somebody like you and me or somebody with some kind of clinical licenses. I wrote to good number of leadership training projects I came to know online and offered to pay for their service. Nobody got back to me. I bought some books on leadership training and realize that the authors have no licensing credentials. I took a class on psychology and learned that only clinical psychology needs some kind of licenses and positive psychology related practice, such as leadership training, has not applied the term Intervention to their practice. This is all good news. For now, I have invited some adoptive mothers, who are specialized in child development, to discuss the training curriculum. They are: Sheila O'Keefe, a child psychologist at Mass General, Cheng Imm Tan, a licensed counselor, and Rossann Tung, a Ph. D. and director in special education program. Through discussion with all of them, I truly believe all of you, our adoptive parents, are experts in leadership training. Let us work together to provide a safe place for our teenage children to develop and to have fun.

Sincerely,
Lillian

 

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