Tuesday, November 27, 2018

5 Black Boy Dolls You Need To Know About

As a mom of a Black son, I know finding Black boy dolls can be SUCH a challenge.  We have been fortunate to find five that we absolutely love. 

First, all of these are durable.  We all know kids can be rough with their toys.  The wear-and-tear struggle is REAL.

Second, these options are reasonably priced.  Of course, this important for all of us on a holiday budget! 

Third, these dolls are adorable!  Nothing is worse than a creepy doll except a doll that claims to be "African American" but doesn't look at all like our kids!  These dolls have brown skin, dark hair, and brown eyes.  No misrepresentation here! 

Click on the image for details, pricing, and reviews. 

Happy shopping!

For more fantastic gift suggestions, follow me on Instagram and Facebook.

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

What to do When Your Adoptee Is Struggling With Adoption

It happened unexpectedly.  

One of my kids was focused on a worksheet in class when one of her peers seated next to her pointed to our family picture on the family poster on the wall nearby.  

"Is that your mom?" he asked.

She nodded yes.

He replied, "But she's white."  

My daughter didn't reply.

He continued, "That's weird."

The teacher had overheard the boy and immediately stepped in, telling him he was being rude and told him he owed my child an apology.  

(Read the end of this post to see what we did about this situation)

Sometimes our kids can be minding their own business, and adoption is thrown in their faces, uninvited.  

But that's how adoption goes often, right?  

The adoption conversations, thoughts, questions, and emotions can crop up anytime, anywhere.  They might be external or internal.  They can be positive, negative, or they may just be what they are.  

Sometimes they manifest into your child dramatically concluding they will run away and live with their birth parents.  Sometimes the manifestation is sadness, anger, frustration, or confusion.  Sometimes it's an adoptee fantasy of what their birth family's life is like, or they fill in the gaps of their own adoption story.  Sometimes these feelings and thoughts are fleeting, while other times, they sit and stay awhile.  

And the holidays, birthdays, school breaks, and traumaversaries can be triggering for adoptees.  You might see your child struggling more this time of year (Thanksgiving and Christmas).  

What about the hard seasons?  What is a parent to do?

1:  Review what you know. 

Pull out your copy of The Connected Child, meet up with your adoption support group, talk to your social worker, meet with that wise adoptive-mama friend, adoptee, or birth parent.  Look to the trusted people (your village) and resources you already have in place and are familiar with.   

When something challenging crops up, we often go into anxiety-mode.  When this happens, we are unable to think clearly and often forget what we already know.   This is why the very first thing you should do is pause and ask yourself, "What do I know to be true?  What do I know to be helpful?"  

If you're a person of faith, a great first-step is also to PAUSE and to PRAY.   I've had many help-me-Jesus moments with my kids when they've asked me HARD questions, and I started to internally panic.  When I said a quick prayer for wisdom, I was always granted something helpful.  

2:  Work to figure out what you do not know.

As your child gets older, new (and often surprising) struggles may crop up, leaving you wondering, "Why didn't I learn about this in our adoption training?" and "What do I do now?"   

Again, you are not helpless.  First, you have the foundation of what you already know.   Second, you have the ability to decide to seek additional resources and take action.   

You have to decide, do I channel my time and energy into worrying, or do I use my time and energy to work toward helping my child?  

3:  Find a counselor or other professional.  

Finding an adoption-competent counselor for your family can be one of the best moves you make.   This person serves as support, a sounding board, and a wise encourager.  He or she can point you to resources (books, conferences, other professionals, etc.) that can assist you in parenting your child.  

Some counselors will work with the entire family, while some specialize in just working with adults, teens, or children.  

Note:  I encourage families to do this even if their children are having no obvious issues related to adoption.  Why?  Because being proactive matters.  Don't wait until you're in crisis-mode to seek help.   

4:  Don't beat yourself up and take your child's struggles personally.

Adoptees struggling with adoption happens.

Re-read that for me, will you?

So, knowing this, your job, as your child's parent, isn't to get into an unhealthy cycle of self-blame or defensiveness.  

Your job IS to problem solve and work through feelings with your child.   

This isn't to say you aren't allowed to have your own feelings.  Many of us are "mama bears" and have BIG feelings when our kiddos are struggling.  This can be a powerful motivator to help our children, but it can also cause us to be really hard on ourselves.  If you find that your child's feelings are triggering feelings in you, figure out what you can do to help yourself.  Is it seeing a counselor?  Meeting with friends from the adoption triad?  Reading a book?  


I talked to my daughter about how she felt about what the child said to her.  Then I asked her how she would respond if something like that happened again.  She came up with 2-3 responses.   I told her she could be funny, serious, snarky, whatever!  It's HER adoption and HER personality, so it's HER choice how she responds.  Then we did a few practice conversations in which I played another kid talking to her about her adoption and her family.   I got these ideas from this workbook for adoptees.  

How have you helped your child work through an adoption struggle?

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

National Adoption Month: The 5 People You Need In Your Adoption Village

It's fair to say, we knew we needed a village long before we adopted.  The minute adopting a child popped into my head, I was planning.  (That's the type A, anxiety-ridden life.)  

I started talking to those I knew who were part of the adoption community.  And the more people I talked to, the more people came forward, revealing to me they were part of the adoption triad.  

Each encounter was epic.  Necessary.  Beautiful.  Stirring.  

Each encounter left an imprint on my heart, leading me to be the mom I am today.   

When I look back over the past twelve years, because that's how long we've been part of the adoption community, I can hardly believe how each encounter, whether planned or by chance, brought us to a new height in our journey.  I cannot imagine if even one of those moments was lost.  Where would we be?  

Though sometimes we meet people by chance, the people we brought into our adoption village were invited with the utmost intentionality on our part.  We knew who we needed and why.  

Purpose.  And then faith that the purpose would manifest into positive results for our family, especially the precious children we were chosen to parent.

Building your adoption village takes time.  In fact, it's a lifelong journey.  But you need to start, if you haven't already.  Because your child needs you to step it up and be the parent that he or she needs you to be, as my friend (an adoptee) Madeleine Melcher so often shares.

The village consists of REAL LIFE people you can meet with FACE TO FACE and be HAND IN HAND with.  Online groups are fantastic when encouraging and educational, for certain, but there is nothing like support from someone you can see and touch.  

1:  Adoptees.

I'm not proposing you walk around begging adoptees to be part of your village.  But when you encounter adoptees who are willing to share their experiences with you, offer you advice and encouragement, and respond to your family's needs, that's a good indication that that individual may be someone you invite in.  

Adoptees can offer their experiences, their thoughts on what you can do and what you should avoid doing (as an adoptive parent), and suggestions on ways you can best connect and guide your adoptee.  

In essence, they are people who have "been there, done that," and should be your go-to in many circumstances.  

2:  Experienced adoptive parents. 

Oftentimes, I know adoptive parents go to those who are also in their same stage, usually waiting-to-adopt or new to adoption.  Though it's great to have someone who gets your exact feelings at the exact same time you're having them, there is a lot to be said for experience.  

How do you find these individuals?  Join an adoption support group, ask your adoption professional to connect you with others, and put yourself "out there."  When someone says they know of another local adoptive family, ask to be connected with them.  Be bold.  Be optimistic.  Be open.  

Experienced parents can point you not only to their own experiences, but to other connections they've established over the years.  They can walk alongside you, guiding you.  

Plus, there's major perks to being friends with other families like yours.  Over half of my friends are parents-by-adoption, and my kids are growing up seeing that adoption is a way some people build there families.  When there are get-togethers, the diversity is beautiful.  Children from different countries, families of different races, and lots of different abilities:  with a commonality-adoption.

3:  Birth parents. 

You might have an open adoption (we have four!), but sometimes it's "too close for comfort."  Meaning, it's hard to gain a lot of insight from someone in such a meaningful position in your family.  That's why knowing other birth parents can help you better navigate your relationship with your child's birth parents:  they can offer you their experiences and advice.  

Again, ask your adoption professional to connect you.  Join and adoption support group.  The more people you connect with, the more future connections you will make.  

I'm friends with three birth mothers who are not part of our own family.  Their insight has been invaluable, helping me better understand this important side of the adoption triad and see situations in a different (and better) light.  

4:  Adoption professionals.

Long after you adopt, you should retain relationships with adoption professionals.  Not just your adoption social worker or lawyer, but also with adoption competent therapists, doctors experienced in working with adoptees and their families, and others.  

The actual adoption is a one-time event, but being a parent-by-adoption is forever, as is being an adoptee.  Therefore, having people in your village who get adoption (like REALLY get adoption) and subsequent challenges and joys, is critical.   

5:  Support for your kids.  

Depending on the type of adoption, having individuals who can support your children's needs is incredibly important.  For example, my oldest two children, both girls, have a hair braider and a mentor.  My son has a barber.  These individuals racially affirm our kids while also educating us, as the parents, about what is appropriate for Black children.  We can go to them for parenting advice. They don't judge us, and they readily tell us what we need to know. 

In essence,

You find the people your children need, and you invite them in.  Yes, this means being vulnerable.  Yes, it means being humble.  And yes, it's worth every ounce of energy!  

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

National Adoption Month, With Adoptee Michelle Madrid-Branch

She's BACK!  Adoptee, mom by birth and adoption, author, speaker, podcast hostess,and truth-teller Michelle Madrid-Branch is here!  

Ya'll remember Michelle, rightShe's my go-to for adoption authenticity.  She's honest, she's encouraging, and she's empathetic.   So in honor of National Adoption Month, I invited Michelle to write to you.  She chose the topic:  "Adoption means many things:  normal is not one of them."  Riveting, right?  

Here's what Michelle wants you to know about adoption:

“Mama, my friends laughed at me today during recess. We were playing house. Someone said that I had to be the adopted one in the family, and that I wouldnt be loved as much as the other kids who werent adopted.”

True words.

Elementary school.

Playground fun turned unpleasant.

I still cringe when I let myself go back in time to that afternoon. I clearly remember standing under the monkey bars with my head hung low. I felt just about as isolated and alone as a kid could feel.

Arriving home after school, I walked down the hallway and made a beeline for my mothers room. I climbed onto her bed and crawled into the fetal position.

I began to wail.

My body trembled.

My temples throbbed.

“Mama, is adoption bad? It feels really bad. Why did my first mommy stop loving me? What did I do?”

My mother went on to explain that I had grown inside of my birth mothers tummy and that she was not able to keep me with her once I was born. That she loved me so much that shed made a plan so that another family could raise me. 

My mother ended the conversation with these words: 

Adoption means love. Thats all you really need to know.

But, it wasnt.

It wasnt all that I needed to know.

My sweet mama, wholeheartedly, meant the words that she shared with me in her bedroom that day. As an adult adoptee, and mom-by-adoption, I understand and can conceptualize that adoption does, indeed, mean love. There is so much love found within this process of delivery called adoption.

Yet, what I didnt know as a girl in elementary school is this: there was so much more that I needed to discover, decode, and define for myself about being adopted. There was a language that needed to be learned and spoken. And, this language could not be adequately expressed with just one word: love.

No, the language of adoption needs to be fluently felt and vastly expanded upon. This language needs to be safely explored, sometimes angrily articulated, and openly shared without judgment. The language of adoption cannot be made antiseptic, or kept in a clean and tidy box. It needs to be messy.



You see, as a child, as much as I knew my mother meant these words—adoption means love—I also knew, for all of my growing up years, that it was far too risky to share with her my true feelings: I didnt want to be adopted.

I didnt!

I didnt want the title of adoptee.

I wanted to be normal.

I wanted to be like the other kids whose first mommies kept them.

As much as my mother painted a picture of adoption as normal—I felt deep within myself that it wasnt. Adoption wasnt normal.

Adoption isnt normal.

Its not normal for the ties that bind a mother and child to be severed. Its not normal to wonder who you are, where your brown eyes came from, and why you savor the sounds of gypsy music. 

Its not normal to wonder if the woman who gave you life ever thinks of you. Its not normal to question whether your birth father loves you. Its not normal to wonder if you have siblings out there, somewhere.

Its not normal to feel judged and discriminated against because you dont look like your adoptive family members. Its not normal to be rejected by the parents who gave you life—no matter their reasons. Its not normal when trust is an excruciatingly difficult concept to embrace, because trusting has proven to be a fragile exercise. Its not normal to miss a crucial part of yourself and still not know who that person is.

Adoption is many things.

It is committing to love a child beyond the borders of bloodline. Adoption is how we are called to love one another: unconditionally. Adoption is filled with sacrifice—on all sides.  Adoption is family.

Adoption is beautiful. Adoption is hard. Adoption is a life-long journey. Adoption is complicated. Adoption is interconnected.

Adoption is unpredictable: its filled with unexpected twists and turns, entries and exits.  Adoption is life and the decisions we make. Adoption is emotional. Adoption is mysterious and—all too often—consumed by unanswered questions. Adoption is traumatic. Adoption is triumphant. Adoption is loss. Adoption is gain.

What adoption is not, is normal. Adoption is not normal. As a community, we should come to grips with this truth. What we can no longer do is avoid this fact and thus continue to force adoptees into silence, afraid to share the complexities of how they really feel. 

Let adoptees find their own language. Let them express that language fully, fluently, and freely. We dont need to force-feed adoptees some synthetic version of reality in order to sugarcoat the adoption experience—even if our version is well intended.

We don’t need to numb down the emotions surrounding adoption—that has never been a fair approach. Adoptees have been through a profound loss. Theyve survived an abnormal occurrence. Let them express what that means to them.



This is how adoptees can move beyond trauma and on to triumph: by speaking their pain, by expressing their questions, and letting out what has been bottled up inside.

We, as their families, should understand that an adoptees longing for knowledge and for unvarnished truth is a natural and healthy yearning. We can no longer pretend that adoption is normal and ask of our children to play this game along with us. We should stop pretending.

We should acknowledge that adoption is not normal. And, as we do so, we free our children to express what they really feel. We give them space to share how being adopted is being experienced in their day-to-day lives. We need to encourage adoptees to share what is real. We need to hear them. We need to listen to them without judgment. We need to stand by them in this way. Let this be the new norm for adoption.




Love what you read?  Learn more from Michelle from her site, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and book.