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Dec 3 2014

I Missed a Major Career Milestone, But At Least I Was With My Kids

By at 11:22 am

My Kids' Happiness Matters More Than My Success

Recently I was nominated for the state association’s School Psychologist of the Year award. When the awards’ committee chairperson encouraged the nominees to bring their family to the ceremony, I casually broached the topic at dinner.

My 13-year-old first said, “Nah, I’m good,” but after asking a couple of questions about the award, he said, “Yeah, I can make that happen.” My 16-year-old replied, “Meh. I want my me time.” He begrudgingly ended up changing his tune weeks later, claiming that he did want “to support” me (even if it was only after hearing that the rest of the family said “of course” they’d come).

It was a bit of a juggling act in finagling early pickups from school and getting out emails to the coach and teachers about missed practice and class assignments. It also was a challenge in ensuring their proper dress (“No, you cannot bring Doritos with you in the car just so your slacks can turn orange”). And, it wasn’t easy ignoring their incessant grumbles about having to endure a three-hour drive up to the hotel, in a packed car with all seven seats occupied; I made sure not to bring up the fact that there would be another three-hour drive back, late at night. Read the rest of this entry →

Nov 19 2014

How My Mother’s Lessons of the Holocaust Inspired Me to Adopt My Son

By at 2:12 pm

claude knobler adopted son from ethiopia

I was 7 years old the first time my mother told me that the fate of occupied Europe was in my hands. I remember it clearly. My mother sat me down and explained to me that if, when I grew up, I failed to marry a Jewish girl and raise Jewish children, it would mean that Hitler won. I, in turn, explained to my mother that Hitler had already lost the war, and also that girls were gross and that I had no intention of getting married to anyone ever.

I suppose some people might consider that sort of conversation odd, but my mother grew up in Belgium during World War II and had lost both her parents in the camps. My sister and I were told and told often that we had special responsibilities as the children of a survivor. To my mother that responsibility was clear. It was my job to have Jewish children. For many years, when I was growing up, my mother would quote the words of Martin Niemoller: “First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—because I was not a Socialist. Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—because I was not a Trade Unionist. Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—because I was not a Jew. Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.”

The words were meant to tell me that I must always help those who needed my help, but in truth, for my mother, they were always at heart an acknowledgement that it was the Jews who’d have to look out for the Jews, since no one else ever would. Read the rest of this entry →

Nov 13 2014

The Night We Became a Foster Family

By at 1:55 pm

The Night We Became A Foster Family

One Friday night in early August two strangers showed up at my door and dropped off a baby. It was almost anticlimactic.

My partner and I had gone through the foster care certification process months before, and had been patiently waiting for a call, but there was no morning sickness, no bloating, no endless doctors’ appointments, and no labor. There was just me, getting a call on my cell phone while I cooked Shabbat dinner. Would I like a 1-month-old baby girl? Yes? See you in a few hours.

Those few hours were a blur. I called my partner and told him we were having a baby, and could he stop on his way home and get diapers and wipes? (God bless Jesse Bacon for being the kind of person who was not only not horrified by this turn of events, but was in fact incredibly enthusiastic and happy.) Read the rest of this entry →

Nov 10 2014

My Adopted Son Wants to Be Christian–And I Need to Let Him

By at 9:54 am

Learning How to Raise My Christian Son

We were walking out to the car after Yom Kippur services when my son Matheus, 14 years old at the time, unexpectedly broke the silence and asked, with a tinge of exasperation in his voice, “Father, when can I go to church?”

It had only been a few months past our first anniversary since I’d adopted him and his younger brother from Brazil. Up until then, Matheus had mostly kept to himself any thoughts he might have had about his religious inclinations. His brother had decided that he wanted to become Jewish, abandoning his Christian roots barely nine months into our first year together—he could hardly wait to attend Hebrew school later that year. Read the rest of this entry →

Oct 21 2014

Four Years After Adoption, My Son is a Bar Mitzvah

By at 11:54 am

adopted son's bar mitzvah

My son’s bar mitzvah was three years in the making–ever since he told me his “good news”: that he “wanted to be Jewish.” This was only about nine months after I adopted him and his older brother from Brazil, as they were turning 9 and 12 years old. Though he had barely mastered the English language, my son Davi was anxious to start learning yet another language… and Hebrew, no less.

To change over from their previous beliefs in and practices of the Christian faith in favor of becoming Jewish was not an expectation I had for either of my sons. I wanted their religion to be their decision–more important to me was that my sons be spiritually connected, and live a just and moral life. Davi’s decision took me completely by surprise. There were no real clues about his thinking beforehand, yet once he started out, he never looked back. Read the rest of this entry →

Aug 12 2014

Welcome to the World, Dafna Penina!

By at 1:41 pm

dafna-3

We would like to take a minute to wish a hearty Mazel Tov to Kveller contributors Tamar Fox and Jesse Bacon on the arrival of a beautiful 1-month-old baby girl.

Tamar has written on Kveller about her and Jesse’s plans to become foster parents, and on Friday, August 1, they got the long-awaited phone call. The family is not sharing baby’s English name for privacy reasons, but her Hebrew name is Dafna Penina.  Little Dafna spent her first month in the NICU, but now she is happy and healthy (she even slept seven hours through her second night with her new parents).

Stay tuned to get the full story once things calm down a little.

Read the rest of this entry →

Jul 21 2014

I’m Sick of Explaining Why We Became Foster Parents

By at 12:19 pm

storks-telephone-wire

Just before Passover, my partner and I became certified foster parents in Pennsylvania. This means that we could get a call literally on any day, and have a new child in our family by the end of that day. We are incredibly excited (and more than a little scared), and because we have no idea when our family will be changing, we’ve been mentioning it in conversations so that our friends and community won’t be totally taken aback when one day we show up somewhere as a family of four, instead of three.

Across the board, people have been really supportive and excited for us, which is amazing. But one thing that has thrown me a bit is how often people ask me, “So, why did you decide to become foster parents?”

I understand that it’s a natural question. This isn’t the way most people build their families, and since it’s an opt-in situation, it makes sense that people want to know how we made the decision. But it still feels a little invasive to me every time. Because in our case the answer is a kind of muddy combination of always wanting to adopt, but not wanting to compete with people who can’t have a baby any other way, and not wanting to spend tens of thousands of dollars on the process. And once we started looking into fostering, and saw how much of a need there is for good foster families, it felt like something that we could and should do. Read the rest of this entry →

May 9 2014

Waiting in Limbo on The Last-Minute Adoption List

By at 10:05 am

cellphone-adoption

In college, Brian and I lived in a dorm which was known for one thing in particular: fire drills. Well, not exactly drills, more like people setting off the alarm in the middle of the night. For most of the first quarter, two or three times a week, approximately 600 of us would sleepily file onto the dark street in front of the building.

(Note to all college students: It is advised that you remove the pop tart from the foil before putting it in the microwave. Also, who microwaves a Pop Tart?)

After a few weeks of this, I created a routine before going to bed which consisted of setting out sweatpants, a jacket, shoes and keys so they would be easily accessible at 1 a.m. when the alarm was blaring. As I climbed into my little dorm bed, I would think, “I wonder if the fire alarm will go off tonight?” Read the rest of this entry →

Mar 17 2014

What Not To Say to Your Friend Who is Adopting

By at 7:00 pm

moses

I assume that I get this response more frequently because of my profession, but you would probably be shocked at how frequently I hear, “Just like Moses!” when I tell people that we are in the process of adopting. (Yes, Moses was adopted. Remember, mother places him in basket, daughter of the Pharaoh finds him, Moses’ mother nurses him and then he was raised in the palace as Pharaoh’s grandson before leaving to lead the Jewish people into Israel.)

We have all been there–when we don’t know what to say, we often say the wrong thing (and sometimes, the really wrong thing). And even though it is usually said with the right intentions, a verbal misstep can be not just awkward, but actually very painful. So here is some guidance on what not to say when you hear that someone is adopting: Read the rest of this entry →

Mar 11 2014

When Your Friend is Pregnant, Sometimes it Hurts

By at 2:13 pm

pregnant

“I’ve been reluctant to write this email and I keep putting it off.”

When you are not able to get pregnant and you get an email with that as the opening line, you know exactly what is coming.

“Even though I know you will be happy for us and excited, I know part of you will be sad. So I wanted to give you time to digest this on your own, rather than springing it on you in person. I know you are happy for us. I know that you are happy for so many people. But I also know it’s hard and don’t expect this kind of news to be easy.”

When my friend of 20 years told me she was pregnant, I felt a lot of things, including true happiness for her. But what I felt most was appreciation that she too was navigating her own balancing act. Read the rest of this entry →

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