BELGIUM: Kungfu Adoption

BELGIUM: Kungfu Adoption

Despicable Me. Mr Peabody and Sherman. Meet the Robinsons. Annie. Tangled. Mowgli. Kungfu Panda.

Adoption – or the search for roots and heritage – seems a very recurrent and strong theme in children’s movies and tales. I guess it has to do with the struggle each child goes through, when exploring her identity and finding her place in an increasingly bigger world while she grows up. Who hasn’t fantasized, once, about being adopted and actually being royalty, or an adventurer’s kid? We wanted to have a strong heritage, because it would radiate on us. We would be strong and shiny and extraordinary too. Or we just wished for those other parents who would never ever make us go to bed at  eight pm or force us to eat broccoli soup.

As an adoptive parent, I try to carefully probe for my daughter’s feelings about the adoption-themed movies she loves to watch. We are very open about her adoption, but it’s not like we organize family discussions around the theme. We just make sure she knows she can talk to us about anything, including her feelings about being adopted.

The movies help her to grasp the complex feelings she has about her adoption-status. She loves us, but she misses her birth mother. She feels loved, but also rejected. She belongs in Belgium and in Ethiopia. She’s torn between two loyalties. It’s all way too complex for a seven-year old to deal with. Being adopted is not the gift many people seem to think it is to her.

She watched Tangled (or Rapunzel for some of us) right about the same time she was struggling with being our daughter. She was absolutely thrilled when she found out the ‘mother’ of Rapunzel was actually a witch who had stolen the princess as a baby. Oh yes. I became that witch to her in no time. We must have stolen her, she tended to say. Because no parent who loved her child would ever give it up for adoption. It was her way of dealing with rejection. And it give her leave to rebel against every single ‘no’ we gave her. We were not her parents anyway.

The Tangled-phase passed. Today, she relates to Po, and not just because she likes his Kungfu that much.

This Panda is as clearly adopted as she is. His is both black and white, like she is. And, most importantly, he met with his birth family. Just like she wants to.

So she watches Po’s adventures over and over again. She has this special giggle she keeps just for him. And she talks to me about her wishes and sorrows afterwards, without being probed. Infinitely more agreeable than the Tangled-period, for sure.

I’m already looking forward to the next movie-releases.

Do movies or cartoons help your children to reflect about their emotions? Can your children relate to struggling movie characters?

This is an original post by K10K of Belgium. Photo credit: This picture has a creative commons attribution license.


If you ask her about her daytime job, Katinka will tell you all about the challenge of studying the fate of radioactive substances in the deep subsurface. Her most demanding and rewarding job however is raising four kids together with five other parents, each with their own quirks, wishes and (dis)abilities. As parenting and especially co-parenting involves a lot of letting go, she finds herself singing the theme song to Frozen over and over again, even when the kids are not even there...

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BELGIUM : Parenting – Keeping Them Close

BELGIUM : Parenting – Keeping Them Close

Close_K10KTimes are confusing for a parent. Library shelves are filled with parenting guides. Tips and tricks for the perfect reward system are stacked next to the rant on why keeping rewards from a kid is essentially the same as punishing him or her. Online you can find the benefits of co-sleeping a click away from co-sleeping horror stories. Natural parenting blogs are hijacked by those who think kids these days just need more discipline.

I’ve read a lot of those books, blogs and papers. Some in despair, some out of curiosity and some even at the request of my son’s psychologist or as optional literature while preparing for the adoption of our daughter.

Did I get any wiser? Yes I did. But not necessarily in the ways the books and blogs were meant. At first I just concluded that the parenting style you adapt should be customized, to you and to your child. I took some advice from one book and integrated it in a style I found on a blog. It worked, for a while.

But still the situation left me puzzled. Why do we need all this in the first place? Why do I know so many children who regularly see therapists? Why do parents feel like they lack the parenting skills that should come naturally to them?

I for one don’t think that we as parents have all suddenly been deprived of the parenting skills our grandparents had. And I refuse to believe that more children are born with or develop disorders these days.

So if it’s not the parents and not the children, what causes us parents to feel like we are failing and need help?

I hope you don’t expect me to have the answer. I’m only another struggling mother. My six-year-old throws toddler tantrums when I talk to other grown-ups and thinks just about everything is either boooooring or unfair. My eight-year-old gets frustrated and even aggressive over one math mistake while all other 49 exercises are correct. These are the small issues we have on a daily basis. I won’t go into the big ones.

The only answer I have found for myself is that the way my children react to me depends highly on the state of our relationship at that point. Because we’ve been taught in our adoption course about the need for attachment between parent and adopted child, we tend to invest a lot of time in one-on-one time with our daughter. To keep the balance, we do the same with our biological son. To me, this is the only approach which has worked for both of my very different kids, and which keeps on working whenever we invest time in it. Yesterday I had some lovely one-on-one time with my daughter at the lake and today, nothing is boring to her. She doesn’t disobey, she’s helpful and polite. My son, on the other hand, will go to an amusement park with friends today. I know for a fact that he will be unbearable tonight, unless I keep him very close from the moment he’s back.

So is that it? Is keeping your children close the answer? Is it not the parents nor the children that have changed over the last decades, but their relationship?

Honestly, I don’t know. It might. The changing relationship between parents and children nowadays might be what’s causing the boom of parenting books. Children do seem to orient themselves more to their peers, or to pop stars for that matter, instead of to their parents. As a consequence, said parents seem to lose part of the authority that used to be natural to them. And without authority or influence, you’re nowhere as a parent, are you?

It might seem suffocating or overprotective, but for myself, I will continue to try and keep my children close. We will wear crazy matching outfits from time to time, we will cook and cry together, we will cuddle and pillow fight. I will keep investing in that state of our relationship. Because the moments I open myself up to be close to them, either physically or mentally, I don’t need therapists or parenting guides. I don’t even need parenting skills.

With my children close, I can just be a parent.

How do you feel about the booming business of parenting guides? Do you believe keeping your children close is key?

This is an original post to World Moms Blog by K10K @ The Penguin and The Panther.

The picture in this post is credited to the author.


If you ask her about her daytime job, Katinka will tell you all about the challenge of studying the fate of radioactive substances in the deep subsurface. Her most demanding and rewarding job however is raising four kids together with five other parents, each with their own quirks, wishes and (dis)abilities. As parenting and especially co-parenting involves a lot of letting go, she finds herself singing the theme song to Frozen over and over again, even when the kids are not even there...

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BELGIUM: The Adopted Little Sailor

BELGIUM: The Adopted Little Sailor

3777834366_869456969b_zIn preparation for our adoption, we had to take an intensive course, dealing with the many dynamics involved. A while later, our gained knowledge, but also our personal history, relationship, parenting skills and social network were scrutinized by a social worker and a psychologist.

During those months and months of preparation, there are two statements that came up several times and which I will always remember:

1)      Having children is NOT a universal human right. Having a parent – or a dedicated caregiver – IS.

In other words: We were not entitled to a child. It’s the child’s benefit that comes first at all times. A hard lesson to learn for some, and next to impossible to swallow when the judge doesn’t give you the much hoped for green light. But true nonetheless.

2)      We were NOT judged for our parenting skills. We were judged for our ADOPTIVE-parenting skills.

Especially to couples that were already parents, the course and social exams could be seen as an affront. And yes, it could be quite provoking and private at times. But in our case is was also very respectful at all times, and educating as well. And it was necessary.

Why? Because adopted children come with a backpack filled with their history. Because, as an adoptive parent, you might need to help carry that backpack.

A central topic to both the course and the exam was: attachment, and with that, basic trust. It was explained to us beautifully by ‘The parable of the little sailor’, in which a child is at first safely on a boat. All of a sudden, she finds herself in a storm. The boat sinks and she struggles to survive. When next she is picked up by a new boat, full of small children like her, and a new captain, it takes a while before she believes that the captain will keep them safe. And she proved right to be hesitant, because a new storm comes up and eventually, that boat also sinks. The child is alone again. From that point on, the child decides to not trust any captains any more. So when a new boat arrives, she goes in hesitantly, because she has no other choice. But she will keep her guards up for a long time now. She will test the captain’s sailing skills over and over again, and whenever a storm comes, she will be ready to take over control.

Some adopted children will have experienced more boats, more caregivers, than others. Some will have had worse storms than others. In quite some cases, gaining the trust of that little sailor will be a tremendous task for the final captains of its journey, the adoptive parents.

Attachment disorder can be an overwhelming Damocles’ sword that hangs above an adoptive family.

We were told the best way to avoid attachment disorder, was to make sure we were going to be the only captains during our precious sailor’s first months on our boat. A minimum of six months of semi-isolation, they recommended. Ideally not letting anyone else take care of her, not even hand her gifts. After that, the time she would need to safely attach to us and rely on us to steer the boat, was estimated as her age upon adoption, multiplied by two.

Our daughter was 2.5 years old when she came to live with us, and she’s been with us for three years now. That means we still have at least 2 years to go for her to let go of her anxieties and mistrust.

At least 2 years. Probably longer, if we look at where she is today on her journey towards trust and attachment. I personally believe attachment, at least for our daughter, will be a constantly evolving process for many years to come.

We’ve also had our share of storms. For one, we broke her trust those first, crucial months. You see, in Belgium, maternity leave is fairly short, only 15 weeks. When adopting, it’s even less. We were ‘lucky’ to adopt when our girl hadn’t reached the age of 3 yet, so I got to stay at home with her for 6 weeks. When your child is older, you only get 4 weeks. Or zero weeks, when the child has reached the age of 8, or when you’re a foster parent… So, a maximum of 6 weeks to complete this huge task of gaining trust. It’s extremely frustrating to have been pressed repeatedly on the importance of a strong basis for attachment and then being forced to send that little sailor off to another captain, one in the boat of day care or kindergarten, after a mere 6 weeks or less.

There have been quite some voices and petitions these lasts months, to once and for all equalize maternity leave rules for all sorts of parenthood, including adoption and foster care.  The old statement of ‘You don’t need physical recovery from adoption like you do from giving birth, so you don’t need the same amount of time’ has lost its validity the moment regular maternity leave was extended with an additional (unpaid) month, for the sake of ‘bonding of mother and child’.

No need to say the adoptive community was outraged, or at least strongly disappointed at that time. We still are. The adversaries of our request don’t seem to understand that we don’t ask longer maternity leave for ourselves, although I must admit that some time for emotional recovery would have been very welcome in those first, stormy months.

But essentially, we request it for the benefit of the little sailors to come. They deserve more time to explore, defy and scrutinize their new captains.

How long is maternity leave in your country? Is the same for all kinds of parenthood? And how long do you believe it should be?

This is an original post to World Moms Blog by K10K from The Penguin and The Panther.

Photo by Alejandro Groenewold under Creative Common license


If you ask her about her daytime job, Katinka will tell you all about the challenge of studying the fate of radioactive substances in the deep subsurface. Her most demanding and rewarding job however is raising four kids together with five other parents, each with their own quirks, wishes and (dis)abilities. As parenting and especially co-parenting involves a lot of letting go, she finds herself singing the theme song to Frozen over and over again, even when the kids are not even there...

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SOUTH KOREA: Shame and Single Motherhood in South Korea

SOUTH KOREA: Shame and Single Motherhood in South Korea

The month of May in Korea is “family month” and includes Children’s Day and Parents’ Day (as well as Teachers’ Day and Buddha’s birthday). It’s a celebratory time here, especially as it coincides with the mild temperatures and blossoms of spring. These last two years the month of May has also included a much quieter celebration – Single Mothers Day.

To be a single mother in Korea is no small thing. Women who find themselves pregnant out of wedlock are often pressured by their friends and family to have an abortion or to give up their child for adoption. 90% of children who are adopted from Korea are born to single mothers and, unlike in the West, the majority of unwed pregnant mothers in Korea are over the age of 25. The women who choose to keep their children and raise them as single parents are very few and the discrimination they face is astonishing to someone like me who is not from here.

The shame associated with unwed motherhood is not just the burden of the woman to bear. Her parents, her siblings, and her child are all subjected to it as well. It is often kept a secret for as long as possible since the repercussions of people knowing can be dire, including loss of job, home, and social status. Many of these women can no longer live with their families, as is the custom, the disgrace and shame is so great.

This is so interesting to me, coming from a country whose president was raised by a single mother. Single parenthood is by no means considered ideal in the West, but no person, politician or otherwise, would dream of speaking ill of mothers who are working hard to raise a family on their own without fear of immense (and well-deserved) backlash, the prevailing sentiment being: Don’t they have it hard enough? (more…)

Ms. V. (South Korea)

Ms. V returned from a 3-year stint in Seoul, South Korea and is now living in the US in the beautiful Pacific Northwest with her partner, their two kids, three ferocious felines, and a dog named Avon Barksdale. She grew up all over the US, mostly along the east coast, but lived in New York City longer than anywhere else, so considers NYC “home.” Her love of travel has taken her all over the world and to all but four of the 50 states. Ms. V is contemplative and sacred activist, exploring the intersection of yoga, new monasticism, feminism and social change. She is the co-director and co-founder of Samdhana-Karana Yoga: A Healing Arts Center, a non-profit yoga studio and the spiritual director for Hab Community. While not marveling at her beautiful children, she enjoys reading, cooking, and has dreams of one day sleeping again.

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SOCIAL GOOD: The Life of a Special Needs Orphan

SOCIAL GOOD: The Life of a Special Needs Orphan

Lauren with her son adopted from Hong Kong on the day the adoption was finalized in court.

There is no denying the stress and challenges that often accompany living life with a disability or chronic illness.  As a mom to a child with significant special needs, I am keenly aware of those daily challenges. With the support of family, however, many children born with special needs go on to live healthy, meaningful lives. But for children around the globe who live in orphanages and lack access to a family unit and good medical care, being born with special needs most often means a life-long sentence of institutionalization and neglect.  My son was almost one such statistic.

In 2011, my family and I traveled to Hong Kong, China to adopt a four-year old child with autism and significant cognitive delay.  After living in two different orphanages, international adoption was his last option before being sent to a mental institution to live out the remainder of his life.

UNICEF estimates that there are approximately 143 million orphaned children around the globe.  There are no hard statistics on how many of those are special needs children. (more…)

Lauren @Hike.Blog.Love. (USA)

Lauren is a lover of nature, an avid hiker and mama to two boys adopted from across the globe—one who happens to have autism. She is passionate about special needs adoption and the great outdoors. You can find Lauren blogging about all of her adventures at "", Hike Blog Love. where she hopes to inspire others to get outdoors and explore. She fiercely believes that adventure is for all.

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