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

Katinka

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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WORLD VOICE: Preparing for the Next Disaster with Save the Children

WORLD VOICE: Preparing for the Next Disaster with Save the Children

Just a few months ago, I had the opportunity to tour a New Jersey, USA preschool, whose playground had been covered in sludge from Super Storm Sandy.  That was the day Save the Children announced their Get Ready, Get Safe program, which advocates for emergency disaster planning for schools, preschools and day cares in the United States.

(But what about where you live?  Read on for some helpful tips that can be applied anywhere on the globe…)

Today marks one year since Super Storm Sandy hit the U.S., and within the past year, our planet has experienced other natural disasters that have made their devastating impact, too, including the floods in the Philippines.

“Sandy has been toughest on children: VIDEO: Save the Children: Hurricane Sandy 1 Year Later.”

What can you do to prepare your community?

Ask your children’s school or day care center if they have an emergency preparedness plan.  If not, suggest one!

What can you do to prepare your family?

Check out this graphic from Save the Children below to assist you in your family safety plan:

SavetheChildren

I’ve got to go now to make my “go kit.” I hope you will, too.

This is an original post to World Moms Blog by World Mom, Jennifer Burden of New Jersey, USA.  

Photo credit to Save the Children. 

Jennifer Burden

Jennifer Burden is the Founder and CEO of World Moms Network, an award winning website on global motherhood, culture, human rights and social good. World Moms Network writes from over 30 countries, has over 70 contributors and was listed by Forbes as one of the “Best 100 Websites for Women”, named a “must read” by The New York Times, and was recommended by The Times of India. She was also invited to Uganda to view UNICEF’s family health programs with Shot@Life and was previously named a “Global Influencer Fellow” and “Social Media Fellow” by the UN Foundation. Jennifer was invited to the White House twice, including as a nominated "Changemaker" for the State of the World Women Summit. She also participated in the One Campaign’s first AYA Summit on the topic of women and girl empowerment and organized and spoke on an international panel at the World Bank in Washington, DC on the importance of a universal education for all girls. Her writing has been featured by Baby Center, Huffington Post, ONE.org, the UN Foundation’s Shot@Life, and The Gates Foundation’s “Impatient Optimists.” She is currently a candidate in Columbia University's School of International and Public Affairs in the Executive Masters of Public Affairs program, where she hopes to further her study of global policies affecting women and girls. Jennifer can be found on Twitter @JenniferBurden.

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PHILIPPINES: Monsoons and Motherhood

PHILIPPINES: Monsoons and Motherhood

w460In the last five days, the Philippines has been under a slew of storms, heavy rains and flooding brought about by the tropical storm Trami. It has claimed lives, displaced thousands, and left much of the northern part of Luzon (the Philippines’ northern region) in drenched shambles.

A tragedy? Yes. But quite normal in our country, unfortunately. We go through this every year, every monsoon season. Imbalanced infrastructure, compounded with the problems of informal settlers, i.e. squatters and poorly managed drainage systems: these are all “part and parcel” of what our nation has gotten used to when the rainy season strikes around this time of year. Add that to the current corruption scandals involving pork barrel abuses in our country, and you have quite a mess, served “Pinoy” style (or, as we like to say, halo-halo, i.e. “mix-mixed”.)

Poverty. Politics. Calamity. These are words flooding my social media news feeds lately. Some are angry at the state of the nation — and rightly so.

But, despite the negatives, the “Filipino spirit” holds up. I’d say it does so every year, especially in times like these when unmerciful monsoon rains strike our nation’s morale down to all-time lows. Inasmuch as there are angry tweets shaking virtual fists and fingers at corruption in the government, there are hashtags of hope tweeting updates about relief efforts, blasting out encouragement in the face of calamity. (more…)

Martine de Luna (Philippines)

Martine is a work-at-home Mom and passionate blogger. A former expat kid, she has a soft spot for international efforts, like WMB. While she's not blogging, she's busy making words awesome for her clients, who avail of her marketing writing, website writing, and blog consulting services. Martine now resides in busy, sunny Manila, the Philippines, with her husband, Ton, and toddler son, Vito Sebastian. You can find her blogging at DaintyMom.com.

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