This year I lucked out again and have had the awesome pleasure of interviewing Judy Miller, blogger at Parenting Your Adopted Child: Tweens, Teens and Beyond.
She is the author of the book What to Expect from Your Adopted Tween. Yes, I was totally psyched to get paired up with an ADOPTION EXPERT!!! Wooo hoo!! Here we go...
So Judy-- tell me about your family...
I have four kiddos with my husband—two sons, one “homegrown” (biological) and one adopted from Guatemala, and two daughters adopted from China. Their favorite thing to do is to be with each other. Really, and especially since the big bro is now away at college. We often refer to them as “The Crew” or “The Unit” since they are so supportive of and enjoy each other so much. Individually they are involved in community and athletics—soccer, swimming, and tennis. Our house rule is everyone has one sport they participate in and benefit from.
Why did you and your husband choose adoption initially? Why international versus domestic?
We decided that we’d grow our family through adoption prior to being married and, indeed, that is the way our family transpired. We were drawn to international adoption by something bigger than us. We often say we were “listening.” Anyone interested can listen to my story here. (INSERT: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LsfVndN3srE&list=PL811649A236BEEF00&index=14&feature=plpp_video)
I have a friend that adopted her first son from Guatemala and second son from Korea. She was telling me how different the experiences were. Can you talk about adopting from different countries? Similarities? Biggest differences? The processes to adopt were 180° different. Among the biggest differences was the degree of openness and how we traveled. We received our son’s referral almost upon his birth and, in fact, named him. We were given regular updates, were able to send care packages to him, and traveled multiple times to Guatemala to be with him. We also received family information. With our daughters (China) we had no knowledge of them until we received their referrals, and then it was pretty spotty. We traveled within six weeks of receiving our referrals, with a group of other adopting parents from all over the U.S. We traveled to Guatemala by ourselves, spending wonderful time with our attorney and the director of the agency. The similarities were the length of time between dossier date and their adoptions and how quickly our babies bonded to my husband and I (me initially), and their siblings.
Did you meet any biological family members of your children? Not that we’re aware of. Would have loved to! We did have the opportunity to spend time with the foster mothers and ask many, many questions.
Have any of your children wanted to go back to the birth country or meet their birth families? If yes, what have you done or how have you responded? On a scale of 1-10, 10 being urgently wanting to visit, my girls are at about a 5. That’s way up from a 0 a few years ago. The girls are learning Mandarin, so this may change as they become more fluent. My son is at a 9+. We plan to travel to both countries soon, Guatemala first, and as a family. We are making plans to do some community service while in Guatemala, assisting physicians with pre- and post- medical procedures (all of the kids are fluent in Spanish).
You are an amazing Adoptive Parent Educator and Support Specialist. What did you do for a living before you became an adoptive parent educator? I assume you followed this career path after you adopted your children but perhaps I'm wrong. Do tell.... Well, thank you. My career path has been a little unusual.
I was at home with my kids for years before becoming an adoptive parent educator and support specialist. I wanted to soak up the fleeting moments. As we all know, being a mama is a full-time plus job.
When the kids became older I began writing to process some of what I experienced as a mother of a multiracial family created through birth and adoption and raising a child with sensory processing disorder (SPD). Many of my pieces have been published in numerous parenting magazines and anthologies. My writing gave me the confidence to create a website, class and, quickly, more. Education expanded into workshops, speaking and support.
I continue to write for publication speak and now teach about parenting, adoption, culture, and parenting tweens and teens. I published my internationally selling guide for parents and support groups, What To Expect From Your Adopted Tween in August 2011, and am currently revamping my popular email class—Tweens, Teens & Beyond—for 2013.
I’m an anthropologist, so I enjoy applying some of what I studied (cultural and physical) when I work with clients, facilitate workshops or speak. Becoming a parent educator and support specialist grew out of my desire to equip parents with the tools to parent their children.
What is the biggest difference parenting an adopted child verses a biological child? There are more layers: adoption and race. I’m way-over-simplifying this… I fully believe that much more is required of people parenting children who have been adopted. This belief drives me to educate and advocate. It all gets down to the child and their needs.
What is the most challenging thing about transracial adoption for you and your family? For those who don’t know us, it’s the fact that our differences challenge them to accept us as a family. We sometimes grow weary of the rubberneckers, comments and questions. However, we’ve all become quite adept handing them with grace and humor.
If someone were going to read just one Judy Miller post, which one would you want it to be? Just one? Jeez… I’ll choose a recent one that’s had a lot of people thinking: Non-Adoptee Privilege
What is your favorite children's adoption book? It’s an “oldie,” The Ugly Duckling
What is your favorite parenting book? Siblings without Rivalry
What is your favorite dessert? German Chocolate Cake, with lots of coconut and nuts in the frosting.
What is your family's favorite thing to do together? This is a toss-up between playing games (especially board games) or all six of us snuggling up with freshly popped corn to watch a flick.