My grandfather could build anything. He built a neighborhood on the side of a mountain in North Carolina, he built Grandfather Clocks, large doll houses complete with electricity, and he built furniture to put in the doll houses and furniture for regular-sized humans too. The amount of knowledge that he kept contained in his skull about building, and designing could fill a library. He never took a woodworking class, or studied design or construction. He just did it. His resume was filled with personal experience instead of certificates, diplomas, or grades.
Because he was involved in such a physical occupation, when I was growing up, he was the strongest man in the world(sorry Dad.) My grandfather would flex the muscles in his abdomen and his whole torso would expand. His muscles were like concrete and in my eyes he was bullet-proof: superman with a tool belt.
As I got older and became consumed with growing up, I saw my grandfather less and less. As I aged and began taking on more responsibility with college and then a real job and a fiancé, little time was left for anything outside my world.
At my wedding, as I saw my grandfather for the first time in awhile, I realized my superman had met his kryptonite. This indestructible man was losing the fight against age. He was smaller, with more wrinkles, and looked frail.
A few months after the wedding, grandpa got sick and died soon after. Although, my grandfather wasn’t a big fan of me being a part of his family, I was never privy to that information growing up,so he was a hero to me. In the years that followed his death as I began my own family and settled in to a 100 year old home, I often wished my grandfather was around to teach me what he knew about construction, woodworking, and design. I missed out on this incredible walking resource because I was too consumed with my own life.
Surprisingly, I have become a better-than-average worker of wood, but nothing like grandpa. The tricks, shortcuts, and methods at which he worked can’t be learned from a book. It was the little things he knew, like the best way to get a screw to catch in wood is to roll it in a bar of soap so the thread fills with soap which allows the screw to easily grab the wood. I’m not sure he could tell you how he ever figured that out or why it worked, but it did. It is that kind of knowledge, when you are desperate for an answer; when the screw isn’t catching, that makes my grandfather this invaluable, priceless resource. A resource that I squandered and overlooked. The infinite solutions and answers he had to so many woodworking puzzles vanished as he took his last breathe.
I see a similar crime being committed in the adoption community. Right now, the time is ripe for us all to benefit from some amazing walking resources. But instead so many agencies, groups, parents, and professionals ignore them. They are too consumed by how things have always been to recognize a resource that sits waiting to be used.
The way things have always been is that conferences, meetings, training, and education have been assigned to those that have studied from books, researched in libraries, and learned from those that did the same before them.
The underutilized resource I am speaking of is the adult adoptee, and more specifically the transracial adult adoptee. I can’t tell you how many times I have turned on the TV after another celebrity has adopted transracially and the person who is being interviewed about what life will be like for this new TRA is a social worker, or therapist but the resource that knows so intimately the life that they want to know about goes ignored.
Conferences that are designed with the adoptee in mind often ignore the adoptee when picking their keynote speakers and presenters. Agencies that state in their literature how important the adoptee is never once considers the valuable library of knowledge contained in the mind of the adult adoptee. It escapes the grasps of some many that adoptees do grow up and become adults able to shed light in the unexplored corners of adoption. In the minds of so many professionals, adoptees are seen as Peter Pan and the lost boys; never growing up, never achieving maturity to contribute.
Those who do see us as having something of value, expect us to freely give it away. It is hard as an adoptee to break the chains created in the adoption process; binding us with the numerous strands of exploitation. The money that has exchanged hands over us and now around and under us is criminal. It is hard to follow the logic of a community that says they are doing things in the best interest of the child, but then exclude that child unless that child, who is now an adult, is willing to give away their stacks and stacks of knowledge for nothing in return. Rarely, is it realized the energy and sacrifice involved in opening old wounds so others can avoid them. If you value the adoptee it means rewarding them on the same scale as the researcher, the social worker, and the therapist. Valuing adoptees means more than printing it out on marketing materials, or in brochures. Actions must follow those typed out words or they are just words on shiny paper.
Let me state this first before I get labeled as a “social worker hater.” I like to explain it this way. If I want advice on how to become a millionaire, do I go to the adviser who has studied how to become a millionaire? Or do I go to the self-made millionaire and ask her how she did it? The answer is simple. There is value in both. They are both powerful resources that we can all learn from. They are both needed.
There are adoptees growing up who are missing out on a viable resource. Right now, there are adult adoptees who have a resume full of life experiences who are being ignored and their opportunity to contribute to the adoption community is being squandered.
It is as simple as supply-and-demand. The parents of adopted children see the need and are screaming for access to the adult adoptee yet the adult adoptee rarely gets the invitation to come to the party; the party that was created in honor of us. When parents are desperate for solutions and the answers sit in the minds of someone that has lived through their situation, the solution is elementary. The adult adoptee should be respected and finally asked to come eat at the table with the adults. We should be treated as a valuable resource and not ignored.
Every time, I pick up a piece of wood in my workshop, I wish I had taken advantage of the priceless wealth of knowledge that was my grandfather. Adoption in itself can bring a lot of regret. I pray that we stop creating ways to invent more regret.
***A reader shared this link with me and it is eerie how much my blog and a fellow adoptee’s blog are saying the same thing! Check it out, HARLOW’S MONKEY
FOR THOSE WHO MISSED IT…The webinar, TRANSCULTURAL X- The 10 essentials for a successful Transcultural Adoption, was a great success. The bad news: We missed you. The good news: You can still get a recording of the Powerpoint w/audio. You can hear AND see the presentation on your own computer just like you were there. Just click on the link on the right at the top. Once I get your registration, I will send you a link to view the webinar at your leisure.
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