Monday, April 13

Is that your final answer?

I think it's time for a new game show.

It won't cost much, the sets are already done. I'm sure they'd loan 'em out.

I'm not sure about syndication or international versions. I'd have to do a little more research on that. I'm not sure that they're quite as stupid (there, I said it) about this stuff in other countries. But then again, given what I read today, there should be at least one foreign version.

Now, it isn't really anything new. I don't know why I only found it today. But having watched Extreme Makeover: Home Edition last night (and cried my eyes out, mind you), it seems particularly to the point. This is the Kadzis family featured last night, complete with the dad, who advocated most directly for them to be granted a house. He was hospitalized with a terminal brain tumor one day before the ABC team arrived and passed away three days after the house was completed. He never saw it. This is a family comprised of two parents, one biological child, and six special needs children (one is blind, one is deaf, two had cleft palates) adopted at atypically older ages from China. The show also highlighted other families who had adopted children from China, who had been inspired by the Kadzis family. Who wouldn't be?

Then today, I read an article that highlighted the following policy:

The Chinese government imposed new regulations in 2007 to limit the number of international applications, putting more restrictions on prospective parents from outside China. The rules basically say you need not apply if you are single, overweight, deformed, taking anti-depressants or a net worth of less than $80,000. China has said the rules are in the best interest of the child.

I knew about the single part. It was regarded by many as a way to address the "problem" of gay and lesbian singles or couples (they had been banned previously) adopting as a single parent (sneaky queers). But in all this time, I didn't know about all of the other restrictions. Overweight?

(By the way, one of the children on ABC came to the family as a young teenager. She was deaf from birth, and had no language of any sort, including sign language. She is now communicating fluently in sign and, to the extent that she is able to speak, in English. I guess that wouldn't be a good thing if her parents were fat.)

Now, I fully acknowledge that China is a sovereign nation, and its government and people have every right to object to large numbers of Americans adopting Chinese children, taking them far from the land of their birth. They can--and should--do what they like and what they feel brings honor and respect to their children and culture. It's their call. There's no arguing with that. But there is a piece missing here. And it's not just about China.

It's about a friend of mine from chorus who is single handedly, painstakingly, deleading her entire house in order to make her eligible for adoption. No, it's not that I don't get the importance of lead abatement. I do. It just seems curious to me that the presence of a penis in a household could potentially influence the need for extensive remodeling. But it's not just about lead.

It's about the extensive parent training and education program that two couples that I know are undergoing in order to quality as foster parents in Massachusetts. Don't get me wrong. It's been a good thing, it's an important thing. There is no one more in favor of parent education and quality control of foster care than I am. It's not just about foster care.

It's about me, as a recently separated, overweight, lesbian, almost 51-year old, mom of a 9 year old who desperately would have loved to have siblings. It's about me, as someone who aged out of fertility as a result of a whole range of circumstances, who tried with passion unrivaled to bring her a biological sibling, and who spent years recovering from the effort. It's about having multiple graduate degrees and 30+ years of professional expertise in child development. It's about hoops. And it's not about me.

It's about the largely undiscussed discrepancy between two segments of the population: The ones who can get pregnant easily, "naturally" (I hate that word), perhaps carelessly, and those for whom that is either highly complicated or impossible, for any one of a myriad of reasons. In one situation, parents are people whose sperm and egg have produced a child, and in the other, parents are people who are "perfect" in multiple dimensions, or nearly so. That's quite a contrast, in my book.

It is about the primacy of biology, while insisting that we admire and value those who choose adoption. It's about the face we put on, and how it stands in contrast to the face that appears between the lines.
It's about preserving heterosexual privilege. It's about misogyny.

It's about control. It's about "freedom".

(Yeah, I'm aware that you're learning a whole lot more about me than you knew before)

It's about something I wrote about on this very blog. It's about the deep and abiding commitment that we have, in the U.S., to reactivity, to "closing the barn door after the horse is out". We say that we are a country that loves and values children, but we only put our money where our mouth is when they are already in trouble, already at risk. We say we are a country that believes heartily in the value of "family", but want to preserve the right to define that word as narrowly as possible, when it suits our purposes. If you think it's just me, read this NY Times piece by Roger Rosenblatt(I still have a hard copy of this article saved from 14 years ago).

You might think I'm arguing for a relaxation of the requirements for adoption (foreign and/or domestic) and foster care. I'm not. I'm arguing for parity. I'm arguing for authenticity in our societal investment and concern about children and their "best interest". You might think I'm arguing for a more socialist system. You might be right. You might not. All I know is that the current state of affairs points to an absurd level of discrepancy that does not reflect a concern for children's best interests, but rather a placing of adult rights over children's combined with a fear of liability.

There is no earthly reason why a 2 year old, living in poverty with a mother doesn't have the same right to a safe home and quality of parenting as a child in foster care. And sure, services are out there. But, if you can push a baby out from between your legs, it's all discretionary. If not, it's mandatory. I don't get it.

It's difficult to talk about this without the disturbing feeling like we are talking about children as a commodity, which I suppose we are, despite our fervent attempts to deny that that is the case. It's self-preservation, I get that. What caring person could see themselves in that light?

In the end, it's about children, and the revolutionary idea that they have rights. Rights that adults cannot--or should not--have the right to amend. As Kahlil Gibran says, "Your children are not your children". We do not own them.

Which brings me back to the game show thing. "Who Wants To Be A Parent?". Let's do it.

Open auditions. No distinctions. Gay, straight, disabled, tall, short, fat, thin, old, young, rich, poor. Answer a few questions. Use your "call a friend" as a character reference. A, B, C, D....the right answer will always be the one that is in the "child's best interest". Let's see how we do.

And no, I am NOT advocating mandatory birth control , legislating "good parenting", or separation of children from their families. I am talking about easy, available, effective birth control, I am talking about more thorough parenting education in schools, in hospitals, in clinics, I am talking about universal home visiting and early education, I am talking about enhancing resources that will help families to stay together and thrive in the richest country in the world.

Let's get it out there in the open. Is it about children's best interests, or is it about us?

We have evolved (devolved?) into a country where people are more likely to believe and follow what they learn on television than what their doctor tells them. If it takes a game show, so be it.

Addendum:  A kind reader left a comment in which she reminded me of a very powerful piece of writing:  "Compulsory Heterosexuality" by Adrienne Rich.  You can read it here.


Jill said...

So well said, Robin. I've been pregnant as a 'straight' woman (before I saw the 'lavender light'; bet you didn't know there was one), have experienced the heterosexual privileges that arrive with the birth of children to straight parents, and have quietly cried when my child raised within that aura of privilege raged at losing it and at me when I came out. In my work, I see way too many 'accidental' children born to women where they are, at best, dismissed, at worst, horribly harmed, while a dear friend and my own sister have done all (and spent thousands) only to be unable to bear just one child. Why do some folks and countries care more about parents being overweight, for G-d's sake, than they do about their children? Years and years ago, in a college Women's Studies class, I read Adrienne Rich's brilliant essay on Compulsory Heterosexuality; there's too much, still, yet to be done and undone, and too many who continue to suffer its tenets.

Robin said...

Whoa. A lavender light. Who knew?

Yeah, once you read Adrienne Rich, it's all downhill from there. :)

Thanks for commenting, and for standing up.

Hope to see you here again!

Robin said...

I have added a link to Adrienne Rich's essay on the blog entry. Thanks!

ConverseMomma said...

There are women who argue that my adopting my son was an act of misogyny because I took him from another women. They would say that I should have put my money and time into helping her to raise him. I struggle with this idea. I'm considered the patriarchal power because I'm white and upper middle class to her poor white. I don't know how to respond to that. I do not regret adopting him at birth. I am thankful every single day that he does not have to live the life he would have. But, as a feminist, I have to acknowledge that children are viewed as commodoties, that adoption is big buisness, that minority chiildren, older children, disabled children are all languishing in foster care so couples can bring home "unblemished" white newborn infants. Ugh! Even as I write that, I cringe. I was a part of that system. And, I do not regret it. How can I regret it. I have my son because of it. It is so farkin complicated.

Robin said...

I think men, courts, and governments (is there a difference?) deciding unilaterally what gets to happen re: adoption of children is what is misogynistic, not the adoption of a child by someone who wants them. I don't see adoption as misogynistic at fact, it's quite the opposite. It can be, and often is, women supporting women.

You should NOT have put money and time into helping her raise him. She CHOSE adoption. If she had NOT chosen adoption, you would never have been in the picture.

Your case is a perfect example. You are a person who is ready, willing, able, and thrilled to give your child a loving home. I am arguing that the system often works AGAINST people like you.

I'm feeling like my message might not have come across clearly, if it struck a nerve with you (of all people). I can see I'm going to have to write more about this.

Anonymous said...

So well put. Do you publish outside of this blog or speak in public? I hope the answer's yes. You've got a lot of important things to say, and you say them beautifully and passionately.
Your voice needs to be heard!

Robin said...

Do I publish outside of this blog or speak in public? Gawd, I hope so. Any and all leads welcome. :)

Thanks for the compliment, and stick around!