Thursday, November 5, 2009
Recently, in Minnesota, I had the opportunity to run my workshop "iWrite: tweens and teens write about life and adoption" for a group of 26 China adoptees. For 90 minutes, my multi-age workshop participants excitedly shared their creativity, contributed personal comments, and realized the power of owning their life stories. Group energy opens windows and doors for for even the most recalcitrant workshop attendees, and the lure of expressing their personal reality in a new notebook was simply too hard to resist!
It is very positive, and very powerful, to witness a gathering of tweens and teens 'recognize' the possibility that has been handed to them--it's as if they were finally doled out a voice and told they could use it any way they wanted. Based on the series of workshops I've been presenting, I wrote an article for an upcoming issue of Mei Magazine. I told tween / teen readers-
"Ignoring the story of your early life in another place and time isn’t the best solution, even if that option feels really convenient. It’s your life, a vital piece of who you are, and you get to…
Really. Your story belongs to you, and you get to decide who to tell, how to tell it and how to write about it--your personal ‘voice’ is allowed to explain, explore or embellish the facts, all of the maybes and even the unknowns. You might not have a lot of information about your pre-adoptive months or years, but your feelings and your perceptions about an earlier time in your life are yours to keep, think about and especially, to express."
Last night, I read the chapter excerpt from the new EMK Press book for teens, "Pieces of Me" and was so impressed with the words of the book's contributors. Bert Ballard, the book's editor, reinforced what I've been discovering in my workshops with kids, and what I can share with parents: our adopted children often feel a disconnect with their own life stories, and could use a few expressive tools of discovery. Writing, reading, artwork, music--whatever gives kids the 'connect' to tie their before-and-after adoption selves together, can strengthen a tween or teen's whole persona.
Groups of adoptees in a workshop setting can be a tough audience; I've learned that our kids don't need "adoption talk" crammed down their throats--they need the tools to say what they need to express, and our freeing parental encouragement to own all of their pieces.
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Honestly, I would never have been in the Humane Society so soon after losing Skippy if my youngest daughter wasn't crying herself to sleep every night, clutching a glass jar containing Skippy's collar, his toy mouse and a few sad tufts of fur... ohh it was grim!
We needed the daily burden of not-being-met-at-the-door-by-our-cat lifted, so that's how I found myself bonding through a crate at MHS with a skinny little tiger kitten. He gazed at me with a great deal of aplomb, reached a long scrawny paw through the wire to grab my finger, and gently held on.
Yep, I was his.