The first book to review for the Open Adoption Book Club is called Megan's Birthday Tree and it's written by Laurie Lears.
The book club participants read the book and then submitted questions for the reviewers to answer. I was quite impressed with some of the questions! We were instructed to answer at least three questions, but could answer as many as we wanted.
Here's the book synopsis:
Megan is adopted, but she and her parents keep in touch with her birth mother, Kendra. Every year, Kendra decorates the tree she planted when Megan was born. Megan cherishes this Birthday Tree, for it ties her and Kendra together.
Here are my questions that I'll be answering:
1) In Megan's Birthday Tree, Megan's adoptive parents were present at various points, but tangentially. Did you pick up on this? Does your response to the background role the adoptive parents played say anything about where your family is in your adoption journey?
I like that the focus of the story was on Megan and her birth mother Kendra. Megan's parents were present as her mom and dad throughout the story, and they were there to reassure her when she felt worried about Kendra forgetting her, and they supported her by assisting her with her goal of purchasing a tree for Kendra.
Maybe this says something about where we are on the adoption journey. We're important to our kids, obviously. We're the only parents they will ever know. However, the relationship that each of our boys will develop with their birth families will be unique to their needs and desires. We'll be there to help in all ways possible, but I feel like adoptive parents should be in the background a bit steering the ship.
Megan's parents helped build the relationship with Kendra to the point that Megan could feel in control. It takes a lot of trust and security for adoptive parents to develop this with birth families. The years prior to Megan being old enough to develop a relationship with Kendra on her own, were critical years for Megan. They kept the adoption open and progressing so that when Megan was older (the age she is during the story), she could feel comfortable with Kendra.
2) Megan's birth mother planted a tree when she was born, and decorates it yearly to remember her birth. Do you have something special that you do to celebrate your child's birth or adoption?
When our oldest son's adoption was finalized, we went to the pottery place and made a plate and painted our hands on it. It's a very special plate! We had no idea when another child would enter our lives, so the plate's purpose was to serve dinner or dessert each year on our son's Adoption Day.
However, last year we had family in town and we weren't able to celebrate his Adoption Day. This year, we will be going to court to finalize our youngest son's adoption on the SAME DAY as our oldest son's Adoption Day!!! So April 15th will be Adoption Day for both of our boys and we're so excited!
This year we plan on going to a professional photographer's studio and have some pictures taken of all of us. Our baby's birth mom will be coming to court with us and we'll have some pictures taken of her with him as well. It'll be a wonderful day and a great way to celebrate!
3) I'd love it if participants could discuss a little bit the place of rituals, such as the photos Kendra sends of the birthday tree to Megan each year, in open adoption: Do you think they are important to children? To parents (birth- and adoptive-)? Why?
I love the idea of having rituals for adoptees. We don't have anything special that's done with either of our two children's birth parents, but it's never too late to start something! I did set up an email account for each of my sons and then I shared the email address with their birth families. I told them to feel free to email them their thoughts and whatnot, and when they're old enough to read/understand, they'd have a plethera of emails from their birth family that they could read.
So far, the only person who has taken advantage of this is my oldest son's birth father's sister (his birth aunt). She emails him about once a month and just gives an overview of the month and what everyone is doing. It's very sweet. I know that when he's older, it'll be really special for him to see that his Auntie Dani has been emailing him and thinking of him.
Other than that, we don't have anything. I'm eager to read some of the other book reviews and see what people said they do for their rituals and maybe we'll be inspired to try something!!
4) The book was categorized by the publisher as one of its "issue books," dealing with "children's problems and special needs." Other books in the series address topics like autism, epilepsy, and stuttering. What do think about a book on open adoption being characterized that way?
I was completely unaware that this book was categorized in this manner. To be honest, it offends me a bit that adoption is considered an issue and something that deals with a child's problem or special need.
While I can understand that it's a specialized topic, and not everyone can relate to adoption, I don't think it's fair to consider it a problem. Adoption is just one way that a family is created. This book was written in 2005, which isn't that long ago, so I'm not sure why adoption is being treated like something from the 50s or 60s.
It's unsettling to me to know that when this book was being discussed, the people at Albert Whitman & Company actually discussed how to categorize this and someone had the notion to say it's an issue book in the same series as books on autism, epilepsy, and stuttering, which are all medical problems. Adoption is not a medical issue and shouldn't be lumped together with books about medical/special needs issues. Grrrrr.
5) Sometimes when a person reads a picture book about adoption and something rattles something somewhere inside, but they ignore the warning because the book is so cute and mostly so good. Did you have any of those moments in this book?
I did not, but I'm curious to see if others did. I thought the book was good. Not the greatest book I've ever read about open adoption, but it was positive and I like the relationship that Megan and Kendra had.