I wrote a short article, “A teaching moment on driving while brown,” that was published today in my local newspaper, the Marin Independent Journal. You can read the first few paragraphs here. To read the rest, click on the link. As always, this essay represents my opinion only!
Last Sunday evening, as I swept the kitchen floor and loaded the dishwasher, my 9-year-old son Mateo cavorted around the room, telling me about his day. My sister and her family were visiting from Boston, and we — my sister, her girls, my daughter, and I — had gone into San Francisco to shop while Mateo stayed home with my husband, to do, as my husband calls it, "guy stuff."
After a report on fixing the drip irrigation system, Mateo regaled me with tales of their trip to the hardware store, where they bought lumber to build a rack in our basement, and stopped at the food truck to indulge their shared passion for giant hot dogs smothered in onions and ketchup.
"When Dad and I were driving home," Mateo said, "we saw seven police cars parked on the side of the road, and a Latino man standing next to a shiny, fancy car with his wrists handcuffed behind his back. Dad said maybe the police thought the Latino man committed a crime."
After the first week of school ended I allowed myself a huge sigh of relief. Mistakenly I had thought that my daughter would no longer get upset about the new school year beginning– this would be her fourth year in the same school. So I was less than patient the night before school began when the crying and fretting began. My daughter worried about everything: what if she was late, what if she couldn’t find her classroom, what if her teacher didn’t like her, and the list goes on. I took each worry to the worst case scenario with her, having been told that was a strategy to help a child with the anxiety. It only helped momentarily. She only fell asleep after 11:00 pm.
At the end of the first day of school my daughter jumped into the car with a huge smile on her face and waited for me to ask how her first day was. I told her I was scared to ask how school went. She laughed. I didn’t. I was worn out.
The average per-capita income in Guatemala may be $5,200, but take a ride around the upscale neighborhoods of Guatemala City or Antigua; dine at a fine restaurant and stay at a luxurious hotel; go on a shopping excursion to Tikal Futura; or get yourself invited to the symphony, or an art opening, or a fancy wedding, and you’ll see that plenty of Guatemalans earn more than that. Way more. This article in Bloomberg tells the tale of one such wealthy person: Mario Lopez Estrada, founder of Guatemala’s ubiquitous mobile phone provider, TIGO, and the country’s first billionaire.
This June, out driving with a friend en route to Lake Atitlan, I saw miles and miles and miles of white wooden fences, much like the ones you might see in horse country in Kentucky. “What’s with the fences?” I asked. My friend answered, “The guy who started TIGO owns all that land. The fence keeps people out.”
And I said: “Wouldn’t it be amazing if that guy turned out to be the Guatemalan equivalent to Bill Gates? A brilliant, smart guy with lots of money, who dedicates a large part of his energy and fortune to promoting education, health, and quality of life for the millions of his fellow Guatemalans who need it. Wouldn’t it be amazing if that guy turned out to be a visionary and a leader, with so much money he couldn’t be corrupted.”
Seven years and 27 trips to Guatemala later, the Kern family of Missouri finalizes the adoption of their son Hudson, born in Guatemala. Congratulations!!!!
Here's the link to TV news coverage.
It's hard for me to understand how living in an orphanage for years while a family waits for you benefits a child. Yet that was the reality for Hudson, and for all the children whose cases stalled after adoptions between Guatemala and the US closed in December 2007.
I received an email from a reader asking me to address the problem of school aged adopted children stealing. My first question was: “Is theft more prevalent among adopted children than non-adopted children?
A close friend of mine who has worked in the education field for over 30 years told me that it is a ‘known fact’ that adopted children steal. This sent me on an internet search for studies supporting this theory. It was not to be found.
However I discovered a great source in Patty Cogen, adoption expert and author of “Parenting Your Internationally Adopted Child,” explaining why an adopted child may steal:
Internationally adopted children feel more strongly and dramatically than other children the pressure to be good and do what is right; because deep down they still fear they did something wrong that resulted in their relinquishment. A child at this age cannot imagine an adult making a mistake, so the child concludes that he did something wrong and was indeed responsible for his own relinquishment. At this cognitive stage the child first blames the victim — himself. The weight of such a claim, and the shame that follows from it, is hard to bear, and so some children try to hide it by becoming perfectionists or “know-it-alls.” Or they resort to acting out their shameful image of themselves, engaging knowingly in lying, stealing, and disruptive or disrespectful behavior to prove they are really as bad as they feel.