By Meika Rouda
I heard a story on the radio the other day that made me cry. It was on StoryCorps, an amazing program of personal stories, recorded and archived through the Library of Congress. It is one of the largest oral history projects of its kind and is open to the general public for free. This particular story was a father being interviewed by his ten-year-old daughter. She was asking him about what made him decide to adopt a child.
“I want to tell you something. You have absolutely changed my life. The most interesting thing for me was the idea of the Red Thread. In Chinese adoptions and in the Chinese culture the Red Thread means that we are, with our souls, connected to a specific person. And we got you. And I am so pleased that you’re part of my life. I just love you so much.”
I had never heard about the red thread before. It is such a simple idea that I know every adopted parent would agree with. We are bound in a predetermined sense with our children, adopted or not. When you adopt a child, it does feel like a soul connection. A connection so strong and so much larger than yourself, it feels destined. It also truly simplifies the complex reasons for adoption, that sometimes people can’t get pregnant while other people may not be able to parent at a certain time in their lives. Adoption is complex, but when I am explaining to my five-year-old why he was adopted, I think the red thread is a beautiful metaphor for the invisible link we feel with our children. While I don’t want to oversimplify it, I know there is plenty of time in the future to discuss the details and feelings of his adoption. For now, while he is five, there is the red thread.
By Meika Rouda
As an adoptee, I never felt like an outcast until I started attending adoption conferences. It seems silly that I, an adoptee and adopted parent, would feel like an outcast; I am intrinsically ingrained within the topic of adoption. But when I attend these conferences, I am chastised for not seeking out my birthmother and having a “reunion” with her. I have friends who haven’t spoken to one of their parents for years but no one is on their back for a “reunion”. I am even more judged for not having an open adoption or communication with my children’s birthparents. I am neither for nor against open communication, it just didn’t work out that way in our adoptions.
So, I just got an email announcing a new adoption conference called “Adoption: A Lifelong Journey”. I was immediately put off. Why does adoption have to be a lifelong journey? It sounds awful, like a condition one suffers from. Again I feel myself, alone, beating my own drum, saying “Get Over It. Adoption is natural in many ways and has been in almost every culture since the beginning of time.” I realize some adoptees have had difficulty with their adoptions, never felt one within their adopted families and yearned for their biological mother. I know this can be very real, it just isn’t real for everyone and the idea that it is, that all adoptees will have a lifelong journeyis not true. Everyone I know is on a lifelong journey, whether adopted or not. And to quote George Bernard Shaw, “Life isn’t about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself.”
The journey part is one thing but then the conference really took a turn for the worse when they described the breakout sessions including choosing the right school for your adopted child. What? How is it any different to choose a school for a child who is adopted than for one who is not? Apparently this session focuses on how to tell if a school will be “adoption friendly”. I don’t think adopted children are any different than any other child and should never be made to feel that way. In my son’s public school classroom, there are, coincidentally, four adopted children, almost a quarter of the class. It would seem to be an “adoption friendly” school but frankly it is just the local public school down the street from our house in the suburbs.
I know these conferences have good intentions, but I think they miss many of the potential issues in adoption by not addressing all sides. I have offered several times to talk on one of the panels, to provide a different and positive view on adoption but the organizers have always declined. I guess I don’t fit the mold. Talking about adoption and the positive effects it can have on a person and a family just isn’t as interesting as choosing a school for your adopted child. Now, if you will excuse me, I have to get back to my lifelong journey and pick up my son from his adoption friendly school.
By Meika Rouda
Lately I have been posed with the Do I mention my kids were adopted or not? quandry. I was at the dentist the other day and my hygienist who I have been seeing for the past few years was looking a little round in the belly. She is a little younger than me, smiley, always cheerful and I wanted to ask “are you pregnant?” but knew better. Maybe she had a huge lunch? Isn’t that what the celebs complain about when Star magazine says they are pregnant but really they just had a bowl of pasta and are bloated? Anyway, while my mouth was hanging open, I noticed the engagement ring on her finger and managed to say “You are engaged; congrats!” She smiled and said “and I’m having a baby in May.” She rubbed her belly. “I noticed you were a little rounder but didn’t want to say anything just in case.” She laughed. “I have had the strangest cravings! Licorice, something I don’t even like usually, I just can’t get enough. It is so strange. I feel like my body has been invaded.” She is talking to me while poking at my gums. I can’t say anything because I have a suction tube in my mouth so she continues. “And apples, this baby, oh he is a boy, he just loves apples. How were your pregnancies? Did you have any strange cravings?” This is when I have to think, do I just say “my pregnancies were easy”? (which they were since I never was pregnant). It is a half-ish truth but evades the issues. Or do I just say “I never was pregnant, we adopted both of our kids.” As is my tendency, I went with the latter. She looked at me and said “Oh- I forgot, you told me that before. So you did have easy pregnancies then!” And then inevitably the conversation switched from pregnancy to adoption. How long it took. How she knows a friend who has been waiting forever for a baby. How she knows someone who adopted form China. I wish we could just talk about pregnancy and not worry about that fact that I didn’t give birth. It isn’t a delicate subject to me but I can’t really explain that to my hygienist.
Later that same day I was at school picking up my son who I have mentioned before is tiny. As he was playing with another boy from his class on the playground, the boy’s mom said to me “he is so strong for being so small.” Kaden has mastered the monkey bars even though he is the size of a 3-year-old. It is amazing to watch him. “Yes, he is.” She turned to me and said “Well, you and Chris are tall so he will have had a growth spurt. At least you don’t have to worry.” Then of course I just had to pipe in and say “Actually, he may be small. Both of our kids were adopted and his birth mom was only 4’11″. ” She looks at me wide eyed and I realize she is shocked. It just never occurred to her that he was adopted and why should it? I didn’t mean to be so forthcoming; it is just the truth and I know my son will be in school with these kids for the next eight years so why not be straight up? Plus if I am coy about adoption that makes me feel like there is something to be ashamed of and I don’t feel that way. I feel like it is something to share and celebrate. So I am going to tell. Even if it makes people uncomfortable, that is their issue not mine.
By: Meika Rouda
I found my birthmom on Google the other day. It was not the first time I had Googled her but it was the first time anything came up. It was her wedding announcement published in a Pittsburgh paper 35 years ago, a few years after I had been born and given up for adoption.
The more I looked the more I discovered, including the names of her four children – my half siblings. So I Googled them and found their profiles on Facebook, their smiling faces posing with friends, their eyes the same as mine. I realized I could “friend” them and wondered what it would feel like to get an invitation from someone you don’t know but who looks like you. I was pretty sure I was a secret to them.
A few search results later, I found my birthmom’s current address and phone number, learned the name of the school where she was a French teacher for 10 years, and her income for the tax year 1998. I discovered the address of every house she had lived in for the past two decades, how much she and her husband paid for their current home as well as a real estate photo of its exterior: a white stucco two-story on the banks of the Savannah, Georgia river. The house was plain, neat, and modest –the type of house that doesn’t want to be noticed.
Several years ago I had considered hiring a private investigator to find this very house, to find my birth mom. I wanted to tell her that she had done the right thing giving me up, that I was fine, very loved by my parents and know her decision was the right one for her and also for me. That I felt she was brave and selfless and honorable and that I am grateful to her. That I hoped she had gone on to finish college, get married, and start a family of her own when she was ready. That I had hoped she was not living with regret. But I didn’t hire the detective, I can’t remember why.
And now I don’t need the detective. I had just exposed the majority of her life in one 10-minute Google binge. It was the first time in my life that she became a very real person with a job, a family, a home –and not some romantic character whose narrative I had composed in my mind. She became someone I could know.
I imagined her in her house on the Savannah river, sitting on a faded plaid sofa, watching an old movie on TV or maybe reading a favorite book in French. The photos of her smiling children lining the beige walls, maybe she had grandchildren or maybe she had a dog by her side like I do. I could dial her number right now and interrupt her reading or her movie watching and introduce myself and maybe there would be silence, maybe there would be tears, maybe it was a call she had been waiting for or maybe it was a call she was dreading would come.
Her phone number started to pulsate on my computer screen, the numbers weaving in and out, calling to me like sirens. My cell phone sat ominously by my side waiting for me to seize my fate. But my hands stayed still on my lap, folded, relaxed, resigned. The moment contacting her became easy, possible, just a phone call away, was the moment I knew I wouldn’t contact her. We would never have the conversation I had always imagined; it became obvious to me that we just didn’t need to.
By: Meika Rouda
Adoption is expensive. Even on the lower cost of the spectrum, you are paying for the homestudy, outreach to locate a birthmother, birthmother expenses, and the legal fee for finalization. You are looking at at least $10k. It is a lot of money to gamble on a process that is not regulated at all. I can’t tell you the countless stories I have heard about couples paying $20K to a facilitator for a baby, a baby that doesn’t even exist. It is outright fraud but no one is doing anything about it. Why is that?
This is how the process usually goes: When you are looking to adopt a baby, you can do the outreach yourself or with a certified agency. The wait tends to be long and by the time you pursue adoption, you have probably already waited several years during unsuccessful IVF treatments to become parents. You are vulnerable and want a child as soon as possible. Then you hear about a woman who is a facilitator and has birthmothers lined up. She needs to find homes for these babies. Voila! This is perfect. So you call the facilitator and she gives you her shpiel about the birthmother, the baby, the chance that the birthmother might change her mind but she doesn’t think she will because she seems committed to an adoption plan. So the couple signs up only to get a call a few months later to say that the birthmother decided to keep the baby or maybe that the birthmother was actually never pregnant at all. Now they are out $20K and back where they started with no baby and no birthmother and little hope.
Domestic adoption is a shady business and I mean that when I say business. It is no longer run by non-profits and churches and social service agencies, it is run by individuals, who in the best case are attorneys who can actually give you legal services as well as help you find a birthmother, but most of the time are just some average Joe who decided to go into the business. It is lucrative, $20K just to hook up a birthmom and a couple; they don’t do any of the paperwork or help you navigate the sometimes complicated relationship with the birthmother. They are like a dating service, you pay the fee, they get you a date, and what ever happens from there is up to you.
We were very lucky to get hooked up with an honest and respectable facilitator. The only way we found them was through the non-profit agency that did our homestudy. But I spoke to several facilitators before finding them. People who just felt dishonest, they felt shady even though what they were doing was helping babies and families find each other. They had no credentials, just “years” of experience working with birthmothers. They worked out of their homes and made a lot of promises. They always wanted cash upfront.
I wish that there were a better way to put couples and babies together. It is important for birthmothers to have counseling and support around their decision and even then, they may change their minds. But I feel any woman who thinks they should place their baby for adoption, probably should place their baby. There is a reason they feel that way, they aren’t ready to be parents, they aren’t stable financially or emotionally, they have too many children already. There are many reasons. And we need to make sure birthmothers have the right support to get on their feet after they make a difficult decision like placing a baby. But we also need a way to help potential adoptive parents feel like they are diving into a system that works, not a process where a random $20K price tag is acceptable just because.
Why isn’t there a certifiable group that facilitators should be a part of? Lawyers and doctors and social workers have licenses to practice, is there any reason facilitators shouldn’t? Wouldn’t birthmothers also feel better working with a certified facilitator? Maybe there is some education facilitators need to have in order to do their job instead of sticking a sign on their front door and hitting the pavement searching for pregnant teenagers. I don’t know why the government or respectable adoption groups like the Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute doesn’t make this more of a priority for legislation. By protecting birthmothers, potential adoptive parents, and babies we are building happy, healthy families and forming a safe structure that normalizes and secures the process. It could also potentially bring down the cost of private adoption, making it more affordable for more families interested in adoption. I realize there will always be the case of a birthmother changing her mind, that is her right, but there is no reason a family has to be out their life savings for nothing. I hope I never hear another story about a family putting up the cash and getting taken advantage of. I like happy endings and adoption should be a happy ending for all.
By: Meika Rouda
I have been doing some research on a book I am writing and heard an interview with Nancy Verrier, the author of the seminal book “The Primal Wound” which made a huge impact in the adoption community when it was published in the 1990′s. I haven’t read the whole book, just parts, but my understanding is that all adoptees suffer from a primal wound since they were taken from their mothers at birth. This wound lasts a lifetime and manifests in many ways, like people feeling sad all the time because innately they are missing their biological mother. Or that adoptees have various personality disorders because they don’t know who they really are and spend their lifetimes seeking an identity. Often, according to her theory, adoptees have trouble committing to things like jobs or relationships and don’t have concrete opinions or likes and dislikes because they have no true sense of self. The adoptee will suffer from loss and grief their entire life.
This is pretty sad I have to say. But thankfully as an adoptee I don’t feel that way. What I wonder about her thesis is how the adoptee compares to those born to biological families. I know many kids born to biological parents who have no sense of self, tons of identity issues, lots of abandonment fears, and can’t commit to anything. So how are these traits solely attached to adoptees?
For the many adoptees who have difficulty processing their adoption and feel this primal wound, I am glad this book has helped them. And truthfully, I worry that although I don’t feel this way, my children may. I can’t protect them from feeling this, I can only help them accept who they are and show love and compassion and understanding for how they feel. When I read adoption books, there always seems like there is something broken about being adopted. Like what Nancy Verrier is saying, that unless you know where you come from, you can really never know yourself. You spend a lifetime trying to figure it out. Perhaps. But even when you do know where you came from, it is still a journey figuring out who you are. It seems that from the start, adoptees are at a disadvantage because they had the trauma of being separated from their birth mom. It breaks my heart to think of my children, quietly suffering everyday with this primal wound. I have often asked myself if there is a wound I am not accepting about myself, that I may be in denial about my primal wound but I don’t think that is the case.
Will my kids be the same as me or will they spend their lives longing for their birthmothers? This I don’t know yet and it worries me to think they will have a lifetime of suffering. But as humans we are wired in many ways; yes things that happen to us as a baby or child affect us and that doesn’t have to be negative, it can be part of our strength too. I am not convinced that biological families are always best for people. While it may seem pollyanna-ish, I believe in the spirit’s ability to heal and in human resolve. That love and understanding is a powerful antidote to any wound, primal or not.
By Meika Rouda
I’ve always hated my nose. It is short with a wide bridge that plateaus off the tip landing with a thud. There is nothing elegant or sculpted about it, unlike my mom’s nose, which could have been the prototype plastic surgeons used for rhinoplasty in the 80’s. My nose has no structure or shape that gives it any dignity. There is nothing as righteous as a bump. It is just shapeless, with round nostrils like a baby’s.
As much as I admired my mother’s perfect profile, I never wished it were mine because it couldn’t be. We don’t share the same DNA. I was adopted. Now I know DNA doesn’t really mean much. Not everyone relates to their family, but at least you know where the manic depression, extra long second toe, or hairy arms are from. You have someone to thank and to blame for your assets and deficiencies. A cord of disheveled genetic code that makes you… you.
While I enjoyed the uniqueness of being me, I also realized that I looked different than my family; my skin a shade darker, my eyes and hair a milk chocolate brown. My parents are both fair-skinned and light-eyed, while my adopted sister has blonde hair and blue eyes. It didn’t matter to me though because my parents loved and adored my sister and me. They rejoiced in how lucky they were to be our parents. Adoption was something to be proud of and we did feel proud. Our family was full of love and affection and generosity and even though we didn’t look like one another, we did fit.
But people were always curious about my background. I have that mysterious brown palette that makes strangers ask “where are you from?” Over the years, I have had many people guess my heritage: Indian, Middle Eastern, Spanish, Turkish, half African American, Cherokee. I had a guy come up to me once, randomly, and ask if I was from Genoa. When I replied that I didn’t know, he assured me I was Genovese and that everyone there looks just like me.
My friends have also called me in a frenzy convinced they had seen my biological mother somewhere: a stewardess on a Greek airline, a retail worker in a mall along highway 80, an actress from a TV movie. While I know they meant well, I didn’t know how to break it to them that I just wasn’t that interested. I liked my parents, my family, my home. The truth is my biological parents did the right thing giving me up and I was dealt a royal flush by ending up with my family. Besides, what is so great about looking like someone else really? It doesn’t mean you like them.
But then my husband and I decided to try and have a baby and suddenly I was curious. Maybe I should know more about my peeps if I plan to pass on these esoteric genes. And it wasn’t so hard to find out because coincidently, my dad’s law firm handled my adoption so he had all the forms, photos, and birth certificates in his office. That is how things were done in the 1970’s. So, I asked my parents for my file and much to my surprise, they said “sure”. I was worried that I would hurt their feelings by requesting it, like I was insinuating that they had failed me somehow but they were happy to help.
A few days later, we were at the theater and as my dad struggled to tuck his well worn briefcase under his seat, the one I used to pull around the house when I played “lawyer” as a kid, he mentioned that he had my file. It was 3 minutes before the show was going to start and my mom excitedly said, “Well, let’s see it!” I held back and let them review it all, squirming in my seat not to peek; I never imagined finding out my nationality minutes before a Broadway musical. But as they “Oooohhh’d” and “Aaahhh’d” and showed the photos to the strangers seated in front of us, I couldn’t resist. “Okay, let me see” I said, surrendering to my fate. There were 3 photos of my biological peeps: one black and white of my bio-mom in her very serious senior high school portrait; one color photo of my bio-dad looking jovial at a party and a third shot of them standing together on a suburban lawn. In this third photo, he was dressed in a suit, she in a yellow mini-dress and they looked like they were going to a high school formal. There were three rays of sun damage splayed like fingers across the print, leaving a ghostly sheen to their faces.
The woman in the photos didn’t look like me, even-though my parents thought she did. I didn’t feel anything when I looked at my bio-mom. No instant bond, or “Ah ha, this is what I look like!” To tell you the truth, it was sort of a disappointment. The mystery was gone. Bio-mom was not the exotic islander I envisioned. My peeps were whiteys. She had blonde hair and blue eyes! Bio-dad was darker, more like me and tall. I saw a little bit of myself in him, especially when I was a kid and had a pixie haircut. But I felt totally removed from them, both physically and emotionally. Nothing felt resolved, just extinguished. All of my fantasies dissolved, my curiosity cured, my unique self now not so incredibly unique. I suddenly felt average.
My bio-mom was German/Irish and bio-dad German/Italian. I guess that Italian gene was pretty strong, but German? I couldn’t feel less German. I hate schnitzel and sauerbraten and have no sense of superior order in my life. Where is the woman from Guadalajara or Tehran or Mykonos that was supposed to be my bio-mom? I felt duped. How could these be my peeps?
I suddenly realized that it is the stories I share with my family, the knowingness of what is familiar, the foods we eat, the songs we sing, the fact that we are Jews who celebrate Christmas, Easter and Passover. That is what makes me… me. These are my peeps! Family is more than your DNA; it is who you share your past with. The people who have been there to see you succeed and fail and always had loving arms for either circumstance. Looking like someone isn’t half as fulfilling as being like someone. Maybe if I find my bio-parents someday, they too will be writers or dog-lovers or have a habit of eating ice cream for breakfast. But for now, living with the question is better than knowing the answer.
Just as the lights started to dim, I held the picture of my bio-mom in my hand and looked at her nose. It was short and stout with perfectly round nostrils. And then the curtain came up.
*A longer version of this essay was first published on Fresh Yarn www.freshyarn.com.
By Meika Rouda
I really want to volunteer my time to a nonprofit that I like but something on the homepage is stopping me. The organization is dedicated to helping birthmothers after they place children for adoption. It provides mentoring, scholarships for education, and counseling in a community environment. It is a place for birthmothers to talk to one another and get emotional and financial support. It is an amazing group and I believe in it 100%. I think often about my daughter’s birthmother and how she was 18 when she decided to place my daughter. She wanted to go to college, to live a life before she became a parent. My own birthmother wanted the same thing when she, a 19-year-old, placed me and returned to college. Both women would have benefited greatly from an organization like the one I would like to volunteer with and I would to work there in order to honor them and the brave decisions they made.
But what is stopping me is a quote on the home page from a birthmother who says “When I am talking to another birth mom, I’m not a birth mom, I’m a mom. We don’t have to put a title on it. I can say ‘Oh my son did this or my daughter did this ‘and I can just be a mom. There are no stipulations on it, there’s no stigma. We can just be moms.”
This freaks me out. What do you mean you can just be moms? I find this confusing, as I do a lot about open adoption. It sounds like this birth mom is taking a lot of credit for mothering the child she placed. I don’t agree with this. The adoptive mom is the mom, she is the one who is there for the child everyday. I don’t know why this organization, which is very popular and has a tremendous reputation, would condone this and put this quote on the homepage. Is this what the birth moms are sitting around talking about? It seems the idea is for them to have the resources and support to move on with their lives after placing a child. I recognize that placing a child is a difficult decision and very hard for some birthmothers to get over, but if this organization’s main mission is to help birthmothers take care of themselves post placement, I find this quote on the homepage misleading. It is very off putting to me and sounds like this birthmother needs a lot more counseling than what she is getting.
Am I wrong? To the birth moms out there, I would love to hear your opinion about how you view yourself in your child’s life. Do you consider yourself a birth mom, a mom, an extended family member? And should I join an organization that fosters a philosophy I may not agree with?
Placing a child for adoption is emotional and difficult and I hope there are more organizations out there than this one that provide post placement assistance for birthmothers. Retreats, counseling, financial aid, and tuition. Yes, 100%. But I think it is dangerous thinking for birthmothers to be sitting around talking about the children they placed like they’re the ones mothering them. It is a different job and one that adoptive moms should get the credit for.
By Meika Rouda
Last Friday I did something I never thought I would do. I signed up for a parenting class. It isn’t that I am against advice; I have a whole library of parenting books including “How To Talk so Kids will Listen and Listen so Kids will Talk,” “Parenting the Difficult Child,” and “The Wonder of Boys.” Still, no matter how much I read, no matter the arsenal of tools at my disposal, I still get frustrated, exhausted, and impatient. The newest cause for alarm is that my almost two-year-old daughter is talking, in full sentences. This has drastically altered my son’s world because before, when they would play together in their room while I was doing dishes or cleaning up or doing other mundane household chores, if I heard Asha crying I would only have his story to depend on for what happened. “Kaden, what happened?” He looks at me, big eyes, innocent stare “She fell down!” Then I would pick up the crying baby and console her, wondering how she “fell down” when they were playing on the floor and take her into the kitchen with me. Now, when they are playing and I hear crying I go in and I have Kaden’s version “She hit herself on the head!” and her version “Kaden hit me!” It is clear who is telling the more accurate account. I am troubled by him not telling the truth which I think all kids do when they have done something wrong and don’t want to fess up to it. When I get to the bottom of the dispute it usually has to do with the same theme, she got in his way while he was playing cars or she took the car he was playing with so he had to pry it out of her iron grip. I feel like a broken record reminding him “use your words” instead of force. She is stubborn and strong, traits probably mastered by having a big brother and needing to defend her space, but I would like to feel like they can play together, which they do often and happily, and not worry that it will always result in crying. So the workshop I signed up for is “Siblings Without Rivalry.” This is my hope for the workshop, that I will have special voodoo powers that make my children stop fighting with just one look or that they listen to me, the first time, when I ask them to stop fighting and yelling at each other. Or when my daughter sits on my lap, gives me a hug and declares “My mommy!” My son won’t run over, yank her off my lap by the neck and then sit on my lap yelling “My mommy!” Then they both start pulling at my arms screaming at each other “My mommy!” “No! My mommy!” My hope is that after this workshop they will both share my lap and hug me taking turns and say “Our mommy!”
Is it possible? I’ll let you know after my class tonight- stay tuned!
By: Meika Rouda
I was stunned. It actually stung me to the core. I had never heard him say the word “hate” before. Lately he has been telling me “you are mean” when he doesn’t get his way, something we are working on but truthfully in his mind, I am being mean when he wants a second ice cream and doesn’t get it. But hate is a new level. Does he know what hate is? Has someone said this to him? Where do I begin to address this? And since we try to follow a philosophy of talking about feelings, expressing how one feels, how do I incorporate hate into his vocabulary in a positive way?
Since I was being reactionary I first told him hate is a strong word. That we don’t use that word for people and that it hurts my feelings when he says that. I then tried to explain what hate is. Hate is a a word for things that you strongly dislike. It is an angry word, often said when one doesn’t really mean it. But then I felt like I was arming him with a word he will want to use, he now knows it has a strong meaning, that it does hurt me. Then I told him that I love him no matter what, even if he thinks he hates me.
Later in the kitchen after our son finally went to bed, my husband told me how surprised he was to hear the word hate come from our son. “I never in my life said I hated my parents.” My husband comes from, ironically, a strict yet hippie background where feelings were not expressed and yet children were treated like adults from Day One. He was raised in a mutually respectful home where the word hate was outlawed. I, on the other hand, have yelled at my parents countless times as a child and have even said I hated them when I was an unruly teenager, seeking love and attention. I don’t think my 4-year-old has any idea of what the word hate means. I know this is just the first of other incidents where he will be upset with me and express himself in hurtful ways. And I want him to express himself, it is vital that he tells me how he feels, that he puts a name to his feeling but I have to remind him that when he thinks he hates me, he is actually just frustrated that he isn’t getting another book. Or when I am mean because I am not buying him a toy, he is actually feeling sad or mad or a host of emotions that are difficult to navigate at his young age. And I have to remind myself not to take it personally even when it hurts.