Tag Archives: children

Every Story Needs A Beginning.

Published on http://www.chicagonow.com/portrait-of-an-adoption/2015/11/every-story-needs-a-beginning/
By Anne Sawan

There are some stories in life that we tell our children over and over. Favorite books, old fairy tales. Books that hold messages and lessons we want to pass on. Stories that have meaning, that matter to us.

I was driving in the car with my seven-year-old daughter. It was a warm summer night, just the two of us, a wide-open evening full of possibilities and fireflies. After camp she usually likes to tell me stories about her day, about the arts and crafts they created, the games they played, but this day she was quiet and I thought she must be tired from a long day. She certainly looked like she had been busy: her hair a mess, her sneakers scuffed, her knees dirty.

It was just the two of us that evening, my other children scattered about at various friend’s houses to swim and eat hamburgers. I asked her what she wanted to do with our free time together.

“Can we go to the mall and get some sushi and Legos?”

I smiled.

It was always the same answer.

As we meandered down the road I glanced in the rear view mirror. She was staring out the window, a serious look on her face, her lips moving slightly as she muttered something quietly to herself.

“What’s going on?” I asked.

“Nothing,” she said, her eyes looking away, her finger tracing a path against the glass.

There was a beat of silence and then, “Mom, I know someone else who

is adopted.”

“Really?”

“Yes, he is at camp.”

I nodded, “How do you know he is adopted?”

“I heard him tell someone.”

“Oh. Did you tell him you were adopted too?”

“No.”

We drove along. Each lost in our own thoughts for a few moments. I wondered why she had brought it up, about this other camper. Having no real inkling about what to say next, but knowing there was something there, hidden in her words, I casually asked, “If someone at camp were to ask you what that other camper meant by adoption, what would you say?”

My daughter shrugged, her finger still smudging an imaginary track against the window. “I guess I would say, it means someone had you but they had to get rid of you, so your mom and dad got you.”

Get rid of you?

I pulled into the mall parking lot, my heart thumping.

My daughter.

My beautiful, sassy, silly, sweet, wonderful daughter thought someone just… got rid of her?

I turned around. “Honey,” I said. “Your birth mother didn’t just get rid of you, she loved you.”

My daughter stared at me, her brown eyes growing wide, her hand falling away from the window.

“She did?”

My mind swirled.

Hadn’t I told her?

Hadn’t I told her, her adoption story a million times?

Hadn’t I told her something like this:

You didn’t grow in my tummy, you grew in your birthmother’s tummy, but she couldn’t keep you, I am not sure why. But your dad and I wanted you soooo much so we flew far across the deep ocean and over the tall mountains, picked you up, wrapped you in a soft pink blanket, flew back across the big ocean and over the mountains where everyone was waiting for you and we had a big party full of love and kisses and cake!

Brakes.

Rewind.

Did I say, “I’m not sure why, but she she loved you very much”

Did I say, “I’m not sure why, but she loved you very much and it must have been very difficult for her to say goodbye.”

I must have.

I did.

Didn’t I?

My child’s beginning is unknown. I don’t know the reasons why her birth mother couldn’t keep her and I realized that in telling her I try to breeze quickly by that part, the beginning. It just seems tricky and messy and fraught with such hard questions and deep sadness that I hurry through, telling my daughter instead a story of a kisses and cake and a soft pink blanket that enveloped her with love; shielding her from sorrow.

I so want that story to be enough. For our love to be enough…but it can’t be, because it’s not her story.

When we open a book, we don’t just jump into the middle. We need to have an understanding of where the story begins, and my daughter’s beginning, although difficult, is just as important as any other; a beginning that doesn’t start with my love, but with the extraordinary love of another person. A love that while complicated shouldn’t just be casually rushed over. A love that deserves to be talked about slowly and carefully and with respect. A love like a cherished old book on the shelf, that can be revisited over and over again.

So I took a deep breath and slowly, slowly I spoke,

“Sweetie, I don’t know why your birth mom couldn’t keep you but I do know that she didn’t just get rid of you. Maybe she was too young to have a baby, or maybe she didn’t know how to be a mom yet but she loved you very, very much; and she did the hardest and bravest thing a mom could ever do and found you a place where she knew you would always be safe and where she knew there would be a family that would love you as much as she did.”

My daughter stared, her brown eyes meeting mine.

“Really?”

“Yes, really. She loved you and you know what else? You are full of extra love because you have love from your birth mom and love from all of us.”

A broad smile settled on her lips.

The story was shifting, the words were changing, slightly perhaps, but it was enough… for now.

“Can we go get some sushi and Legos now?”

“Of course.”

Anne Sawan is a mom of five, a psychologist and an author, having books published with MeeGenuis, as well as having articles published on Adoption Today, Adoptive Families, Brain Child, Scary Mommy and BluntMoms. She won The International Picture Book contest held by Inclusive Works and Clavis Publishing in 2014 and her book, What Can Your Grandmother Do? is scheduled to come out sometime this year.

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The Dreaded School Summer Reading List

A version of this piece was published in Brain Child last year. Ten To Twenty Parenting has republished it on their blog. Some things change over time…my feelings towards this summer assignment has not.

http://tentotwenty.com/why-i-hate-summer-reading-lists/

Fly Away

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The plane lifted off the ground and the buildings and cars and trees below quickly became nothing more than small gray smudges against the earth. Clouds soon enveloped the tiny window next to me and unable to see past the foggy haze anymore I sat back, willing myself not to cry.

I had just said goodbye to my daughter who is spending a few months abroad in Europe.

I arrived a week earlier and she met me outside of my hotel where I held her in my arms for an embarrassingly long time, burying my face in her shoulder and drinking in the familiar, delicious scent of her. She proudly showed me around her city: the coffee shops she frequents with friends, the bakery where she gets her morning pastry, the bars with the best sangria.

Despite the relentless rain we had a wonderful week, traveling about, meeting her gracious host family, touring the university, listening to the stories of her adventures in foreign countries, but as happy as I was to see her, somewhere below the surface I kept feeling a slight something; a tremor, a subtle shifting…something had changed and I couldn’t quite put my finger on it.

So now as I sat there on that plane, the miles between us growing with each passing minute, I thought back to the beginning of this life journey which we had started together so long ago.

I remembered bringing her home for the first time, setting the car seat down in the living room and just sitting and staring at her… I was terrified; filled with fear at the realization that I was now responsible for the very survival of this tiny, helpless creature. Oh, how she needed me and oh, how it frightened me. She needed me to be her sustenance. She needed me to be her voice. She needed me to be her eyes. She needed me in ways I had never been needed before and it was, I thought, too much. But somehow, step-by-step, day-by-day we made it through and slowly, overtime, my confidence grew until I found myself on the other side of the ambivalence, suddenly relishing the fact that she needed me.

She needed me.

How flattering. How empowering. How wonderful.

I was needed.

I thought back to when she needed me to clean off her skinned toddler knees after falling in the park. I thought back to when she needed me to stay by her side as she wobbled down the street on her two-wheeler. I thought back to when she needed me to coax her into the pool, “Come ‘on. Jump! You can do it!”

How she needed me later still to help her navigate the strange changes in her body, the unexpected torment of fluctuating middle school friendships and the confusing new interactions with boys.

Then I thought back to that summer after a particularly bad school year during which a ruthless teenage bully had undone all of my child’s confidence.

I had wiped her tears and told her that this mean girl was no good. That the things she said weren’t true. That it was all just garbage. But no matter how many times I told her that she was beautiful and perfect, I couldn’t fix what was broken. She needed something else.

“It’s called Girls Leadership,” I said, handing her the colorful brochure sporting photos of teenage girls rock climbing and zip lining. “I think it might be good for you.”

She gave it a fleeting glance and handed it back, saying with the sage wisdom of a teenager, “You can call it whatever you want Mom. I know what it is. It’s confidence camp.”

The night before she left we went for a walk on the beach and she cried and begged and pleaded,

“Please don’t make me go.”

How I wanted to say, “You’re right. Forget it. Stay with me. I will make it all better.”

But I didn’t. I couldn’t, because while I wanted to always be the one who could magically kiss away her fears and fix her bad days, ultimately it wasn’t me she needed anymore.

She needed to go. She needed to discover that she would be all right on her own. She needed to climb over those rocks by herself and if she fell, well then she needed to find her own way up.

She needed something more than me.

She needed herself.

So there on that plane, as I thought back through all those years, I finally realized what the unsettled feeling I had been having all week truly was: it was the glorious, beautiful, and bittersweet goodbye of childhood.

Goodbye.

She has done it. She is standing on her own now without me by her side. She is scrambling over those rocks on her own. She will stumble, this is certain, but if I am not there to offer a hand, it’s ok. She will get herself back up, she will clean off her own skinned knee and she will whisper to herself, “Come ‘on. Jump! You can do it.”

Princesses

 

Watching Princess Kate on the “telly” with her impeccable manners, fantastic clothes, and her jet setting life style it’s hard for a girl not to think, wouldn’t it be grand to be a princess? Always perfect, always poised and pretty, but… what if you just aren’t that type of girl? What if you prefer messy spaghetti to neat finger sandwiches; and overalls to long gowns? Can you still be a princess?

I have two wonderful daughters. Two daughters, two girls, two VERY different people.

When my oldest daughter was little she was a princess loving freak! She wore dresses and tutus and loved anything that glimmered and shined. She watched Ariel and Jasmine and Belle over and over; beautiful (and overly priced) dolls littered the hallways and stairs of our home and she dreamed of one day actually living in her own giant, pink, plastic, elevator-equipped Barbie Dream house.

My younger girl…not so much. Most days it’s all I can do to get a brush through her hair, and she barely made it through one year of ballet class. This little girl spends much of her time being a Ninja warrior, and for her birthday this year she wants Legos (not the pink ones), an extra large plastic container of orange cheese puffs, and karate lessons (God help us).

 

 

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It takes all kinds of girls, and thank goodness for that.

So for my two girls, and for the millions of girls in this world, those that are quiet and those that are loud, those that are graceful and those that are not, those that dream of being princesses and those that already are, I wrote this little rhyming picture book.

 

 

 

SOME PRINCESSES

 

Some princesses wear high heels, shiny and new.

Some princesses wear flip-flops, or red running shoes.

 

Some princesses walk slowly, their heads held up high,

Some princesses like to skip, leap and soar to the sky!

 

Some princesses’ attend grand balls and waltz all about.

Some princesses rock the drums and totally jam out!

 

Some princesses play croquet, gently tapping the ball.

Some princesses play baseball, hitting one up, Up, UP…

and over the wall!

 

Some princesses eat sandwiches, with the crusts all cut off.

Some princesses crave tacos, or spaghetti with sauce.

 

Some princesses watch their manners and try not to slurp,

(but all princesses pass gas and ocasionally burp).

 

Some princesses’ dress in long gowns covered in jewels.

Some princesses wear overalls, with pockets for tools.

 

Some princesses have hair that’s always shiny and neat.

Some princesses have hair that just FREAKS out in the heat!

 

Some princesses make a mess, and have maids put it all away on a shelf.

Some princesses have moms that say, “Princess, go clean that mess up, YOURSELF.”

 

Some princesses have brown skin, some freckly, some fair.

Some princesses wear eyeglasses, some use a wheel chair.

 

Some princesses may be quiet, while some are quite bold,

but all girls are princesses, with hearts spun from gold.

 

It’s true.

 

No matter who they are or what they like to do;

ALL girls are princesses, especially,

 

Girls.

Just.

Like.

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Anne Sawan 2014

March Madness and Three Little Pigs

So we are all into March madness over here, both the basketball kind and the kind brought on by prolonged winter cabin fever.  Lucky for me, Susanna Leonard Hill is sponsoring a March Madness writing contest to help alleviate some of the boredom and restlessness that has settled into my brain. This one requires a 400 word max fractured Fairy Tale. thIt’s all just for fun (and a few great prizes) so give it a try, you just might get hooked!

http://susannahill.blogspot.com/2014/03/the-march-madness-writing-contest-is.html

Inspired by almost-true events:

Go outside Three Little Pigs!! 

Once upon a time there were three little pigs.

Three little, lazy pigs that just sat around all day and did nothing but play video games.

Until, one sunny day when Mama Pig decided she couldn’t take it anymore.

“That’s it!” She said, pointing to the door. “I have had enough! Go. Out. SIDE!”

“What?” said the First Pig.

“You want us to go out… there?” said the Second Pig.

“But, there’s never anything to do outside.” complained the Third Pig.

Mama Pig threw open the door.

“Have an adventure! Use your imagination! Just go outside, NOW!”

So the three miserable, lazy pigs went outside.

“It’s sooo hot out here,” moaned the First Pig.

“I’m sooo bored,” whined the Second

“I miss my video games,” cried the Third.

A dark shadow crept slowly along the fence.

“Little pig, little pigs, let me in,” whispered a deep, gravely voice.

“The wolf! Mom! Mom!” The three pigs banged on the door.

“Go away,” said Mama Pig from inside the house.

The three pigs stared at one another.

“Quick!” said Pig Number One. “To the straw pile!”

The three pigs ran across the lawn and burrowed their way into the middle of the straw.

“Ha!” laughed the Wolf. “Do you really think that measly house made of hay is going to keep me away? I am going to huff and puff…”

The three pigs dug as fast as they could through the back of the straw pile.

“To the tree house!” yelled the Second Pig.

The three pigs clambered up the ladder to the tree house and slammed the door shut.

Snap!

A branch snapped, and then another, and another.

Snap!
Snap!

Suddenly through the wall came the wolf’s furry head, his red, beady eyes and his pointed teeth.

“Really, a house made of sticks?” He snarled.

The three pigs quickly threw themselves out of the treehouse, landing one by one with a thud on the dirt below.

“Over there! Behind that brick wall!” yelled Pig Number Three.

The three pigs scampered behind the wall but they knew it was no use;

sharp claws soon crept over the rocks…

“Help! We’re doomed!” They cried.

“Pigs! Oh, Pigs, time for din-ner!” Yelled Mama Pig.

“Awww, already?” said Pig Number One.

“That was way more fun that video games!” Said Pig Number Two

“Sure was.” Said Pig Number Three. “See you tomorrow Wolf?

“See you tomorrow Pigs.”

Do You Believe In Magic?

I am in a really bad mood today. Don’t know why, maybe its the never-ending pile of snow outside my front door. Maybe it’s because the door on my car was frozen shut when I went to drive the kids to school.  Maybe it’s because I had zero gas in my car once I finally opened the car door and then had to stand out in the snow and wind and freezing rain to fill my tank. Whatever the reason, I am not in a good mood. So on the advice of my sister I am headed to HomeGoods to buy something with a starfish on it and then I am going to bake a cake. A chocolate cake. In the meantime here is a little story I wrote about a girl who woke up in a bad mood, and the help she gets from her brother to turn it around, because sometimes all it takes is a little, fun, child-like magic…(and sometimes it takes HomeGoods and chocolate cake)

Harry’s Magic

 

Eliza woke up on the wrong side of the bed,

her hair all askew, her eyes seeing red.

She didn’t know why but she felt angry and mad;

her insides felt twisted, and crinkly and bad!

Her head was all groggy, her lungs full of steam;

she wanted to shout, she wanted to scream!

She put on her shoes and downstairs she clomped,

Each step getting louder: stomp,

STomp,

STOmp,

STOMp

STOMP!

 

“Hello!” Called her brother,“ What’s that? Whose out there?

Is a there a dinosaur in the house?  A monster? A bear?”

“No, Harry, it’s me,” Eliza said with a growl.

“I woke up feeling grumpy, my mood is just foul.

I don’t want to laugh or smile or play.

I just feel like yelling, so stay out of my way!

I am furious, irate, annoyed and quite fuming.

I feel like a beast, like something not human!”

 

“A beast!”  Harry said. “Well, I can fix that!

Quick, bring me my wand, my cape and my hat!

I will drive out that fiend! I will shatter that curse!

I will make you a potion before it gets worse.”

 

“Now, let’s see…

First, I will need the dog’s chew bone, then some old bubble gum,

three hairs from a hairbrush and an earring from Mum.

A sock that is smelly, a Band-Aid that’s new,

a crayon that’s green and dad’s left running shoe.

Some Halloween treats, an old boiled egg,

a button from your sweater, a scab from your leg,

some bologna that’s slimy, an elephant with wings,

three rotten apples and a dolly that sings.”

 

Eliza reached under sofas and reached under chairs,

she peered into closets, and ran up and down stairs.

She pulled back the curtains and opened the drawers,

she climbed into the bathtub and searched behind doors.

She gathered it all, the old and the new,

the smelly, the gross, the slimy, the chewed.

 

“Let’s go!” Harry said, throwing open the door.

“Outside! We aren’t done, there is still a lot more!

We must search all around and find all that we need,

like that slippery worm! Quick! Over there, by that weed!

Next a butterfly, then some flowers: both yellow and red,

a grasshopper and a rock from under the shed.

Wild goose feathers, and a jumping bull frog,

a nut and a twig and some moss from that log.”

 

So, Eliza ran and jumped and climbed into the trees,

she crept through the bushes on her hands and her knees.

She gathered it all up and put it into a pail.

“And lastly,“ said Harry, “one teeny-weeny snail.”

 

Eliza searched and searched until at last she found one.

“There!” She said, “Is that it? At last, are we done?”

“Almost,” said her brother, slowly stirring his brew.

“But there is just one more small thing I still need you to do.

You must jump! Dance! Leap! And sing out a song!

And when you are done, that beast will be gone.”

 

Eliza growled and groused, but did as he said,

singing sort-of-a song and barely nodding her head.

She gave one leg a slow shake and the other a jiggle,

she wiggled her backside and then… she started to giggle.

Huh?!

 

Eliza’s eyes grew round, her mouth opened wide.

“Harry,” she whispered.  “I feel different inside.

I am no longer crabby, or mean, or a beast!

I feel silly, elated and not mad in the least!

All gone are my monsters, my meanies, my pout,

I just feel like singing and dancing about!

I feel crazy and happy! I’m Eliza! I’m me!

Oh, thank you! You did it! You set my fun free!”

 

“You’re welcome,” said Harry, with a wink and a bow.

“My magic always works and I’ll tell you how.

First you conjure up some sillies, then stir in some fun,

give a hip and a hop and… ABRACADABRA! It’s done!

Because no beast can survive, no grumpies will stay,

if you just let a little Harry-magic into your day.”

An Apple for the Teacher….

I haven’t written on my blog in a while. I have been busy with my writing class (which I LOVE) and life, but today something happened and I felt I needed to vent, so lucky you.  You get to read my vent!

Red Delicious

Image via Wikipedia

The schools where I live have this reading program called the RUSH (Reading Uniting School and Home) Calendar.  It is the expectation of the schools that children here read every day, and record that reading on their RUSH calendar. Sound good, right? I mean we all want our kids to read more, especially you would think someone like me who loves to write and hopes there are people out there who are reading her stuff, well…you may be surprised…(here comes the venting part).

What if someone told you had to eat an apple every  day.  EVERY DAY. Now assuming you like apples and you know they are good for you, you think, “Okay, I can do that.” So you start, maybe you eat a few days worth of Red Delicious, then Macintosh for a while, and then switch to Golden Delicious, then Granny Smiths, back to a Macintosh. Sometimes you even venture out and eat applesauce.  Crazy you! Oh, and every time you eat an apple you need to write it down. So you eat and write and eat and write…

How long do you think you would last eating an apple a day before you started resisting the apple? Rushing by the bin at the grocery store, not wanting to see an apple ever again.  Your stomach turning at the sight of a juicy red delicious? Hoping you could skip a few days here or there? Forgetting to write it down… This is how I imagine this RUSH calendar debacle we have set up in our schools.  Like a poisonous apple.

Here is the thing, most kids like to read and we like our kids to read. We know it is good for them, they know it is good for them… but to expect them to read EVERY day is ridiculous! Think about it, do you read every day? Not just recipes or Facebook or The Huffington Post, but real literature.  A book. Do you sit down EVERY night and read?  I wish I had that luxury. I love to read.  When I was a kid that is pretty much all I did, but I wasn’t forced and I wasn’t answering to anybody about it.  I did it because I enjoyed it, but even for me there were days I just didn’t read.  There still are; maybe I don’t have a book I am into, or I am tired, or I am busy, or just want to veg mindlessly for a few minutes.

So do your kids read every day? Be honest…every day or are you, like me, rushing around at the end of every month scribbling in pages for the @@!**! RUSH calendar? One time I had the nerve to write on the calendar, “(My child) did not read over the weekend, too busy!” (Smiley face).  I got back a note saying, “?? He must read everyday.

Huh? Excuse me? What happened to family time? Sledding, skiing, going to the Museum of Science, playing outside with friends or cousins, seeing a movie and staying up late laughing together before falling asleep: happy, fulfilled but shamefully unread.

I can’t stand the RUSH calendar. I hate everything about it. It makes liars out of parents and children.  It puts an expectation of reading that is unfair and unnecessary on already stressed out families. Typical day at my house, and many others may go like this: home from school at 3ish, half an hour or so to snack/decompress, homework 2-3 pages of math, spelling sentences, studying for a test or working on a project, dinner, soccer/swim lessons/CCD/tutoring/, maybe an instrument to practice, shower.  Where is the playing? The fun?

I have my kids read at bedtime and usually once they start it is hard to get them to stop. “Five more minutes guys….five more minutes guys…five more…”  But once in a while they are tired.  They don’t (gasp) feel like reading, or they have started a game of checkers or are sitting on each other’s beds talking and sharing their own stories. (Or…wait for it…the vilified television is on with the new American Idol).  Isn’t all this other stuff just as valuable to their development? I think so.

Hands up, how may of you out there have lied on your RUSH calendar?  Made it up?  Fudged the pages?  My hand is up, actually both hands and feet. Next time the RUSH calendar is due I may just send in an apple….