GUEST POST: Unsolicited Parenting Advice in Belgium

GUEST POST: Unsolicited Parenting Advice in Belgium

Penguin&PantherSometimes I’m really weary of explaining. To grannies in the supermarket. To teenage girls at the playground. To fellow mums at school.

My daughter is clearly adopted, yes. She’s from Ethiopia, yes. She’s had a rough start, yes. She’s lost part of her eyesight, yes. And she’s got some countless more issues, yes.

But she’s still a four year old. And I’m her mother. I’m raising her my way. Just like I’m raising her big brother, who is blond and looks a bit too much like me.

The big difference between raising my daughter and raising my son, is that people seem to feel a kind of responsibility towards my girl. It feels like adopted children are in a way public.

I do understand how we stand out, in our not so worldly little town. We are getting used to the extra attention she brings with her, although I admit I have been thinking to teach her to growl when a stranger touches her hair and skin unasked.

We were prepared for all this. We knew we were going to feel like we have arrows flashing around our heads when taking her out. Now that she’s been with us for two years, we’ve all grown a thick skin, filled with humor. We have a series of catchy replies to go with all the ridiculous questions. The next one who dares to ask me what we feed her, will be answered ‘grass’, without even a blink.

But I still can’t really cope with all the unwanted ‘advice’ we get about raising her. When my son was little, I never ever had some stranger giving him candy or cookies. I never had to explain myself in the supermarket when I refused to let him take everything he wished for. And I certainly didn’t have to listen to people telling me how neglectful I was for letting him cry out a tantrum.

With my daughter, I do have those encounters. This one time in the supermarket, I was truly abashed. I had just taken away some nasty sugar bombs from my daughter’s hands and put them back, much against the little miss’s wishes. An elderly lady came over, took the candy and handed them over to my girl again. I was confused, believing she misunderstood. So I explained I didn’t want to buy that rubbish for her. At that moment she cursed me for being so horrible towards that poor little black girl that has been hungry all her life. She put the candy in my cart, ordered me to buy it, and took off while nodding her head.

At such encounters – yes, plural – I have the urge to scream.

For one thing. She’s NOT a poor little girl. She’s in most ways an ordinary four year old preschooler. She can throw the worst tantrums I ever witnessed, just because I can’t peel an apple while driving my car or because I can’t make the Easter bunny magically appear in August. The last one was about having only six colors of nail polish to choose from. Poor girl indeed.

But most importantly, I’M THE ONE raising that ‘poor little girl’. Of course we are aware of her issues, mostly the ones regarding attachment and anxieties. We try to give her everything she needs, truck loads of patience and care which unfortunately aren’t always replenished in time. But she doesn’t need everything she wants. Just like any other child doesn’t. Unless you plan to end up with a spoiled brat that demands a yellow sports car at age eighteen.

Spoiling her will not make right all the things she missed out in the first two years of her life. Maybe that sounds harsh and loveless, but I can assure you it isn’t meant that way. I cry with her when she mourns her lost heritage, when she is homesick. I’ve swallowed away rivers of tears all those times I had to explain her history to medical doctors and hospital professors.

But I can’t raise my daughter based on pity alone.

This is a first-time, guest contribution to World Moms Blog from our friend and mother of The Penguin and the Panther in Belgium, Katinka. Her Flemish blog is in transition over to an English-only blog. Stay posted to World Moms Blog for more from Katinka.

The photograph of the author’s daughter used in this post is credited to the author.

World Moms Blog

World Moms Blog is an award winning website which writes from over 30 countries on the topics of motherhood, culture, human rights and social good. Over 70 international contributors share their stories from around the globe, bonded by the common thread of motherhood and wanting a better world for their children. World Moms Blog was listed by Forbes Woman as one of the "Best 100 Websites for Women 2012 & 2013" and also called a "must read" by the NY Times Motherlode in 2013. Our Senior Editor in India, Purnima Ramakrishnan, was awarded the BlogHer International Activist Award in 2013.

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FLORIDA, USA: Responsibility, should not be a chore.

FLORIDA, USA: Responsibility, should not be a chore.

Teaching Responsibility.  Responsibility comes in many forms.

I have two girls. They provide constant blog fodder. For the most part, they are okay with that. I even run certain posts by them for approval – after all, it is their story as much as it is mine.

As a parent, we get to help write the stories of our children. The ebb and flow of day-to-day becoming the chapters of their lives through experience and exposure to the world around them.

About a year ago, I wrote a post here called Raising Responsible Citizens. Raising children who are globally aware and are understanding of the need to make a difference in the world is something that is very dear to my heart. It makes me proud to say that my girls have an awareness of the plight of others and the need to be involved. They know the positivity their actions can achieve in bringing change and that their voices can indeed be heard around the world.

This post is a chapter in that book of life on responsibility…because responsibility is a funny thing. We can teach our children about the world and its people, we can teach them laws and rights, and we start when they are just toddlers with the basics of what is right and what is wrong.  But what about basic responsibility…let me clarify. (more…)

Sisters From Another Mister

Sisters From Another Mister ... A blog born from the love of 'sisters' around the world who come together to lift eachother up no matter where they are on their life journey. Meet Nicole, a transplanted British born, South African raised, and American made Mom of two girls living on the sunny shores of South Florida, USA. A writer of stories, an avid picture taker and a keeper of shiny memories. Sharing the travels of a home school journey that takes place around the globe - because 'the world truly is our classroom'. Throw in infertility, adoption, separation, impending divorce (it has its own Doom and Gloom category on the blog) and a much needed added side of European humor is what keeps it all together on the days when it could quite clearly simply fall apart! This segues nicely into Finding a Mister for a Sister for continued amusement. When not obsessing over the perils of dating as an old person, saving the world thro organisations such as being an ambassador for shot@life, supporting GirlUP, The UN Foundation, and being a member of the Global Team of 200 for social good keeps life in the balance. Be sure to visit, because 'even tho we may not have been sisters at the start, we are sisters from the heart.' Global Team of 200 #socialgoodmoms Champion for Shot@Life and The United Nations Foundation

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SOCIAL GOOD: The Life of a Special Needs Orphan

SOCIAL GOOD: The Life of a Special Needs Orphan

Lauren with her son adopted from Hong Kong on the day the adoption was finalized in court.

There is no denying the stress and challenges that often accompany living life with a disability or chronic illness.  As a mom to a child with significant special needs, I am keenly aware of those daily challenges. With the support of family, however, many children born with special needs go on to live healthy, meaningful lives. But for children around the globe who live in orphanages and lack access to a family unit and good medical care, being born with special needs most often means a life-long sentence of institutionalization and neglect.  My son was almost one such statistic.

In 2011, my family and I traveled to Hong Kong, China to adopt a four-year old child with autism and significant cognitive delay.  After living in two different orphanages, international adoption was his last option before being sent to a mental institution to live out the remainder of his life.

UNICEF estimates that there are approximately 143 million orphaned children around the globe.  There are no hard statistics on how many of those are special needs children. (more…)

Lauren @Hike.Blog.Love. (USA)

Lauren is a lover of nature, an avid hiker and mama to two boys adopted from across the globe—one who happens to have autism. She is passionate about special needs adoption and the great outdoors. You can find Lauren blogging about all of her adventures at "", Hike Blog Love. where she hopes to inspire others to get outdoors and explore. She fiercely believes that adventure is for all.

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NIGERIA: Perfect Fit

I wish I could say that my path to adoption was an unselfish, altruistic one, but the truth is my husband and I just wanted to be parents…plain and simple.

The “old fashioned way” wasn’t working and after four years of testing, trying and surgeries to find out what wasn’t working, we had an epiphany at an adoption seminar we attended.  The woman who was speaking said her goal  “was to be a parent, not to have a baby.”

Those simple words seemed to make time stand still for me.   That was my goal, too!!  I had put so much pressure on myself to have a biological child, and I felt like such a failure when it just wasn’t happening.  It was like a weight had been lifted from my shoulders.

When we brought our seven month old home from Guatemala, we thought he was the most gorgeous, perfect thing we had ever seen! He fit right into our family so perfectly it was as if he had always been with us.  I quit my job teaching and stayed home to be with him full time, and as he got a bit older, we joined a few play groups.  That was when some of the reality of adoption set in.  (more…)

Meredith (USA)

Meredith finds it difficult to tell anyone where she is from exactly! She grew up in several states, but mainly Illinois. She has a Bachelor of Science degree in Elementary Education from the University of Illinois at Champaign/Urbana which is also where she met her husband. She taught kindergarten for seven years before she adopted her son from Guatemala and then gave birth to her daughter two years leter. She moved to Lagos, Nigeria with her husband and two children in July 2009 for her husband's work. She and her family moved back to the U.S.this summer(August 2012) and are adjusting to life back in the U.S. You can read more about her life in Lagos and her adjustment to being back on her blog: We Found Happiness.

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HUMAN RIGHTS: A Voice for Children in Vietnam

HUMAN RIGHTS: A Voice for Children in Vietnam

Photo of writer holding and meeting her son for the first time in the orphanage in Saigon, Vietnam.

On a hot, steamy day in August of 2008, my husband and I stepped off of an airplane in Saigon, Vietnam.   Mere moments after touching down in this faraway land, we found ourselves standing outside of an orphanage in the sweltering summer heat, waiting to meet someone we had only seen in pictures.

And that’s when it happened; my life changed in two very important ways. An eleven-month old child was placed into my arms, and in an instant I was simultaneously transformed into a first-time mother as well as an advocate for the voiceless children of the world.

Looking back, it is hard to believe that such a profound change in how I defined myself could have happened in a single, solitary moment.  Months later I would realize how that one moment would end up overthrowing and redirecting the entire trajectory of my life.

After returning home, I started thinking about all the children we had seen in Vietnam, especially the ones residing in the orphanage. Once you see their faces, you cannot forget them.  Those of us in the international adoption community know this truth all too well: life in an orphanage is hard, and it can be devastating physically, emotionally and mentally.

As I witnessed my son struggle through his own post-institutional trauma, it seemed that I carried the images of his orphanage mates with me constantly.  I would stare at my son and be overtaken with a sense of responsibility to help take care of those we left behind. I had no idea where to start. I began researching about the plight of children, families and orphans in Vietnam. (more…)

World Moms Blog

World Moms Blog is an award winning website which writes from over 30 countries on the topics of motherhood, culture, human rights and social good. Over 70 international contributors share their stories from around the globe, bonded by the common thread of motherhood and wanting a better world for their children. World Moms Blog was listed by Forbes Woman as one of the "Best 100 Websites for Women 2012 & 2013" and also called a "must read" by the NY Times Motherlode in 2013. Our Senior Editor in India, Purnima Ramakrishnan, was awarded the BlogHer International Activist Award in 2013.

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CANADA: Growing Up As An Adopted Child

A few days after my firstborn son graced us with his presence, I sat in my living room cradling him while he slept. I was chatting with my parents, who had traveled from South Africa to herald the arrival of their first grandchild. I looked down at my sleeping baby and my heart filled with so much love that I thought I was going to burst. Softly, I said, “Giving away a baby must be the hardest decision in the world for a mom.”

As I uttered those words, I was thinking of the circumstances of my own birth.

Having a baby out of wedlock was considered to be a social disgrace 42 years ago – so much so that when my birth mother became pregnant, she left town in order to avoid telling her parents. Sometimes I try to put myself in the shoes of this woman who was young and frightened, living in a strange city far away from everyone she knew, and trying to decide on the fate of her unborn child. (more…)

Kirsten Doyle (Canada)

Kirsten Doyle was born in South Africa. After completing university, she drifted for a while and finally washed up in Canada in 2000. She is Mom to two boys who have reached the stage of eating everything in sight (but still remaining skinny). Kirsten was a computer programmer for a while before migrating into I.T. project management. Eventually she tossed in the corporate life entirely in order to be a self-employed writer and editor. She is now living her best life writing about mental health and addictions, and posting videos to two YouTube channels. When Kirsten is not wrestling with her kids or writing up a storm, she can be seen on Toronto's streets putting many miles onto her running shoes. Every year, she runs a half-marathon to benefit children with autism, inspired by her older son who lives life on the autism spectrum. Final piece of information: Kirsten is lucky enough to be married to the funniest guy in the world. Connect with her on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Be sure to check out her YouTube channels at My Gen X Life and Word Salad With Coffee!

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