Amy Klatzkin on Jane Brown
When we held our first Playshops in San Francisco, many parents were worried--not so much about Jane, who had spoken here several times and contributed a number of helpful articles to our newsletter, but about how they were doing as parents and whether their kids were OK. Others who were unfamiliar with Jane worried that she might make their kids think thoughts that would disturb them. But they came anyway--in fact, we had twice the number we expected. For those with major concerns, Jane was available for phone calls and email not only at home in Arizona but the entire time she was in San Francisco, and many parents attended the followup session to ask questions and discuss their worries. For the parents, the playshops brought up a lot of anxiety, a lot of entitlement issues.
By contrast, the kids had a blast. These playshops are fun as well as educational, with lots of physical activities and role playing. Many of the kids arrived at the Playshops nervous and left relaxed. It's quite an experience for them to hear that other kids just like them think about the same things they think about (but often don't tell us because they don't know how).
For example, we learned that among the children who did not attend school in San Francisco (where the majority of school children are Asian), all had been teased for being Chinese; and absolutely all of them had been teased for being adopted. They shared ways to handle teasing and felt empowered by recognizing that they were not alone. They felt more in control. Although they realized that they couldn't stop people from saying hurtful things, they learned new ways to handle situations that we parents simply can't protect them from. At school, our kids are on their own and they have to deal with whatever nonsense their classmates come up with about Chineseness or adoption. At Playshop our kids learn that THEY are the experts on adoption, that they have choices about how to respond.
Jane really emphasizes the strength they have in one another, the very special relationship they have with children who share this part of their story. And we parents could see it in the way they interacted after the Playshops. There was more tenderness, more physical closeness among them, especially the older ones to the younger ones. And no one wanted to go home!
After the older kids' session we parents were ready to pack up, but the kids did not want to separate. Jane joined about 10 families for dinner at a nearby Chinese restaurant. And still the kids did not want to leave each other. So we walked up a big hill to get ice cream. And STILL they did not want to go home. We wandered over to a cafe to view a photo exhibit of multicultural families. By then it was 8 PM, 6 hours after the start of their Playshop, and the parents were beat, but the kids were still energized and reluctant to be apart.
Last November we had our second set of Playshops with Jane, and the atmosphere for the parents was completely different. Parental anxiety was very low, and though a few kids were reluctant to come (it's hard to stir up that pot), they all showed up and stayed and once again came out of the Playshop invigorated and physically close to each other. The follow up session on Sunday was well attended but low key; parents were more curious, less worried. The kids, meanwhile, had a riotous soccer game with adult Korean adoptees: FCC vs AKA, and FCC miraculously won.
One of the big lessons my child is learning from these Playshops is to value her adopted peers for the special life experiences they share, and she's taken a new interest in the many little FCCers she used to ignore. Jane helps our children see that they are part of something big, that they have a role to play in learning what this all means and passing on their knowledge and experience to the children coming after them. She helps them see themselves not as victims of a sad past but owners of brilliant lives whose futures are theirs to create. Without glossing over past losses, Jane helps them see that sometimes the hardest experiences in life offer the greatest opportunities for growth. Over time, these playshops will be a great source of strength for our kids.
Go back to the Jane Brown archive.
Jane Brown is both an adoption social worker/educator and an adoptive & foster mother of nine children, some of whom are now grown. She lives and works in Arizona. She serves on the editorial board of Adoptive Families Magazine and writes a regular parenting column for the publication. She is the creator of Adoptive Playshops which is a series of workshops for adopted children age five+, their non-adopted siblings, and adoptive parents in which children are helped through playful, multisensory activities to explore growing up in an adoptive family and racial identity, plus develop skills for dealing with societal attitudes and beliefs about adoption and includes helping children resist and confront racism and bullying. She can be reached at: email@example.com or at: (602) 690-5338.