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Parenting a Child Adopted at Birth

Ron Reigns:

Welcome, and thank you for joining us on Birth Mother Matters in Adoption with Kelly Rourke-Scarry and me, Ron Reigns, where we delve into adoption issues from every angle of the adoption triad.

Speaker 2:

Do what’s best for your kid and yourself because if you can’t take care of yourself, you will not be able to take care of that kid, and that’s not fair.

Speaker 3:

And I know my daughter would be well taken care of with them.

Speaker 4:

Don’t have an abortion; give this child a chance.

Speaker 5:

All I could think about was needing to save my son.

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:

My name is Kelly Rourke-Scarry. I’m the Executive Director, President, and Co-founder of Building Arizona Families Adoption Agency, The Donna K. Evans Foundation, and the creator of the You Before Me Campaign. I have a bachelor’s degree in family studies in human development and a master’s degree in education with an emphasis in school counseling. I was adopted at three days, born to a teen birth mother. Raised in a closed adoption and reunited with my birth mother in 2007. I have worked in the adoption field for over 15 years.

Ron Reigns:

And I’m Ron Reigns. I’ve worked in radio since 1999. I was the co-host of two successful morning shows in Prescott, Arizona. Now I work for my wife, an adoption attorney, and I can combine these two great passions and share them on this podcast.

Ron Reigns:

Today on Birth Mother Matters in Adoption, part one of our two-part series on raising and parenting a child adopted at birth.

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:

And we’re clarifying this because there are so many different types of adoptions, even within our agency of older children, or maybe a grandparent adopting their grandchild, or stepparent adoption. But today, we’re just focusing on raising or parenting a child adopted at birth. So I want to address this topic from different perspectives to open up the gamut of approaches.

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:

One important thing, if you take away anything from this podcast, is this, parenting an adopted child has the same two factors as any other type of parenting a child; you have a parent and a child. And we’re going to learn throughout this podcast that, when you’re parenting a child that was adopted at birth, the significant difference in parenting that child versus parenting a child that is biologically yours is going to be what you add in, not what you take away. And that’s important to remember.

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:

So before we go into some suggestions and ideas, one crucial thing is to break down some variables that may affect a parent, which could be biologically or adopted. And then to go into the parenting styles and find out which parenting style you would like to be and the one that you ideally, in reality, I should say, identify with. In other words, you may want to use this type of parenting style, but in reality, maybe you’re over on this planet.

Ron Reigns:

Right, that makes sense.

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:

Because we all have what type of parent we want to be, a lot of this will apply to parents who have not even adopted a child but are just parenting. And interesting for me because I am parenting my biological children and stepchildren, and I’m not too fond of the word step, but my stepchildren and I were adopted, children. So there’s a lot of dynamics.

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:

So some variables that may impact or affect the way a parent, and then in parentheses parents of the child, would be the gender of the child. Growing up, I was raised in a two-parent family and was never taught how to mow a lawn. My dad did not think that a girl should mow a lawn.

Ron Reigns:

Interesting.

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:

And so, I was never taught how to mow the lawn. And a lot of people say that that’s interesting. And I will tell you-

Ron Reigns:

But I think it’s accurate. Even from a man’s point of view, I thought, Who hasn’t been taught to mow the lawn? And then I thought back to my childhood; my sisters never mowed the lawn; it was always my brother and me. Always. Or my mom. Which is odd because she’s a feminine woman. But yeah, she knew how to mow a lawn and taught us to mow a lawn. But the sisters probably don’t know how to mow a lawn to this day. Okay.

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:

So this is what’s interesting is I have four girls, and not one of them has ever mowed a lawn. And it’s not something that I consciously said, Oh, now they’re not mowing the lawn. The boys do it.

Ron Reigns:

Right.

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:

Gender affects, whether consciously or subconsciously, how we raise our children. Another point would be in the toys we choose for our children. So biologically, I had three girls and a boy. And I remember being stumped walking through, he was three and four, looking at all the toys and thinking, Wow, these are different than the girl toys. And then I’m longingly looking back at the girls, the familiar aisles with the babies.

Ron Reigns:

I want to shop here, not over here.

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:

The bows, yeah. I love my son to death, but cars and trucks that’s very different. And when I had my ultrasound, and we found out that it was a boy, I was stumped because I was sure I was having another girl. And I was excited to have a boy, but then I thought, Oh no, I can’t put a bow on his head. Because I’m the mom with the big bows on her head, and the [inaudible 00:06:03] that, It’s okay honey, just put a truck on his head. And I thought, No, that’s not cute. And then she’s like, or baseball cap, and I think it’s not a bow.

Ron Reigns:

Right. So you’ve had to adjust to that. And there are so many aspects of gender that I mean, I think of my son, when he would fall and scrape his knee, I would be like, Get up and rub some dirt on it, you’re going to be okay. But if I had a girl, I know I would’ve been like, Oh my God. She’s so fragile; she’s going to get broken. I got to pick her up and hold her and nurture that. So just the attitude from your mindset is different.

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:

Right. And exactly the way that if you watch how especially a father speaks to a boy versus how he speaks to girls, it’s very different. And so that is a factor that may impact and affect the way. Sometimes I think we don’t even realize that we’re doing that, like mowing the lawn.

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:

The relationships that a parent has with their parents. You often hear, “Oh, I’m not going to be like my mom when I’m a mom. I’m not doing this. I’m not doing that. But yet you’ll find aspects where you do. Things will come out of your mouth, and you’re like, Oh.

Ron Reigns:

And you step back, and you go, I am my dad or my mom. I’m exactly
like them. Right?

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:

Or you’ll purposely, as a parent, do the opposite just to be… Do you know what I mean? Oh, well, they did this, so now I’m going to take it to another extreme.

Ron Reigns:

My parents screwed up when they did things, so I’m doing it differently. Right?

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:

Right, right, right. Parents’ temperament, education level, culture, socioeconomic status, and influence of their spouse are huge, huge factors. And I lump these all together because when you look at them, you think, Oh, wow. Well, now we’re stereotyping. We’re not stereotyping at all. We’re. This is

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:

So if you have a lazy personality, you’re chill; nothing gets you excited. So if you’re just a chill kind of person and you’re laid back, the chances of you being an authoritarian parent are probably pretty slim, and we’re going to learn about that in a little bit. Because you’re not going to take the energy and effort to hone in on discipline, structure, and respect, that will weigh into parenting.

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:

Your level of education. I have a bachelor’s degree in family studies and human development, and so there are all these theories of how to raise a child and what impacts what. And honestly, many of them, as you’re parenting, fly right out the window. Because at the moment, you’re not thinking, Oh, that cognitive theory, well that needs to come into play right now, as your son has just drawn all over the wall, I have a picture of this or is sitting in the drawer of the silverware as he’s smiling at you because he’s climbed up. So-

Ron Reigns:

[crosstalk 00:09:20] Look at this. Look what I did, mom.

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:

Yeah. You’re not thinking of that moment of, Oh, well, the cognitive theory says that I should respond in this manner. You’re thinking, Oh my gosh, grab him out of a drawer before the drawer collapses.

Ron Reigns:

Before he gets a fork in his leg. Right.

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:

Right. Yeah, absolutely. Culture and socioeconomic status. So this is funny, and all seven of our kids will laugh at this. And my adoptive mom will laugh at this if she hears this podcast. I was raised in an upper-middle-class home, and my adoptive mother is very insistent on table manners. Very, very insistent and-

Ron Reigns:

[Emily Post 00:10:08], right?

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:

Absolutely. She wants everybody at the table, though, to share her philosophy. And it’s a good one. There’s nothing wrong with it. But everybody, myself included, needs to have that standard of table manners to this day. And so she wants everybody to use table manners in preparation for eating, possibly at the White House. Now, none of us are going to eat at the White House.

Ron Reigns:

You never know.

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:

Well. And so all of the kids will say, Okay, it’s eating at the White House, we got to get ready. We’re going to eat as if we’re eating there. So if we go there, we won’t embarrass her, and we’ll show them that we know how to use our silverware, and not put our elbows on the table, and not lean over our food, or smack our lips as we’re eating, or talk with our mouthful. There’s the whole list of what you don’t do.

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:

An example of that would be my biological mother, who’s from West Virginia and wasn’t focused on table manners. That wasn’t something that she would’ve vested time or effort, or energy into.

Ron Reigns:

It wasn’t that high priority. It was-

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:

Right, I wouldn’t believe it was on the list.

Ron Reigns:

Fair enough.

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:

Also, the influence of your spouse. If you have a very diligent spouse who has their parenting values and wants them instilled, that will also affect how you parent because you want to be a cohesive unit.

Ron Reigns:

You want to be a cohesive unit, but you also, in a lot of ways, want to complement each other in the areas. I don’t want to stereotype people, but the father is often authoritarian, whereas the mother is the nurturer. Or a lot of times, I’m sure it’s the opposite, but-

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:

Well, no. I think the way you said it was right. I mean, that’s how as a society, we grew. I mean, the father was the hunter and the gatherer, and he brought in the food, and the mother was at home taking care of the children and raising them. And so, we are still evolving from that. So I think in many ways, that’s still very relevant today.

Ron Reigns:

Right. The father is kind of teaching the values of, Okay, this is how you survive and-

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:

And provide and

Ron Reigns:

Provide for your family when you get old enough. And the mother’s like, And this is how I take care of your wounds when you fall on your knees.

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:

I was going to say the same thing. And this is the mom putting the bandaid on and brushing her hair. Yes. Also, I think personal experiences very much shape how you parent. When I was in high school, I was riding a bike down a bustling street and was in a PE class; it was a bike-riding PE class, which sounds so weird. And I crossed a lane and had the closest near-death experience ever and scared everybody behind me. It scared me. I mean, I could feel the heat from her car. It was awful. And thank goodness she missed.

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:

But to this day, I don’t know that my oldest daughter can ride a bike. If so, barely. My two girls can ride a bike, and my son can, but it’s not something that I ever emphasized. Do you know what I mean? I always kind of held my breath and just… I’m not fond of it. I would never get on a bike again. And so, because of my experience, it, unfortunately, has shaped theirs.

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:

And as much as I’ve tried just not to grimace or look away when I know they’re going to ride a bike, and of course, they’ve got their helmet on and their pads and everything else, and I’m sitting there thinking, Ugh, it still has shaped it.

Ron Reigns:

So I’m curious about your experience because I know how we grew up, again, in the seventies, eighties era. Were you wearing a helmet and pads at the time?

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:

No.

Ron Reigns:

Yeah, because we just didn’t back then. It wasn’t a thing. And now you see all these kids. And again, my initial reaction when I see kids riding around on bikes with helmets it’s always that second glance of, Oh, okay. That’s right. That’s a thing now.

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:

Okay. When I see them, I think, Oh, that’s a good parent. That’s a good parent. And when I see the kids that are not, I try very hard not to be judgemental because I want to be like, Oh, where’s your helmet? I want to lean my head out the window and ask, Where’s your helmet? Go home and put your helmet on.

Ron Reigns:

You’re helicopter parenting other kids. Good job.

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:

Right. So yes, having worked in the school for so long and raising so many of my kids, it’s tough for me not to let that bleed out and- [crosstalk 00:15:08]

Ron Reigns:

That instinct. Yeah.

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:

Parent everybody else’s. So, conscious effort not to. Your employment. So again, I worked in a school, and my oldest daughter was in kindergarten when I started at one of the school districts. And I remember thinking and telling her, “You have to behave here because I’m going to be embarrassed if you go, and you’re naughty in school because it’s going to make me bad.” And you know, she was five and said, “Okay, mom.” She was so cute.

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:

And then I heard a story, and I love this. When I had stopped, obviously, and what moved onto the adoption agency and years later, there was a vice-principal at the school that one of our children went to. And her daughter was, I think, on her phone or doing something during class; she was in sixth or seventh grade that she wasn’t supposed to be doing. And at that moment, the vice-principal became a mom again, marched into the classroom, picked it up in front of all the other students, took it, and walked right back out of the room. And I thought, Good for you. And it was one of those moments where I thought; I hope she wasn’t embarrassed because we’re all parents with kids here, and we get it. I had-

Ron Reigns:

Oh, you hoped the mother wasn’t embarrassed?

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:

Yes.

Ron Reigns:

Who cares if the kid was embarrassed because-

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:

Oh, I did care [inaudible 00:16:39] referring to the mother.

Ron Reigns:

Okay, good. I just wanted to make sure we’re on the same page.

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:

[inaudible 00:16:43] No, not at all. I had another parent who I will never.
Forget. And it was at the first school I worked at, and she had a seventh-grade girl who thought it was cool to skip class. And so obviously, her grades were starting to plummet. She would just ditch all the time. And I spoke with the parent as a school counselor, and I said, No, this is a problem. And the woman was probably eight, eight, and a half months pregnant with another child. And she said I got this. And I thought, Okay. And she said I’m going to be a visitor for a while. And I thought, Okay.

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:

And so what she did was she went with her daughter to every class for the next, it was about a week, maybe ten days. So her daughter was this cool kid with her pregnant mother standing behind her, following her from class to class because they changed classes in seventh grade. So she would sit at the desk right behind her daughter. And anytime her daughter did something that she shouldn’t; she’d lean over and flicker in the ear or tap her shoulder and-

Ron Reigns:

I’m still here, right?

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:

Yeah. And her daughter never missed another class because she did not want her very pregnant mother, and then after she had the baby, she surely didn’t want the baby and her mother sitting behind her. So her excellent status went way down, real quick. I thought it was terrific. And I can tell you all the other kids think; I don’t want that. I don’t. No, thank you.

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:

I did become that mother a few times. When my oldest daughter had to wear glasses, she didn’t want to wear them. And it was before we got her contacts. And I remember thinking, Okay. So when there were school functions and my younger ones had Halloween parades or something like that, I would walk over to where her grade level would be.

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:

And there was this one time where she’s supposed to have her glasses on, and she’s sitting there hanging out with the very boy I told her she did not need to hang out with. So I walked over, put my arm around her, guided her away, and asked her where her glasses were and why she was standing next to him. And I remember her thinking, Oh. She was just groaning.

Ron Reigns:

Mom.

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:

Because she’s like, You’re here. And I said I’m always here. That’s what I… Do you know what I mean? I’m always here.

Ron Reigns:

You can’t get away with anything. Right. I love it.

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:

So, when they say that socioeconomic status, I want to go back to that, which is a factor. It can because you talk about, Oh, well, I’m going to put my child in a private school or I’m going to put… It’s not that you can parent better. It’s just that you may have different choices available to you if you have a different status or a different socioeconomic status. It’s not. It’s better or worse.

Ron Reigns:

And you may have different priorities as well.

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:

Well, I mean, maybe you have to work more. Maybe to make that income level, you have to work more, and you have to employ a nanny, which will then take away some of the influence of your parenting. So there are trade-ins and trade-outs.

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:

We made mistakes as parents when we were younger; I know I try to steer my kids away from making those same mistakes. So I hope my adoptive mother is not listening at the moment, but I did, admittedly, sneak out the window because I was on the first floor at night. Yeah. I know, shocking. When I was a teenager-

Ron Reigns:

I think I have a heart attack over here. Good Kelly is sneaking out.

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:

I did. Yeah. I will say that all our doors and windows have alarms. So I will know if they’re ever opened.

Ron Reigns:

Because you know the tricks, right?

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:

That’s a mistake mine aren’t going to make.

Ron Reigns:

Good for you. Excellent.

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:

Yes. So is there any that you can think of? Mistakes that you made that you were able to curtail for your son?

Ron Reigns:

As far as when I was a kid, as opposed to when I became a parent, I’m like, Okay, I know I need to watch for this. Nothing precisely, but absolutely the ideas of, I know how I thought as a kid or as a teenager and what I thought I could get away with. And yeah, you close those curtains, you say, Okay, you’re not going to get away the way I did.

Ron Reigns:

And so I can’t think… Like I said, nothing specific, but I know exactly what you’re talking about, and you do. And you’re hoping they do the same as they get older. You want the next generation to improve each time and get better at parenting or being a kid and stuff. So, yeah.

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:

Yeah. So it’s funny. So social media can influence the way, you parent. So I unfortunately am… We’re all living in this social media time. And it is not easy, and I think it complicates parenting because of the influences that come in, and your kid wants to be calm and be on social media. And yet, at the same time, you have to weigh the risks and the consequences of what can happen.

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:

And I am diligent, checking social media, being on it, and trying to monitor it. And yet, I mean, the apps that come, I mean, Instagram and Snapchat and then TikTok. And I’m still trying to figure out how Snapchat works, and now there’s TikTok. And now TikTok is this new thing and-

Ron Reigns:

I’m stuck on Myspace. Grandpa Ron is over here with his MySpace.

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:

Yeah, yeah. TikTok isn’t your future.

Ron Reigns:

Huh?

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:

And I remember when I first heard it, I thought, Oh, that’s the name of a song. And I thought I was more with it than they think.

Ron Reigns:

Mom’s cool.

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:

Yeah. Not knowing, social media app.

Ron Reigns:

Yeah. And these things pop up, and you never know which one will be the next popular one? Who’s going to be the next Facebook or the next Twitter? And I can’t even name them all, Vigo and TikTok, and there’s a bunch of them, and I’m like, I’m not getting into all that. Thankfully, my son’s grown.

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:

Uncle Ron, we have four teenagers. So anytime you want an education on any social media, I will be happy to send one up there. I’ll even put a bow on their head.

Ron Reigns:

Would you?

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:

You can choose. You got two of each.

Ron Reigns:

Send a boy with a bow. Thank you.

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:

You got it. Outside perceptions, I mean, when you walk into the grocery store, you don’t want to be that mom screaming at your child. And as they’re grabbing for the candy and asking every three steps, can I have that? Can I have that? Can I have that? Can I have that? And so you’re trying to… You do want; I think most of us want.

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:

People do look at it and be like, Oh, okay. Every day, they’re not like a single file duck line. They’re not… I mean, that would be nice, but it’s not realistic. You know, I’ve got one kid hanging off of a grocery cart, the other kid’s running in circles, the other one’s bringing me all this stuff they think we need.

Ron Reigns:

Mom, we need this 30-pound bag of rice. Why?

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:

Right. Yeah.

Ron Reigns:

Because it’s fun to carry. That’s why.

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:

And so it’s you just don’t, I mean, you walk in the aisle, and you’re like, Okay, if you’re perfect throughout the grocery store, you can pick one thing. And of course, they pick the family-size jumbo bag of [Takis 00:25:01], you know what I mean? So you’re thinking, Okay. I was thinking of a Kit Kat, not the 50-pound bag of

Ron Reigns:

Yeah. Not the Costco size Takis.

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:

Right.

Ron Reigns:

Now, who’s worse about that, though? I’m curious because I know Adam, your husband, very well. And I know he loves those Takis; who’s worse about the Takis, the kids or Adam?

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:

He will buy them, give them to the kids, and then share them with them.

Ron Reigns:

Okay.

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:

So he won’t buy himself a bag, and he’s the most generous person in the world.

Ron Reigns:

Oh, absolutely.

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:

So he will buy all of them. Each a bag and then partake.

Ron Reigns:

Okay. Fair enough.

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:

Yeah, he’s good. And I will tell you that they get much more when they go with him. He is… As I said, he will buy them They love to go to the store with him because he’s way more generous-

Ron Reigns:

He’s going to spoil them.

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:

Yes, whereas I am more of the no mom. No. No. No.

Ron Reigns:

I’ll tell you what, kids, you get one Twix, and you got to split it. Right. Each. You get the left; you get the right. That’s all.

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:

And remember the rule too. The person who breaks it doesn’t get the first choice.

Ron Reigns:

Right. Absolutely.

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:

Yeah. When you have this many kids, we have it all broken down. We got this; we got this in spades.

Ron Reigns:

And this is where we’ll pick it up next time for part two of our two-part series on raising and parenting a child adopted at birth. Thank you for joining us on Birth Mother Matters in Adoption. If you’re listening and you’re dealing with an unplanned pregnancy and want more information about adoption, Building Arizona Families is a local Arizona adoption
agency and available 24/7 by phone or text at 623-695-4112, that’s 6-2-3-6-9-5-4-1-1-2.

Ron Reigns:

We can make an immediate appointment with you to start creating an Arizona adoption plan or just get you more information. You can also find more information about Building Arizona Families on their website at azpregnancyhelp.com.

Ron Reigns:

Thanks also to Grapes for allowing us to use their song I Don’t Know as our theme song. Birth Mother Matters in Adoption was written and produced by Kelly Rourke-Scarry and edited by me. Please rate and review this podcast wherever you’re listening to us. We’d appreciate it. We also now have a website at birthmothermatterspodcast.com. Tune in next time on Birth Mother Matters in Adoption for Kelly Rourke-Scarry; I’m Ron Reigns.

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