My junior high school had grades seven through nine. Of course, seventh grade was the most difficult as we combined several different elementary schools together for the junior high level. Suddenly you are thrown into a big, two-story, brick building where you don’t know where anything is. Just trying to remember where your locker is can be a challenge, let alone remembering the combination to the lock attached to it. Thankfully, there are familiar faces that make you feel more comfortable as you navigate this new territory. And of course, there are guidance counselors to help you find your way around.
If you are lucky enough to survive seventh and eighth grade, you are now part of the upper-classmen known as the ninth graders. You can participate in more of the group activities and not be laughed at anymore for trying. I had participated in student council in the seventh grade but chose to leave it for the drill team in eighth and ninth grades. I wanted to be a part of something big and being a cheerleader was out of the question as I could not do a backbend to save my life, let alone a hurkie! The drill team sounded like fun.
Dancing with a group of girls requires a lot of hard work and hours of practice. Not to mention the fact that there is always girl drama. You must listen to your coach and to the team captains. You must learn the choreography required for each routine and stay in pristine physical condition. When you step on the basketball court or football field, all eyes are on you. If you mess up, you just keep on dancing in hopes that no one noticed. Most of all you just keep smiling. That’s the key to success on the dance floor. Keep smiling!
I continued to be part of a dance team throughout high school and eventually became one of those with seniority that others had to listen to. It’s a fun but challenging position. With authority comes responsibility. The relationships made along the way become cherished friendships throughout your life. The girl drama never goes away but you get through it as you face both victory and defeat at each competition you attend together. Learning to dance as a team can be a beautiful thing.
I enjoyed being part of a dance team so much that later in life I decided I wanted to be a dance team coach. When the position became available at our local high school I was eager to apply. Certain that others were more qualified I anxiously applied anyway. I was so excited when I got the call that I had been hired for the position. It was a challenge just to get the program going again after a brief hiatus. Gathering girls for workshops between their jobs and social activities wasn’t always easy. I couldn’t understand why if I was making a commitment for them, why they couldn’t do the same thing in return. Dance was my passion and I wanted it to be theirs too.
Much like performing in front of an audience, adoption can be scary. It is new territory and you aren’t always sure of the steps. Once you have completed the adoption process, you have a whole new routine to learn. You have made it through the choreography leading up to your adoption as adoptive parents. You have even made it to the performance of the court date. You are now officially adoptive parents with a lifetime of performances ahead of you.
Music is made up of beats. When teaching choreography it is common to use counts of eight for each movement. This makes it easier to break down each move during practices. Therefore, I have chosen to use eight steps to compare dancing and the adoption process.
Before any performance there is work and preparation that needs to be done:
Step 1 – choose music
Step 2 – decide on choreographer
Step 3 – compose choreography
Step 4 – choose an appropriate costume for routine
Step 5 – teach choreography to dancers
Step 6 – choose which dancers will perform
Step 7 – practice! Practice! Practice!
Step 8 – final performance
With adoption there is also a lot of work and preparation that needs to be done:
Step 1 – decide to place as an expectant parent or to adopt as an adoptive parent
Step 2 – choose an agency or private attorney to assist in the adoption process
Step 3 – Decide what kind of adoption you would like; open, semi-open, or closed adoption
Step 4 – begin and complete necessary paperwork; home study, a parent profile, expectant mother letter, etc.
Step 5 – choose an adoptive family or be chosen as an adoptive parent
Step 6 – if appropriate with your plan, you may meet the expectant mother and the adoptive parents before the baby is born
Step 7 – the baby is born and the transition is made
Step 8 – the final performance: adoption
After the adoption is completed, the real-life work begins. Dancing often involves more than one person. There are, of course, solo routines when a person dances alone. But the performer must still be in tune with the feeling and emotion of the music and the choreography. Dancing by yourself may be easier because you don’t have to work with someone else, but you also have to be alone in your performance and have no one else to rely on.
Most of the time dance performances are done in pairs or groups, this requires communication and respect for the other dancers. In order for the performance to be its best, there is a lot of work and many hours of practice involved. Sometimes tensions get high during rehearsals and compromises must be made. This is when the coach has to step in and make the final decisions, often at the expense of members of the team. A coach isn’t always popular with the team but she must do what she considers is best for all involved.
A family can be compared to a team. There must be communication and trust in a relationship. Even in biological family units, there can be chaos and confusion. When you add the dynamic of adoption things can become more complicated. In “The Soul of Adoption,” Catherin E. Poelman says, “It is the amount of family commitment that’s important, and ensuing unity may be tied to a force stronger and even more compelling than inherited similarities. The closeness of individuals within families could predominate by virtue of the connection between their souls. Clearly, it is the exertion of family members to nurture unity that builds character and steels love.”
In order for a team to have a successful performance, it involves a lot of work and commitment. The choreography must be in sync and the team members must know where their place on the floor is. If directions aren’t followed it can lead to disaster on the dance floor. In the family unit, the parents act as the coaches. They are in charge of the choreography of the family. They may choose to assign chores to family members that are appropriate for the ages of the children. Chores are necessary to make a house function properly, If one member of the family puts off their duty it can cause disruption in the household. This often causes contention in other areas of the family dynamic Catherine E. Poelman goes on to say, ”Family members who kindly and persistently work through their problems build enduring and constructive relationships.”
According to “Engaging Families in Dance,” “Of all the things we do, interaction with others is perhaps the most important, and least predictable. When we interact with another person, even a stranger, our attention becomes structured by external demands. In more intimate encounters, the level of both challenges and skills can grow very high. A successful interaction involves finding some compatibility between our goals and those of the other person or persons, and becoming willing to invest attention in the other person.” Adoption involves several different people who must all learn to work together as a team. Finding a common bond in a relationship can help that relationship grow. The best interest of the adoptee is usually the common goal in an adoption scenario. Each member of the team must learn his or her place in order for the process to run smoothly, much like a dance performance.
The expectant mother plays a key role in the adoption triad. She is the first to make a move and will determine how the rest of the routine goes. If the transition from birth mother to adoptive parents is to run smoothly, all parties must be in tune and follow the planned course of action. In a dance production, if one member of the team forgets her part of the routine it can throw off the entire performance. Thus creating a possible disaster on the dance floor. If the dynamics of an adoption get disrupted it could be potential for an unsuccessful adoption. It is imperative that all steps are followed in order.
During the years I was coach of the high school dance team there were a lot of decisions to be made. My decisions were not always popular with the team members. However, being the coach, I had the ultimate say in what happened. The expectant mother is much like the coach of a team. She determines how and where her baby will be placed, with the guidance of her attorney or adoption agency assisting her in the decision-making process. The team must follow her lead to have the desired outcome.
The word dance can have different meanings. Just as people move in different ways as they interpret the music they listen to, adoption can be either a negative or positive experience. Depending on how you view it. An expectant mother can look at her situation as sad, overwhelming, and scary or she can view it with optimism, joy, and excitement for the future. An adoptive couple can wonder what the future holds for them as they hold a newborn infant in their arms for the first time with gratitude or confusion. An adopted child can be grateful for the life they have been given or constantly wonder “what if?”
Dance can signify joy or celebration. The act of dancing is linked with rhythm and transforming time into motion. Adoption can be a time of joy and celebration too. In my experiences, it has been just that. Although each of our adopted children came to us in very different circumstances, each situation brought about both immediate happiness and lasting joy. There was definitely cause for celebration in both instances. I feel gratitude each day for the gift of my biological and adopted children. Integrating the two can be a struggle at times, but just as in dancing, steps can be adjusted to meet the needs of the entire family. If the dance steps are in unison, the performance goes well. If the family unit is in harmony, then the family functions as it should.
I asked a friend of mine, who is a dance instructor, what comes to mind when she thinks of the word dance. She said it is “an outward expression of your emotion or passion. Dance is the ability to tell a story or experience through movement.” She goes on to say that “dance can be a safe place and for some, it soothes the soul.” Adoption can likewise be a safe place and soothe the soul. For a birth mother, she can find peace in knowing her child is safe and loved. An adoptive couple can find solace knowing they can give a child a safe home and provide a refuge from the storms of life. An adoptee can find safety in the arms of her adoptive parents and know that she is loved. Adoption is a dance that when choreographed correctly will have a lifetime of beautiful performances. Just remember to keep smiling!
Cindy Hill has seen all sides of the adoption triad throughout her life. At the age of 9, she watched as her sister placed her baby for adoption. She married her high school sweetheart who had two adopted siblings and later adopted two of their six children. Adoption is a blessing in her life. Cindy and her husband recently sold their home of 26 years and became empty-nesters. They currently live in a destination trailer on their oldest daughter’s property along with their two dogs and a small herd of cattle. Cindy’s hobbies include going to garage sales, decorating, teaching piano lessons, spending time with grandchildren, and writing. She is a Teacher’s Aide in the Science department of a charter school. She and her husband also enjoy traveling together. Writing gives Cindy a chance to reflect on life and look at it from other points of view as well.