The Student News Site of Rock Bridge High School

Bearing News

The Student News Site of Rock Bridge High School

Bearing News

The Student News Site of Rock Bridge High School

Bearing News


Adoptees seek understanding

The sun had set, and the caretakers of the daycare were waiting for the last pair of parents to arrive. Sophomores Rashad and Sean Huggins’ parents, however, never showed up; instead, when the daycare facility called the parents, they said they no longer wanted their children.

At the ages of three, the twin brothers went to a foster home, the first of five.

The foster care attendants “didn’t want to split us up,” Rashad said. “They would ask people, ‘We got two kids, and we don’t want to split them up.’ [If] they wanted two [kids], then we would go, and if they only wanted one, then we wouldn’t go.”

The journey ended, Rashad said, when a family that couldn’t have any more children met the brothers in St. Louis. After four months of indecision, the family adopted the eight-year-olds, this was an occurrence one-third as likely as with one-year-olds between 1999 and 2011 according to Intercountry Adoption Statistics.

“I didn’t even [know] what [adoption] meant,” Rashad said. The family “told us. … We were adopted, and I didn’t know what to say. I was surprised, and like, ‘What does that mean?’ and they told us, and they kept on telling us.”

The twins learned they had two older, blood-related brothers, whom their grandmother had adopted before Rashad and Sean were born. She had adopted the older brothers for the same reason Rashad and Sean were put for adoption: a gang-affiliated dad and a mother on drugs. Incapable of raising two more children, their grandmother couldn’t also adopt Rashad and Sean.

“I don’t know anything about,” his older brothers, Sean said. “I was surprised, but then I didn’t do anything because I don’t really know them.”

Neither Rashad nor Sean has a recollection of his biological family or the life he lived before adoption; all he has are stories and papers.

“I was trying to find out, maybe last year. I was going through files and stuff in my house,” Rashad said, “and I found a little paper, and it says stuff that we used to do and what I used to eat and what the foster lady said I used to do, and she gave it to my parents. … My brother looks like my mom, and I look like my dad, but that’s all I know.”

Junior Rachel Shenker, however, was able to find a height, an eye color, an old location and a name for her birth mom in adoption documents; for her birth dad, she learned nothing. She isn’t sure her birth mom knows his identity either.

She hopes to one day learn more about her family and meet her birth mom, for whom she began a search two years ago. Shenker’s intentions are common to 72 percent of adolescent adoptees, according to Adoption Statistics: Birth Family Search.

“I just want to talk to her and find out what we have in common, if we have anything in common,” Shenker said. “Just kind of get to know her, and I had kind of like to have whatever relationship she would like to have [with me;] even it’s just [being] Facebook friends —That’s fine.”

Despite this unusual endeavor, however, adoption is a normal part of Shenker’s life. Her adoptive parents never made the situation a big deal and being adopted never bothered her. Still, she has tried to rationalize her birth mom’s reasoning behind putting Shenker up for adoption.

“I think about it regularly. I understand, and I am not mad about it. My mom was young — early, early 20s, maybe late teens. She couldn’t handle having a baby at that time, and so she did what she thought was best, which was putting me up for adoption,” Shenker said. “But I want to know why [she chose to do that] and what was going on in her life during the time.”

Rashad Huggins said he is glad to have left his biological family behind. He said if he hadn’t, he would have followed in his father’s tracks and ended up in a gang or somewhere even worse.

“I would either be dead or in jail by now because we were living in a bad neighborhood when we were with them, and they knew they couldn’t take care of us so that’s [why] they gave us away,” Rashad said. “I don’t know where I would be today if [my adoptive parents] didn’t adopt me.”

Senior Nick de Jong knows exactly where he would be if his birth parents hadn’t given him up for adoption. With a biological dad of Apache and Oneida descent, senior Nick de Jong would be living on a Native American reservation in Lawrence, Kan., something his birth mom, who he meets once or twice a year, told him. His name would have been Anthony Tobias.

“I have always wondered what it would be like growing up with them, but I can understand how hard it would be,” de Jong said. “My mom was 15; my dad was 16. They broke up right after [I was born] too. [I know] how hard it would be to be growing up and being kids still and having a kid.”

De Jong’s adoptive mom knew his birth parents through business, and, as an adopted child herself, she felt strongly about de Jong’s situation. Eight weeks later, the first Kansas-Missouri border adoption through fax took place.

Amy de Jong, Nick de Jong’s adoptive mother, said the process ran smoothly. She saw Nick as her son the moment she saw him.

“He was our child whether he came from out of me or not,” Amy said. “What I always wanted to be was a parent. How I got there I really didn’t care.”

Nick’s sister, sophomore Molly de Jong, said the fact that her brother is adopted is an insignificant part of her life.

She feels just as connected to him as she does to her parents, with whom she shares a blood relation.

“There’s nothing different,” Molly said. “I just asked questions [when I found out about the adoption], and we just kind of bond.”

After being raised with his adoptive family, Nick also wants to adopt when he’s old enough to have a family of his own.

“I feel obligated to do it because [I got] family [that way],” Nick said. “I know that I have benefited definitely from it — being raised in a really young household probably would really mess me up in some way, where here I feel somewhat normal.”
By Shivangi Singh

Cultures support arranged marriage

The human race has few things under its complete control. Even though humans can’t regulate the weather or whether a bus will hit them, many people can count on controlling who they marry. When one looks at the world from another perspective, however, this may not be such a common thought.

Various countries around the world, including India, Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Japan, still arrange marriages for their youth. But arranged marriages vary by religion, and the common misconception that an arranged marriage means being forced to marry the person the parents select without a meeting is sometimes incorrect.

Junior Mariam Al-Shaar, who is from an Islamic family, said she will eventually have an arranged marriage, but not until she is older and has approved the boy herself.

“The guy comes and asks our parents for our hand,” Al-Shaar said, “and then we talk to the guy; we get to know him a little bit, see if we like him or not, and then we get engaged. There’s no rings or anything, and we can break it off if we don’t like” them.

Since this custom has been a fact of her life since she was born, she has grown accustomed to the idea. She said she isn’t allowed to mingle with boys unless they are family, and her dad would only tolerate it if it were for something school-related.

Junior Haifaa Nielsen, also from an Islamic family, has the same future as Al-Shaar. She isn’t allowed to spend time with boys outside of her family, especially a potential husband. When someone comes along and is interested in marrying her in the future, the families will first meet each other.

“Their family comes to our family’s house, and they have a meeting to meet us,” Nielsen said, “and if we like them, then we’ll say yes, and then we’ll go on supervised dates with them.”

Not all of the initiative is on the boy’s shoulders, however. Al-Shaar said if a girl has a good impression of a boy, she can tell her parents about him. Then the parents can check out the boy, and if he likes her too, the boy can ask for her hand.

Like with most Muslim families, the most crucial consideration for Al-Shaar’s family is religion, she said. An assumption exists that all children produced from the marriages will grow up in a Muslim home.

“Culture has nothing to do with it,” Al-Shaar said. The boy “can come from anywhere in the world. They just have to be the same religion.”

Some cultures that commonly have arranged marriages are starting to lose the tradition, as seen in India. Junior Raj Patel said even though his parents and their siblings all had arranged marriages, he probably won’t have one.

“My parents gave me open choice,” said Patel. He “can have any girl, marry any girl [I] like.”

Patel moved to Columbia last year from India. He noticed major differences in the culture of the two societies. Arranged marriages were common in India, especially in the half-metropolitan cities, because of an overall stricter set of unwritten societal rules, including less smoking and drinking. But in the metropolitan cities, love marriages are becoming more prevalent because of India’s progression toward a more modern society.

Junior Ipsa Chaudhary has also noticed the change in Indian society. Her visits show her the bigger cities don’t have many arranged marriages.

Like Patel, Chaudhary’s parents also had an arranged marriage. Chaudhary’s grandmothers, knew each other from college, and they thought their children would make a good match. After meeting and talking a few times, the two kids, now Chaudhary’s parents, decided to get married.

This may sound like American marriages, but Chaudhary’s parents weren’t in the situation most newlyweds are in America, present day.

“I’d say they definitely love each other, but I feel like they never fell in love,” Chaudhary said. “When they got married, they were probably acquaintances, and maybe friends, but I feel like their relationship was just one of friendship.”

Chaudhary said as a little kid, she figured everyone’s parents had more of a friend relationship, like hers. It wasn’t until she was older and met parents of her friends that she realized her parents’ relationship was different than the common American one in today’s society, a relationship developed merely from respect towards each other rather than love.

Even though her parents had an arranged marriage, Chaudhary will be able to marry whomever she wants. She said her parents are open-minded about society, so they aren’t opposed to today’s “social norms.”

“People make a bigger deal about falling in love and getting married,” Chaudhary said. “Of course, they want to have a say in who I get married to, but they wouldn’t force me to marry someone if I didn’t love them.”

With the values of America instilled in society today, people may get the wrong perceptions of arranged marriages. Taking a peek around the world brings insight and knowledge to the human race.

Chaudhary remembers her grandmother’s words when describing arranged marriage to her: “You’re not in love with the person when you marry them, but you learn to love them after you get married.”

By Maddie Magruder

Autism transforms life view

Pediatrician Meg Wang knew something was wrong with her son’s development when his language skills plateaued and he became less social than others his age at 15 months. Specialists told her to have his hearing checked. When his hearing was normal, they recommended speech therapy. But little changed.

Approximately 13 months later, Michael Wang, alumni 2011, was diagnosed with autism.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Michael was diagnosed early. On average, a child is diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder between 4.5 and 5.5 years of age, even if parents have concerns much earlier. About one in 110 children in the U.S. has an ASD, but boys are four to five times more likely to than girls.

There is no cure for ASDs; however, according to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, treatment plans can significantly mend certain symptoms. Meg made sure her son had an early and intensive intervention, which she said had a large impact on his development. Michael attended an early childhood special education preschool and weekly speech therapy. At home, Michael received Applied Behavior Analysis, a science that improves behavior and is especially beneficial for autistic children.

“It’s most helpful in those early years,” Meg said. “The brain is just more malleable, more pliable and can change more at that age.”

Still, even with early attention, Michael had to work with his social skills. Of the three main parts of autism – the communication delays – the social disorder and the repetitive and stereotypic behaviors, “the crux is the social,” Meg said. It’s an area autistic children often struggle in, even if they excel in other areas.

“I think in this world, one of the things that make people most happy is having relationships with other people,” Meg said. “He’s in college now, and, hopefully, he’ll get a degree and get a good job, but he has those social skills. He likes people and people like him, and that’s the most rewarding thing, I think, because I know he’ll be happy.”

But growing up, every social milestone required step-by-step instruction. Meg taught him how to call a friend, and then they practiced it. He learned how to behave at a play date. Now, Michael is the most social member of the family, Meg said. He regularly schedules outings to Orange Leaf and likes to stay connected with his friends.

Michael said his favorite things to do at home are “Facebook and texting other people and playing video games, like Mario and a little bit of Call of Duty.”

Michael’s brother, junior David Wang, said he sees Michael’s social skills truly shine when he is with his classmates.

“At school he’s more impressive than he is at home,” David said. “He’s usually talking to everyone, and everyone knows him.”

Michael remembers his overall experience at Rock Bridge as “incredible,” “outstanding” and one of the times he will remember for the rest of his life. Michael’s social efforts culminated in his victory as Courtwarming king last year. He was honored and surprised, he said. He mimics the face he made when he first heard his name, lifting his eyebrows and opening his mouth as wide as it will go.

“That was the most thrilling moment of his life,” Meg Wang said, “and the most thrilling of mine.”

Even in his excitement, Michael knew not to brag. His humility was even more impressive than his social success, David said.

Even with all of his hard work and progress, Michael’s autism has still been challenging for the family. One struggle has been with Michael’s obsessions — repetitive behaviors and thoughts characteristic to autism.

“Sometimes he likes his obsessions, but sometimes they can create some depression and frustration, and he wishes he could get them out of his mind, but he can’t,” Meg said. “As a parent, I spend a lot of time listening to him struggling with those obsessions and trying to help him, and that can be difficult at times.”

When he was younger, Michael was obsessed with asking questions that he knew didn’t make sense. He used to ask questions relating video games to real life, David said. He also repeated certain phrases. Michael’s sayings, based on dreams he had or songs he made up, still stick with the family today.

“There was this one [saying] he was obsessed with, but we all thought it was funny, our family and our neighbors. So we all still say it and get a kick out of it,” David said. “It was like, ‘There’s a snowman outside, and I’m going to have a dime, and that’s all I want for Christmas tonight.’ But every long ‘i’ value was pronounced like ‘ee’. ‘There’s a snowman outseed, and I’m going to have a deem, and that’s all I want for Christmas toneet.’”

Meg finishes the phrase in unison with David. They both still remember the phrase.

“We know it because he said it millions of times,” Meg said, “because there was a time in his life where he just said it constantly.”

Sometimes, Michael’s obsessions, repetitive phrases and sound effects mimicking a siren can be irritating, especially when David is studying. Meg said she encourages Michael to go down to the basement with her to make these sounds, so David can have the quiet he needs. At home Michael has more freedom to act in ways that aren’t necessarily socially acceptable or normal. In public, Michael has learned to control his behavior.

But David also had to learn to deal with Michael’s habits. When the two were younger, they spent weekends or summer evenings watching television late into the night. On one occasion, Michael prevented David from sleeping. In his annoyance, David almost resorted to violence.

“Michael kept on saying something about video games, and I couldn’t get to sleep. So I yelled at him really loudly, and then I almost hit him,” David said. “But my mom woke up, and then she told him not to be so annoying when I was trying to sleep. But after that, I’ve never really impatiently lashed out at anything.”

Michael’s autism has gifted the virtue of patience to the family. Because they know it causes slower auditory processing, Meg and David do not rush to get immediate responses out of Michael. Meg understands Michael is just as capable of understanding challenging academic concepts as everyone else, but he just needs “to go over it a hundred times for the ten times that someone else needs to go over it.”

Michael’s autism has “also helped us all to be more patient and more understanding of people who have differences,” Meg said. “It’s also helped us to see that even people who have challenges … can still have a lot of great strengths because we’ve seen that in Michael.”

For David having Michael as a brother has defined part of his personality and made him less concerned with what others will think of him.

“It’s made me less afraid to be weird and awkward and quirky in public because I’m used to seeing my brother that way,” David said. “Seeing Michael succeed so much encourages me to just be myself around all my friends and to try to greet new people with open arms.”

Michael is now majoring in early childhood at Moberly Area Community College. He hopes to become a preschool teacher or paraprofessional in public schools, Meg said. He wants to get married someday, which Meg said is very possible. She hopes he will live “very successfully and independently” but said she will always be willing to help him.

Meg said it is important for families with autistic children to get them into early and intensive intervention, but they should also remember not to give up.

“Don’t think, ‘Oh, they’ll never be able to do anything,’ because students with autism can… go on to be very happy, very socially successful,” Meg said. “Children with autism can do so much, and they’re such loving, wonderful people. And I think our family would be so devastated if we didn’t have Michael.”

By Nomin-Erdene Jagdagdorj