La La How The Life Goes On

Happy Adoption Day

Posted on: March 12, 2013

This month will mark the 8th anniversary of us becoming a family with Bambina. It will also mark fabulous year number 3 with Baby Sister. Two blessed events within five days of each other! Plus of course the five intervening years… We are ludicrously happy, exceedingly blessed and just plain happy to be doing our thing as a little 4-person family.

As much as we feel like just any other regular ol’ family, I do understand that we are not at first glance so average. So I thought I might revisit an old topic in honor of my girls: how to support and lift up adoptive families. So here we go!

1. Resist the urge to tell any children involved “how lucky” they are. Don’t make references to winning lotteries or hitting jackpots. These are real words that have been spoken to my children. Please don’t. We are all lucky to have each other, no question. But you forget that every happy adoption is born from loss. My children have lost much to become my children. Their home culture, their language, their uncomplicated racial identity, their birth families–especially their mothers, their knowledge of their ancestors. It’s all gone, most or all of it never to be found. This will be a loss they will grieve. A loss they are not “lucky” to experience. Call us blessed. Call us happy. Just please don’t make them have to smile and nod as you call them lucky.

2. The corollary to the constant “lucky” comments is the suggestion that my kids should be grateful. For me, for America, for everything they have. Well, sure they should. But no more than your kids should be too. My kids are not charity cases. We didn’t build our family through adoption because we are super nice generous people doing the Lord’s work. We did it because we wanted a family, just like you did. There was zero philanthropy involved in our decision to adopt. Trust me. My kids are just regular kids. Ingrate or angel, depending on the day. They owe me nothing. Beyond a retirement villa in Cabo, of course.

3. Back in college I was that annoying liberal girl who felt compelled to discuss racism and sexism and the entire panoply of issues surrounding racism and sexism with every Black person or feminist I could find. Lab partner who happens to be Black? Oh yeah. We are talking about race. Classmate who is feminist, perhaps lesbian? Believe that we are talking about sexism, girl. I must have been absolutely excruciating to know and work with because I turned every conversation about the cafeteria lunch menu, Pearl Jam’s new album, or President GHW Bush into an exegesis on race or sex. Good lord, I was tiresome. And clueless. And, looking back, hurtful. Because how reductive is it to another human to constantly need to discuss his blackness or her gayness or whatever when you could be discussing something else? Which brings us to the present day. Believe it or not, we go ENTIRE HOURS AND DAYS without thinking “hey, look at our awesome adopted kids! They were adopted! Check them out! Adopted and all!” So don’t feel like you need to raise it every. single. time. you see us. Really. It’s cool. We get it. You have noticed our kids are not our biological kids. You are full of thoughts and feelings about adoption, China, international adoption. I’m totally happy to talk about it all. Just not every time we get together. In front of the kids. At your convenience. Not because we are ashamed or mad or sad about adoption, but because we are so much more than the details of how we came to be a family, and frankly, so much more interesting. Has Bambina shown you her feral warrior cat impersonation? Has Baby Sister counted to “thirtyonehundredfiveteentwo” for you yet? No? See? You are missing out on the good stuff!

4. There are so many Dont’s involved in helping adoptive families that sometimes it can seem like we are, as a group, hypersensitive and overly critical. So here is the one big DO, friends, that will earn you my everlasting gratitude:

Explain adoption to YOUR kids.

Bambina frequently gets barraged by questions from kids at school. I work hard to prepare her for these questions, but she is only 8 years old and really shouldn’t be given the responsibility for educating other kids about an adult topic. But, reality being what it is, we devised a 4-point plan to break down the burden:

You can answer the question if you want to.
You can deflect the question. “Oh, let’s go play on the swings instead of talking about all that.”
You can answer it with humor “My mom IS my real mom. She’s not made out of plastic!” Bambina came up with that one herself.
You can challenge the question and its premise. “Why do you ask why my Chinese mother didn’t want me? How do you know she didn’t want me?”

In talking to Bambina about her classmates’ curiosity, it became clear that most of the kids were not in reality asking about Bambina. They were asking about themselves. They were trying to figure out how and when adoption happens so they can assess if it can happen to them. Their questions illustrate their confusion about adoption and the circumstances surrounding it.

So. If every person reading this took a moment to just raise the topic of adoption randomly and casually with their kids, to talk about it like its no big deal, and in so doing normalize it, you would be doing more than your part to lift up families and kids like mine. Two benefits will immediately result: it will set your kids’ minds at ease vis a vis your family –and perhaps prevent them from having to seek the answers to Big Questions from my already overtaxed 8 year old.

Tell them that when a baby is born a few different things can happen. In most cases, like yours, the baby stays forever with the lady who gave birth to her. This is their family, like yours, and families are forever. In other cases, sometimes the baby becomes part of a new forever family. All of the reasons a baby might be adopted by a family are grown-up reasons that have nothing to do with the baby. The baby or child does not do anything to cause this to happen. That new family with the new baby is forever, just like yours is forever. By the way, sometimes kids who were adopted (ps…the past tense is the correct one) want to talk about it and sometimes they don’t, so definitely let your friend decide that.

Say whatever version of this works for a family like yours. And, just like that, you have supported a family like ours. On behalf of my girls, I thank you.

Advertisements

1 Response to "Happy Adoption Day"

On behalf of my family, “adopted” and all, thank you and we love all four of you! Have a grand “family” day Z’s! Ours will be #9 on Sunday! Love, Aunt Paula

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: