Throughout the course of my life as a mom, an adoptive mom, I have had many people ask me how we talk to our children about their adoptions and how they came to be apart of our “forever family”. And, as I have shared our journey on this blog, I have received many comments and emails seeking advice about this very sensitive and complex issue.
My children are young and so this is still new to us too! I don’t claim to have all of the answers but this is how we have approached it in our family. We have many years ahead to add more layers to their story, but we firmly believe that it is our responsibility to lay the foundation for our children. And we pray that this foundation will provide them with security in knowing how very much loved they are, not only by us as their parents, but by their birthparents as well.
Recently, my son came into the office where I was typing away at the computer and stood next to me. I absentmindedly wrapped one arm around him and we started having a little conversation. He was sharing this and that about his day (it was a rare occasion to have him spilling details!) and I don’t remember exactly how the conversation shifted but I will never forget how it ended.
You see, somewhere along the line we began talking about his adoption story.
We have had countless conversations about it before, but somehow I knew that this one would be different.
He wanted to know if his daddy and I had also been adopted.
Somehow this little detail was never one that we had discussed in all of our “you are adopted and that means you are so special and have so many people who love you” talks.
And when I told him that no, we had not been adopted by his grandparents, I saw something flash across his face which I had never seen before.
A new level of understanding.
It was a look of “oh, so that means I’m different from you guys.” That look made my heart just ache. But, I had to push aside my pain. Why?
Because, you see, he needed me to not reflect to him on the outside what I was feeling on the inside.
He needed to feel secure and safe to ask me these questions without worrying about my reaction. So, what did I do?
First, I fought back the tears that threatened to overflow.
Then, I pulled him into my arms and squeezed him for awhile. I squeezed him until he giggled and tried to pull away.
Which, of course, only made me squeeze harder!
Then, we had a talk about roots and heritage and family trees.
I grabbed a piece of paper and started drawing.
“This is Mommy and Daddy’s tree”, I said. “And, do you see these roots down here?
Well, they connect to Nonna and Poppa on Mommy’s side and Mimi and Papa on Daddy’s side. That is where we started, our roots. Now, Mommy and Daddy really wanted our tree to grow bigger but God had a special plan for how that would take place. Over here there was another tree growing. This is your birthmother’s tree. Do you see that branch coming out of that tree? That is you! You grew out of your birthmother’s tree and were grafted into our tree.
Those are YOUR roots.
And on the other side, the same happened for your sister. Once your branch and her branch joined our tree, you both became part of our Forever Family. We always know where we came from, our roots, but we stay together and grow as our own, very unique, Forever Family Tree.”
He looked at that paper for awhile and asked me a few more questions, mostly having to do with the specifics about adoption that are important to a 9 year old. “Did you know when I was going to be born?” “Did Nonna really pack you and daddy a sack lunch before you left to get me?” “What car did you drive to the hospital?” “Did I really like my first bottle?” “Did you cry when you held me for the first time?”
The interesting thing about his questions is that they all stemmed from the story he has heard many, many times about his adoption and how he and his sister were the answer to our prayers.
He just needed to hear it all from the beginning again.
We talked some more and I hugged and squeezed him again.
Then he tooted (which is what we call “passing gas” in our family!) and we laughed hysterically.
The moment was over.
But, in that moment, another layer was added to his story.
And, he knew that he could ask me anything and I would answer it with love and honesty.That night as I tucked him into bed I said, “you know, buddy, you can always ask us absolutely anything.”
He got very quiet and I could tell the wheels in his mind were spinning away.
He said, “Well, I really have been wondering what exactly the earth is made up of.”I had to laugh!Here I was thinking that he was going to have more questions about his adoption when in reality, he had already emotionally moved on.
I took my cues from him and we talked a bit about what the earth is made of and how mommy wasn’t very smart about things like that so he probably should have asked daddy that question!
You see, when you become a parent you immediately worry about everything related to raising your children. Will they make good choices? Will they be safe and healthy? Will other kids be mean to them? Will they make it through the teen years without catastrophe?
But, when you adopt your children, you add another level of worry to the mix.
Will they struggle with this part of their lives?
Will I be able to answer their questions?
And the deepest worries of all.
Will they reject me? Resent me?
And when your child begins to ask normal and healthy questions about their adoption story, those worries immediately come to mind.
But if you have prepared, prayed and practiced ahead of time, those questions don’t have to cause you anxiety and fear.
How do you prepare?
Well, ideally it would start from the very beginning. From the first day you bring them home. Whether they are newborns, toddlers or older children. But, what if you haven’t had those conversations yet?
Well, there is no time like the present to start!
Next week we will talk more about how to have the “Adoption Talk” with your children but until then, let me leave you with this. My father-in-law is a very talented artist and graphic designer. I gave him my crude “Forever Family Tree” drawing and he transformed it into this beautiful print.
I have blocked out the names of our children’s birthmothers for the sake of privacy.
Our children each have a copy of this framed in their room.
It serves as a reminder of how they were grafted into our family and yet are still connected to their roots.
If this could be a resource for you in talking with your own children about their adoptions, I would be absolutely thrilled to see if my father-in-law could design a “fill in the blank” version for you to use.
I hope you will come back next week for Part 2 when I will share with you more about how we have added the layers to our children’s adoption stories and some additional resources which might help you in your own conversations with your kids.
Thank you so much for joining me today at the Fence,
You can read past installments of a Labor of the Heart! Be sure to start from the beginning!
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