Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Adoption: when your kids grow

My children who joined our family through adoption are now 7, 11 and 14.

And as they grow, things are different.

My entire perspective has changed as I acknowledge and honor their individual needs. One of them may love talking about adoption one day and despise it the next. One may crave the contact we have with their first family and extended family, while another may want nothing to do with it (pick any random day and that changes again). One may talk about their home country with pride, while another is indifferent. Of course, none of these reactions mean they don't care. If anything, it means they have massive feelings for their history ... their family. It is beyond important to them.

We have fully open adoptions with all of our children who joined us via adoption. They have relationships with their families ... and their families have full and complete access to us. In that, things are wonderful and fascinating and blessed and messy and complicated and occasionally very painful for our children. Sometimes they crave a relationship and it is not being reciprocated. Sometimes they don't get along with an extended family member. It's just ... ya' know ... family. The cousin that grates on their nerves this year may very well be their best friend next year. The cultural gap this year may be forgotten in several years if they choose to move back to their home country.

This is how we choose to be. This is the value we place on their very first families. They are not past tense. They are now and a part of all that we are. They are a part of our lives and our road trips and our phone conversations and our emails and our holiday plans.

So, I have had to wake up to a few things that were never even on my radar just a few years ago. For instance, I have one child whose stomach is turned by the word "orphan" or "orphanage." With good reason. Regardless of the status of this child's first parents, the word "orphan" sounds hopeless and awful and wrought with pain. It has been placed on them in the past, and continues to be connected to their people and their country. This child hates it. "Orphan Sunday?" Yeah. Not a positive thing for them. at. all. They see it as churches being cruel and calling children a name that is negative.

And they have every right to feel that way. I must always create an environment where they know they can tell me those things without fear of my reaction. It's not about me.

Again, your two year old does not yet have those feelings. My other children may not have those feelings. But my child who does? That child has the freedom to feel it, to say it, to be angry, to be hurt, to be comforted and to ask me to never, ever, EVER buy a bumper sticker or t-shirt with the word "orphan" on it.

And I don't.

Right now, most of my kids have no desire to talk to others about adoption. I protect them in that. They do not want to answer questions or educate others. They just want to be normal kids that don't stand out (as much as humanly possible in a transracial family where your mom has dreads and body art).

My kids rarely want to be the poster child for their country. They don't want to "share" with a group. They love their family and their people and their first home. But it is theirs and that is where they want to keep it. Close to their heart.

I am learning to give them space and have zero expectations on their feelings from minute to minute. It is theirs. I am not them. I have no right to tell them what to feel, how to feel it or when to feel differently. I am here to love them and meet their needs. To know that their first families are just as important to them as we are. Listen and hear. Allow them to be.

Stay out of the way, when necessary.


Sunday said...

That is a great post Christine, after all a parent should want what is best for their children. I know that as I child sometimes I NEEDED to talk about my pain, anger and disappointment and some times I NEEDED to just be.

I needed to just be a kid, as normal a kid as I could be. Not a foster kid, not a throw away, just sunday - no labels.
I think that giving your children respect for their feelings, safety to express them and the freedom not to is a wonderful gift.

Brenda said...

Well said. This can be transferred to all our kids, bio or not. They all deserve to be who they are and not who we had anticipated them becoming.

BT said...

Yup, it all evolves over time like crazy, doesn't it? So thoroughly unpredictable -- keeps life very interesting. And, yes, they MUST have the space and freedom and security to be wherever they're at whenever they're there. We cannot presume to know what they're feeling or what they should be feeling.

Annie said...

My kids go in and out with this as well. For nearly a year, my daughter insisted on wearing a sarafan (Russian national dress) to school. Now, she won't wear one to a Russian community party. Sometimes they will boldly proclaim they are adopted, then, suddenly, not want anyone to know.
It is hard to keep up, but I recall with my bio kids, there were similar changes there as well - one minute she's "a singer" and wants everyone to know she's in choir - the next time I turn around I'm being lambasted for mentioning she does something so "nerdy". A parenting challenge...reading the climate changes.

Wendy said...

Amen. I came to your blog through TongguMomma and am so glad I did. I loved this post. Everything you said resonated with me as I have been parenting my older daughter for 18 years and have needed to respect where she was at with her adoption story every step of the way. Fabulous post.

Flexability is over rated, creativity is ingenious said...

I am one of those people who read your blog but don't really comment... I do not have any children yet, but they will all be adopted. Thank-you for giving me insight into what challenges I might face and ways to help with healing. I came across this, and thought you might like it....

The Raudenbush Family said...

Great post--good perspective and a reminder to consider the needs of each child individually.

Could you check out and let me know if I could repost this there? I would need a brief bio for you and a picture of you to use with the bio. Let me know!

Laura said...

At some point in these last 14 months, I wanted to scream in the middle of church...


;o) I know our church family is excited our boys are here, want to love them the way they know how, bless us how they think is best, but I do get weary with the whispered "How are they doings" "Are they attachings" and "How's the adjustings"

GAH. It's been a hard year and I'm just so dadgum ready to be a normal family.

anyway. there.