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.