Talking about adoption

The big adoption blog topic of the week appears to be “Adoption – how much to talk about it?”  Adoptive parents, O Solo Mama, Dawn, Malinda, Tonggu MommaDiane, have all weighed in, plus Raina an adoptee and adoptive mom and adoptee Mei-Ling.   This discussion is in response to a post by Brian Stuy, in which he advocates for a “less is more policy” regarding talking to our kids about adoption.   I’m finding the discussion interesting and want to weigh in.

We are just beginning these talks in a meaningful way.  We have always talked about adoption and BB’s story with her, but it is only now of interest (holy moly… the books that said at about age 3 would be the time were right!).  I knew the time was ripe when she was initiating her early story in her fantastical ways – I’ve already mentioned her stories of how she was once a cat, a fish, a bird, a _____ … in China when she was a baby.  So, I knew she was ready for the story as we know it.  She looks at a few pictures of herself at the SWI and with the SWI director, followed by pictures of the three of us, a family.  She has a few main interests now.

“What are those nannies doing anyway?” – The children are in walkers cruising around, while the nannies are having “adult-talk” in the background, I tell her.

“Is that E~ and is that E~ too?” – We know that one child’s name in one photo’s name is now E~.  She is pretty sure that another child is also E~.  Another E~ or a clone, I’m not sure. 

“Why aren’t we there?” – We came as soon as we were allowed to come, we say.  We wanted to come sooner.

And then she wants to hear about, “what happened on the plane?”  and we explain how we gave her a jar of baby food because we didn’t know (yet) that she didn’t like baby food (Chinese or American) and her tummy didn’t like it, but she ate it because maybe her mouth liked it.  Then she drank a bottle and threw up all over Mommy.  Yes, she loves this glorious story and how Daddy changed her clothes in the tiny, airplane bathroom (Mommy was afraid – so, yes, Rock Star Daddy handled ALL changes in flight).  And Mommy didn’t have a change of clothing, but luckily had a blanket over her and so there was a bit of a vomit-barrier.  Yes, this is her FAVORITE part of her China story.  Gross and glorious.

So, yes, we are talking about adoption, and the people involved.  I bring up her first parents often, especially when talking about her appearance and how I bet she got her pretty hair and eyes from them.  Or maybe her strength and speed.

Is she thinking about loss?  Not of her first parents or China, no, not yet.  That’s still too abstract, I think.  She’s mourning that she didn’t have us while she was in China.  She can’t really fathom other parents.  She still doesn’t really respond to our talks about them.  I guess because we don’t have pictures, like we have of her at the SWI.  We don’t have real stories.  When she’s older and her abstract thinking kicks in, that’s when this will start, I guess.  For now, we have what we see and know.

And yes, this is affecting her.  It’s interesting, as I’m seeing how some AP’s might shy away from adoption talks if this happens, saying, “she’s not ready,” “it’s too much,” or whatever rationalization to make things easier again.  But she is ready and it’s not too much.  We don’t push it all the time and the talks are brief, like many toddler talks.  But I do think it’s important for her.  I want her to always feel safe to talk about these things with us, so they need to be out there from the beginning.

Another thing I’m hearing from some adult adoptees on the subject, is that there may be some things she just won’t be able to talk to with us.  I’m getting how tough it would be for the adoptee to wish (lightly or with everything she has) that she hadn’t been adopted, that she had been raised by her first parents, that she had been raised in her birth land.  That she didn’t have to live this disjointed life.  Yet to say this to her parents, who she may love dearly, is like saying (even if it’s really not), I wish I never met you.  I wish you weren’t my parents.  So, even if this isn’t the case, the implication is there, so how to say it without hurting?  And that’s part of the disjointedness – to wish for one thing (life with first parents) that would make the other good thing disappear (life with adoptive parents); and to keep this good thing keeps the other thing gone.  And really, it’s impossible anyway?  It seems that reunion with the first parents and culture doesn’t really change this.

I’m getting that one way to deal with this is to create an avenue to talk with other adoptees – both her age and adults – to provide a place to talk about the things she may not want to talk with us about.  I’m glad there are many adoptees around and there should be ample opportunity when she is ready.  I’ve never been one to believe BB should have all her needs, including childhood needs, met by me.  It’s good to be thinking now about what some future needs may be.

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9 Responses

  1. “And that’s part of the disjointedness – to wish for one thing (life with first parents) that would make the other good thing disappear (life with adoptive parents); and to keep this good thing keeps the other thing gone.”

    Yes.

    “It seems that reunion with the first parents and culture doesn’t really change this.”

    Not in my case. And probably not in Jane’s case. Some other adoptees would probably whole-heartedly disagree, and that’s their right. Yet, for some adoptees, the pain doesn’t go away with reunion. It just adds a more complex layer.

  2. You and Hubs are so wonderfully open to all the support and information available for the Bing.

  3. Yes……. I like the vomit story too! I can hear BingBing giggling over this!
    I wish my adoptive parents hadn’t been so ashamed of having to adopt. In ways it makes me feel ashamed but I don’t feel a loss for my birth parents. I can’t grieve something I never had. I realize this is not true for other adoptees but it is for me.
    I wish my parents had an adoption story to tell me. It was all so hush hush. A good vomiting story would have made it interesting!

  4. “I’m glad there are many adoptees around and there should be ample opportunity when she is ready. I’ve never been one to believe BB should have all her needs, including childhood needs, met by me.”

    Very much share these thoughts.

    Oh no- another adoption vomit story 😉

  5. Zoe is three as well, and she has started asking questions recently. We’ve talked about adoption since she came home, but she more or less just repeated info. Now she asks things like what her birthmom’s name is. Our situation is a little complicated by the fact that we have an open adoption with our youngest son, and he will always know his “Mama Amy.” I wonder how it will all progress.

  6. “I’ve never been one to believe BB should have all her needs, including childhood needs, met by me.”

    Oh, how I feel this way as well. Especially since I am just one, imperfect person. I’m not capable of meeting all of my daughter’s needs, even if I wanted to. But I don’t want to… because I want her to learn that there are many people in this world who can and wish to help her. And I also want her to realize that sometimes her expectations of others are unrealistic and she needs to creatively figure out a way to meet those needs herself. (Of course, I didn’t start with this game plan until attachment was no longer much of an issue.)

  7. “Another thing I’m hearing from some adult adoptees on the subject, is that there may be some things she just won’t be able to talk to with us.”

    “I’m getting that one way to deal with this is to create an avenue to talk with other adoptees – both her age and adults – to provide a place to talk about the things she may not want to talk with us about. ”

    Both of these have definitely been our experience.

  8. As always you write about terrific topics. We’ve talked with Jamme some bout adoption and he does get some of it, especially since he went with us to China to bring Sunshine home, but when we try to talk about birth moms etc he isn’t interested. He’s a true boy and his brain is so focused on trains, trucks and firetrucks. At some point we know he’ll be more open to listen and ask questions.

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