When I was young, and dreaming of my someday family – adoption was not in the forefront of my mind. I always admired the concept, but to me it was just so … exotic. It didn’t seem like something you could actually do. And of course, it never crossed my mind that I might not be able to have children… That is of course, until I was diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease. After that, whether or not I was willing to acknowledge or accept it, I had this nagging feeling that I wouldn’t be able to get pregnant. Even still, never imagined I would actually get to go through the miracle of adoption. But I did. My son is adopted. And let me just start by saying, that we don’t take the subject of teaching our son about adoption lightly. It’s a topic very near and dear to our hearts that will mostly likely be on his mind, in some way or another, for the rest of his life. We recognize that, but there are other truths we
believe know to be true as well. Our son is not, and will never be defined by his adoption. If I have anything to do with it, the fact that he was adopted will be but a small drop in the bucket of amazing things that make him D. However important it is to me that he not dwell on this one little drop in his bucket though, it’s just as important that he learn and understand where he came from. So today, I wanted to share with you, how I taught my son about his adoption.
How I Taught My Son About His Adoption
As Hubbalicious and I embarked upon our adoption journey, having mostly no clue at all what we were in for… we did know, in the back of our minds that one day, this conversation would be at our doorstep. Neither of us wanted to keep adoption a secret from our would-be child. Of course, that was taken out of our hands anyway, when we adopted a Liberian baby… but we wouldn’t have had it any other way. We have an open adoption with his birth mother and that’s the way we preferred it from the beginning. But how do you go about having that conversation? You think about it, and ponder all the ways to spill the beans… but the truth of the matter, is that it’s not just one conversation. Or at least in my opinion, it shouldn’t be. And on top of that, you never know when your child will bring it up or in what way. So planning a conversation was hardly logical for us. That being said, we did have an idea of what we wanted him to know and how we wanted to explain it to him.
Since the very first day we brought D home, we’ve talked openly with friends and family (or random strangers, as situations sometimes have it), in front of D about the fact that he was adopted. We might say, “he looks just like his biological sister” (he really does). Or, “yes, isn’t that a cute blanket? His birth mother sent that to us.” So in casual conversation, D has been “learning” about adoption his entire life. That was deliberate. It was a conscious choice we made from day one. I don’t want him to remember ever sitting down and learning for the first time, that he was adopted. I want it to be something that he’s just always known. It’s just something that is. It’s a part of him, it’s a part of us. It’s part of what makes our family a family. So the hard part comes when he starts asking questions about those things that just “are” and desiring a deeper understanding. I’m not sure he’s there yet, but he is starting to question basic things.
For instance, my sister is pregnant with baby #4. And this time around he’s old enough to wonder what that means. He knows that his most recent baby cousin came out of Lindsey’s tummy. So he wonders if this baby will come out of Lindsey’s tummy too. We told him that yes, Lindsey has a baby in her tummy and he’ll be born soon! (It’s a boy!)
He accepted that as a given that totally made sense and we all moved along. He must have been chewing on that for a little while though, because a few days later he approached the subject again, and our conversation went like this:
D: “Mommy, do you have a baby in your tummy?” (*I resisted the urge to
smack him take this personally, knowing it’s been a topic of conversation lately.)
Me: “No, honey. Just Lindsey has a baby in her tummy. Remember we talked about Mommy’s tummy being broken?” (This has been our way of explaining to him why Mommy has an ileostomy. He loves to look at it and try to expose my bag to others in public. It’s super awesome. – See? No secrets.)
D: “Oh, yeah. Does your tummy hurt?”
Me: “No, it doesn’t hurt. It just doesn’t work that well anymore.”
D: “Oh, okay. You feel better?”
Me: “Yes, baby I feel just fine.”
That was it. After just a little more clarification, he seemed ready to move on and he didn’t ask any more questions. I’m a big advocate of letting your kids take the lead on what they are ready to hear. In my church, we have a principle called “line upon line, precept upon precept.” Which to me, basically means, learning things step by step and in the right order. Building upon your knowledge and understanding as you grow and mature. And in this case, it means teaching him as he’s ready, in age appropriate ways. And once again, the topic remained on his mind. We had another conversation a couple days later. This time, Hubbalicious was in the car with us.
D: “Mommy, your tummy is broken?”
Me: “Yep, but it doesn’t hurt, remember? Mommy’s bag made it feel all better!”
D: “Oh, yeah! Did I come out of Lindsey’s tummy?” (*Hmm… it looks like we’re doing this right now.)
Hubs: “No, only Lindsey’s babies come out of her tummy.”
As he looked at us perplexed, wondering why Lindsey’s babies come out of her tummy, but he didn’t come out of mine, we could see he was ready to hear more. We hadn’t planned this conversation, and we definitely didn’t feel prepared. But in our hearts, we had always known how we wanted him to learn of his adoption, so with a prayer in our hearts, we just dove right in. This is what we told him:
“Buddy, do you remember how we told you that Mommy’s tummy doesn’t work very well? Well, we wanted to have a baby so badly, but Mommy couldn’t carry one in her tummy. But lucky for us, Heavenly Father knew that you were supposed to be ours. He knew you were the perfect boy for our family. And since he couldn’t send you to Mommy’s tummy, He sent you to grow in *Mary’s* tummy. Wasn’t that nice of *Mary* to carry you in her tummy so that you could come and live in our family?? We prayed for you to join us for so long before you got here! And we love you soooo much. We are so happy she did that for us, so that you could be ours.” (**I’ve changed the name of his birth mother in order to protect her privacy.)
He was quite happy with that explanation and even seemed to understand it. So far, he hasn’t said anything else. Except, he did reiterate that he grew in *Mary’s* tummy a few days later, which impressed me. I realized he did understand and remember what we taught him that day. It just reaffirmed to me, that he was in fact ready to hear it. As he grows and questions more, we’ll have to face some more difficult truths. But those will come in time, when he’s old enough and ready to understand. Line upon line, precept upon precept.
The most important thing, is that he knows how much we love him. And wow, do we love him. That he knows how grateful we are, for the way miraculous way he came into our family. And we are so grateful. Eternally grateful.
And that’s how we taught our son about his adoption. It doesn’t have to be a purging of all the gory details at once. Take your time, let them soak up the information bits at a time. They’ll lead the way and let you know when they’re ready.
PS: Were you or someone you know adopted? How did you/they learn about their adoption? Was it always open? Was it closed? I’d love to hear about it in the comments.