You Were Adopted
Many from the last generation seems to recall the “big reveal” in their lives; the moment they were told they had been adopted. Since then we’ve learned that it benefits a child to grow up always knowing this part of their story so they can’t remember the “conversation”…they just always knew. Those of us with conspicuous adoptions (maybe transracial so everyone knows you are an adoptive family) don’t have much choice in this matter anyway!
That’s what I want for my kids, though. When they’re older and someone asks, “When did you find out you were adopted?”, they’ll say, “I don’t know.” There are several ways we let them know this part of their story even now.
Books. There are some great books you can find, written for children about the topic of adoption. Two of my favorites for babies/toddlers are:
A Mother for Choco by Keiko Kasza.This is the story of a little bird who wants to find a mother so he searches and searches for a mommy who looks just like him. When he can’t find one, he comes across Mrs. Bear who does all the things a mother would do and so becomes his mommy. A great book for transracial adoptive families and all adoptive families.
I Love You Like Crazy Cakes by Rose Lewis. The story of a mom adopting her daughter from China. I would still love to find a book like this that focuses on Ethiopia (know any?), but it’s still a great international adoption book.
“So glad we adopted you.” Before we brought E home, an elderly woman at our church told my husband she had always rocked her children and told them, “I’m so glad we adopted you.” So, I do this every night. I tell both boys, “Mommy and Daddy are so glad we adopted you.” It brings adoption into our conversation and lets our kids know, from Day 1, how much they are loved and cherished.
Make a Lifebook. Lifebooks come in many varieties, but the idea is simply to tell your child’s story with pictures (and maybe words). I’ve heard of many families making this book with their children when they are older. When your kids are young, though, you can make it and read it with them. I made E a scrapbook that starts on Mommy and Daddy’s wedding day, shows his referral picture, documents our trip to Ethiopia to bring him home, etc. We have looked at it together several times, and I tell a very simplified story of his life. I still need to make one for J-Man, and I think this time I might just do a really simple, less delicate album (something sturdier so he doesn’t have to be so gentle with it). I have also made a 3 Picture Story for E, which is very easy to do. You just need 3 pictures, one of your child with his birthfamily or previous foster family or at the orphanage (whatever his life was before he came home to your family), one of “the handoff” when the previous caregiver handed him to you (we don’t have a pictures like this so you can use any picture of the day you met or the day he came home), and one of your family now (showing both parents and the child). This is the most simplified version of your child’s story and can be helpful to look at together.
Gotcha Day. Many adoptive families have a certain day they celebrate pertaining to the adoption. We celebrate E’s Gotcha Day, which is the day we picked him up from the orphanage. With J-Man, we are planning to celebrate the day we finalize his adoption as that will be a more significant day in his story. Some families celebrate the day they received their referral or the day their child came home. It’s a beautiful thing to choose a meaningful day like that and celebrate it every year. It also provides a specific day when the conversation is intentionally opened up pertaining your child’s story. Questions can be asked, tears can be shed, whatever is needed. For E’s first Gotcha Day celebration last year, we made his favorite meal for dinner, looked through his lifebook, and gave him a small but significant gift. I’ve also heard of families lighting a candle for birthfamilies on this day or visiting a restaurant specific to the culture your child was born into. Do whatever works for your family.
You Were Adopted. I can’t remember if I read this or if it was part of our adoption training, but I found it quite significant. Rather than the phrasing, “You are adopted,” use “You were adopted.” Your adoption was an event in your life; it doesn’t define who you are as a person. People will often say, “My son is adopted,” which implies this is a defining characteristic for him. We should say, “My son was adopted” as in there was a day in which we adopted him.
Adoption is part of our natural rhythm of life; it’s not some taboo topic, but simply a lovely part of our family. How do you keep that conversation open in your family?
Laurel and her husband adopted their first son in 2010 from Ethiopia and are currently fostering to adopt their second son. With two 2-year-old boys, they are always hopping! Chris is a pastor and Laurel is a stay-at-home-mom. You can follow their story at God Found Us You.