I thought I had a few months to cover some things- but apparently I’m needed now. So I’ll tell you a few details, and some important stuff that I never intended to throw out all at once.. so forgive- but please- it is important- so stick with me. J Thanks!
One this blog, for now we'll refer to him as SweetP- T. It means “His Deed”. It’s reported, he was named that specifically so he would grow to do good things. He is 2. He’s still a little small weighing in at a whopping 16 lbs at last weigh in. No worries on head size though. He’ll carry on the giant pumpkin head tradition.
I’m sure you have lots of questions. I’ll do the best I can in answering them. This is all a bit exciting and curious. Many things about this process are new and I am more than willing to discuss details of what happens, in general, with adoption these days- but specifics on my child’s history are- well – it’s their details and their story. I may not answer your question- I may not know the answer myself- and I hope you’ll understand. But most of the things you are curious about time lines- what next- is he cute (yes!) I can do my best with.
Now- here’s the other strange and important part. Strange- because I never thought about having to write about- Important because- well- it deals with YOUR kids as well as mine. Some food for thought BEFORE talking to kids about any specific adoption (but mine in particular).
Bear with me: These quick reference points are pertinent to my train of thought.
I remember having a conversation when Tyler was 3 or 4. People were always commenting on his red hair calling him a “Red Head”. He started proclaiming “I am not a RED HEAD” I have “Brown Hair like everyone else”. After digging a little deeper with him, (he knew the color of his hair)- I came away wondering if he was concerned about what “went along’ with being declared a ‘Red Head’. “What does that mean?” As if the label itself was implying character traits and behavior. It was uncomfortable, unknown and he wanted nothing to do with it.
Another conversation with Tyler went like this (Note, we’d had similar conversations before- but each time he processed it a little different.
T: “Papa is my dad’s dad. Who is your dad?
Me: “You know who. It’s Papa.”
T: “But he’s not your real dad right?”
Me: “Papa is my real dad, Ty. Why do you think he is not real?”
T: “I don’t know. So I guess- you just have 2 dads. “
T: Confidently says- “Some people have 2 Mom’s”…. To which I introduced Aunt Christy & Uncle Ryan into the mix. But by now he had the relationship structure figured out and could quickly relate. And he was quite confident (or bored, with this chat) and I was bushed off with a "Ya. I already know that."
Having a celebration dinner with my good friends - Fred, Thelma and their two girls age 5 and 3. In her excitement, the Mom, Thelma, shows her kids the picture of my son (My SON! Can you believe it? My SON!) and says something to the effect of “Look kids. Isn’t he beautiful. Auntie Shannon is going to adopt him and bring him home!!” None of us was prepared for her oldest darling daughters reaction. Daughter looked quickly quizzically and said, with a torqued face “Where’s his mom & dad?”
Stumped and ill prepared- Thelma reacted by using an old stand by, we’ve all attempted before – trying to put the cork back in the bottle. “That’s not nice. We don’t talk about that. Hush.”
Not a light bulb- but one of those big question marked popped up above my head. What is she really asking? What could I have done better to prepare the children in my life? Hmmmm... (obviously I AM HIS MOM. But that probably wasn’t what she was registering)
I returned to my ever loving- been there done that peeps for advice. This is what I learned and figured out.
This is a BIG concept for children. It’s a BIG concept. With a lot of implications. It could be a little scary. At its VERY VERY BASIC LEVEL (as a young child will understand) a child leaves his home to live with someone else. Now- you and I, know the implications- complications- necessities that coincide with this. But for a child- It can be scary and confusing. So- Let’s try and steer clear of scary and confusing. (Not good feelings to attach to a picture of my son… thank you very much) (MY SON!!)
I wonder- Are ‘Labels’ - too much for young children? I am a “Step- child”. Is it necessary to INTRODUCE me as such? No. In fact- it’s out of place and confusing.
At this point Tyler (7yrs) knows that I have 2 dads and one has died - his name is on the wall where he can scratch its impression with a pencil. He came to this understanding naturally, through curiosity and his developing sense of relationships. Through family being willing to answer his questions when they naturally occur and not trying to force a concept he wasn’t’ capable of understanding. At a certain point- children start drawing these parallels on their own and will ask
So how to bring up this with your kids?
Good question. Another point where I have more questions than answers.
Very few of you have children over that age of 10. At a certain age/dev level- children recognize a more worldly view. Some families have worked with their kids for a long time on this. For those children- they may be able to grasp what is happening quickly.
For those of you (us!!) with younger ones- I have a suggestion. This is your family and these are only a suggestion- do what you think will work for your children. I just ask that we steer clear of using my child (MY CHILD!!!) as a sort of ‘learning opportunity’. I know that isn’t anyone’s intent.
Perhaps beginning to include him so that he begins having a physical presence. How?- I can give you a picture or 2 of Sweet T. (I can’t email it or post in on line anywhere until he passes court). Post the picture along side your own kids/friends/cousins etc someplace at kid prominent area. Fridge for example.
This begins to allow your child to start ‘recognizing’ him. Eventually your child may start asking questions. This serves to let your child ask on his own terms and timeline- AND it gives you time to consider what some of your answers may be.
Each child is different. And how they phrase things will vary from child to child, age to age.
- What about his Real mommy and daddy?
- Where is his mommy? (I am his mommy.)
- Why is he brown?
- Will he give me presents? Be at my birthday? Come to my school?(perhaps they are establishing expectations of where they see each other)
There are some children’s books you can put in your reading rotation. “A Mother for Choco” is one. Another is “Rosie’s family” (I think that’s the name?) Which ever way our children meet- I’m just grateful they will!!
What’s NEXT: For now- there’s more waiting. We wait for a Court Date and for court to happen in Ethiopia. Once we clear court then he is legally my son. Until then - I can’t post any pictures of him publicly. After court- I’ll be assigned an embassy Visa appointment for him. Best case scenario- I’ll travel before Christmas and bring My SON home.