Friday, January 30, 2009

Thinking About Tomorrow, And The Past

Tomorrow we will celebrate our 4th Adoption Day. And it is on our minds.

In our house, Kyle usually wakes up first and comes to snuggle with Braydon and I in bed. He is such a sweet sweet sweetie pie. Anyone who knows Kyle well will attest to this: he's a dreamy cuddly love bug, sweet as can be (sometimes excessively so!!!). The other morning, he snuggled into our bed, as usual. Bleary-eyed and still half-asleep, holding his Honey Bunny close, he looked into my eyes. Just staring at me, his big brown eyes peering into mine, his very first words of the day were, "Mommy, why did you pick me?" I was stunned. Because we have never talked about adoption in terms of "picking" someone. We have talked about how we "chose" to adopt, and we've talked about how K & O's birthmother "chose" for them to be adopted, but we have never implied that we "picked" Kyle and Owen nor told stories of other adoptions using that language. And the truth is that, unlike many Haitian adoptions, we did not "pick" K & O; we said we'd take any baby and then waited for a referral. We were matched with K & O by our agency and the director of the orphanage. So, lying in bed, half-asleep myself, my mind was quickly jump-started, and then spinning fast, with Kyle's question.
H: What do you mean?
K: When we were in Haiti with the birthmother. Why did you pick me?
H: Because we wanted you.
K: Oh.
H: Why did you pick me?
K: Because I wanted you.
I understood Kyle's question better a few days later. He was up on the kitchen counter trying to get something out of the cupboard. A photo on the side of the refrigerator caught his eye and he called me over to look at it with him. It is a photo sent to us three years ago by an American couple who went to K & O's orphanage to get their son. In the photo the couple are sitting on steps, surrounded by about 40 kids from the orphanage. K & O know what the photo is.
K: Look, mommy, there are lots of babies.
H: That's right.
K: But you just wanted us.
H: That's right.
K: Because you dreamed about us everyday.
H: That's right.
Recently, sitting on my lap after dinner, Kyle whispered in my ear, "When I was in my birthmother's belly I was just wishing and wishing and wishing you'd come get me." I responded the same way I always respond to these types of comments from my boys, "We came as quickly as we could," I said. "But I was waiting for you for so long." "Yes," I said, "and we came as quickly as we could." "Yes," said Ky Ky, "but it wasn't quick enough, we needed you and you weren't there."
Another day, before school, Kyle ran up to me and whispered in my ear, "I will live with you forever!!!" And then ran off to put on his boots.
A couple of days ago, playing in the playroom, out of nowhere, Kyle asked, point-blank: "Mommy, why did you adopt me?" We talked about it a bit and then he said, "Before I was born, when I was with God, I saw you and Papi, and I told God that I wanted you to be my parents." This is all very interesting, especially because we have never talked about God as playing a role in our adoption. Although many adoptive families do talk about it that way, we have not. We don't talk about it having been "God's plan" or about us being "chosen by God to be together" etc., etc., etc. We have always been very matter-of-fact about the adoption process as we see it, in a very simplistic, age-appropriate way. But Kyle continually puts God into the picture.
For the past month or so, Kyle has been saying basically the same prayer every single night at bedtime. Huddled together, I hear him say this: "Dear God, thank you that I can have this mommy and this papi. Thank you for giving me this house. I really appreciate it God. Amen."

For Owen, all of this plays out seemingly completely differently. They're twins but they never let us forget how very unique they each are. Owen, the little rascal, is such a riot and keeps us on our toes --and laughing-- all day every day. One of his latest strange-little-funny-twists is that he has taken to calling me and/or referring to me as "Birthmother" in reference to Meera. "You're her birthmom and her mom!!!" he regularly proclaims. He says it in an up-beat, cheery way. And it always cracks me up. The other day, for example, I stubbed my toe. "Ahhh!!!" I exclaimed, "I stubbed my toe!!!" Owen instantaneously ran over to Meera and said, "Sorry Meera, bad news! Your birthmother stubbed her toe!"
But for all his funnies, deep down inside Owen has a profoundly impacted adopted heart. He has lots of questions. Deep questions. Probing questions. Heartfelt questions. He wants answers. Real answers. Not sugar coated. He wants the truth. His stance is very different than Kyle's at this point in their lives. Over the past month or so he's received quite a lot of new information from us, because of the very real questioning he's been doing.
Owen's most recent questions revolve around his birthmother, and he is talking a lot about wanting to meet his birthmother. We tell him that someday we will go to visit Haiti (being careful about our wording here, after the "Send Me Back" exchange a while back), and we have assured him that when we do we will try to find his birthmother. Because of some circumstances surrounding our boys' early histories, we are quite unconfident that we'll ever be able to find her, but we have promised Owen that we will try. He has asked about when we'll be able to go. We've told him, simply, "when he's older." Notably, he does not question that or ask to go at any given time, so we believe he's comfortable with that answer, and we leave it at that. But he talks a lot about what will happen when (and he is confident it is when, not if) he does meet her. His thoughts about meeting her are always the same: "When I go visit my birthmother I will say, 'Birthmother, let me go back into your belly!' Then, if she was sitting down, I'd climb up right onto her lap." He sometimes adds, "And I will say, 'Birthmother hi! I love you Birthmother!'" And recently on a couple of occassions he's added, "And then I will say, 'Birthmother thank you for my mommy and my papi!'"
But the biggest challenge with Owen right now is trying to assure him that he won't be abandoned by Braydon and I. Owen has the classic textbook adoptee deep fear of abandonment. There is a hole in his heart that we continually to try to fill, but that seems --at least so far-- truly infinitely deep. "I was so worried," he said to Braydon and I one night, after getting in trouble at bedtime, "I was so, so, so worried that you would call the fire department and tell them to come and the fireman would come here in his firetruck and he would spray fire on this house and he would spray fire on my door and he would burn our whole big house down and I would be in it and I would not be able to get out and he would keep making the fire until our whole house was burned down and I would burn too and Papi and Mommy and Kyle and Meera would be standing outside and nobody would come and get me and I would be burned and dead forever and ever."
Another day he said to me, "Mommy, I had a dream -- actually, it wasn't a dream, but it was just in my imagination -- I had in my imagination that you put me in the road and a big car hit me and deaded me and I was dead forever and ever." And just yesterday, standing in the kitchen early in the morning, throwing away the wrapper to his cereal bar, he said, "See this trash Mommy?" "Yes," I said. "I was just thinking in my imagination that you and Papi could just put me in this trash. You could just put me in this trash! And then the big trash truck would come and take me away. I would be dumped! Dumped into the trash truck! I'd be taken away forever and ever!"
We tell him over and over and over and over and over that we'll never leave him; that we're a family forever; that we will never, ever do these things to him, etc., etc., etc. We hold him, we love him, we pour out our reassurance upon him in what we say and what we do. We respond and we act proactively. We do these things every day. But Owen's fears run deep. And a lifetime of reassurance still may never assure him; that we must know as adoptive parents. And yet we still must try to assure him. We must never stop trying. And so we keep going and he keeps questioning -- questioning with questions, questioning with his behavior, and questioning with his statements, daydreams, and dreams. He has nightmares regularly; he always has. And his nightmares now, as he articulates them, are so transparent -- his fear of abandonment; his fear of re-abandonment. And so, although it is earlier than I ever expected, we have been truthful with him in cold-hard-world terms. "Yes, Owen," I said to him one night sitting on his bed with Braydon, after another long and hard-fought bedtime battle, "yes, it is true, your birthmother left you. She left you. She did. But you know what baby? She could have put you in the road and let a car hit you. She could have just put you into the trash. She could have put you in a fire and let you burn. But she didn't. She didn't. She didn't do those things. She didn't do those things because she loved you. She loved you so much and she wanted you to have a good life. So she did the right thing. She put you in a place where you would be taken care of, and she chose for you to be adopted so that you could have a good life. She was a good, good birthmother. She did the right thing." The look on his face can only be described as peaceful relief. "You know, Owen, because we've told you many times Owen, that your birthmother could not take care of any child. And that's why she decided for you to be adopted. Because she loved you and Kyle so much and she wanted you to have a good life." Nodding he simply says, "I know." "And here's the thing, Owen, your Mommy and Papi, we can take care of children. We can take care of three children. And we will never, ever leave you. Never ever."
And that's all we can do. Express to him daily, through our words and our deeds, that we have the capacity to do this and that we're in this for the long haul. And still, he questions. And that is o.k. It is hard -- for us all -- but it is o.k. And we try to remember too, that although Kyle's vantage point on all this seems to be quite different, he needs the assurances just as much. And so we try to parent as best we can.
There are books about these things. I've read a bunch of them. I understand it all intellectually and emotionally. I think I 'get it' about as much as any non-adoptee probably can. But still, I am not an adoptee (and furthermore, as Kyle and Owen themselves prove, adoptees each experience adoption uniquely). Like Meera, I've been nurtured by my mom for my entire life. My boys know they are loved and valued... just as much as Meera is, or any other child is. But they also know that they had a life before us. And that we were not in it. And that other people were in it. We know that too.
As we get ready to celebrate four years together tomorrow, we can't help but think about everything that adoption has been, and is, for each of us.


Life in the Bend said...

Your post just made me cry and cry. It's beautiful. We are approaching our first Family Day (next week) with our two 1.5 year-olds and I feel like I learn from you by reading about your experiences with K and O. Our son, in particular, is very sensitive and I can imagine him asking us these questions some day. Thank you for sharing.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for sharing. As we wait for our son to come home, we continue to read, read, read. We are trying to educate ourselves to be able to answer the inevitable questions that will come. I so appreciate your honesty and insight into what both boys are experiencing at this point.


M and M said...

Thank you so much for this reflection. My little beloved is 10 months old and is adopted from Ethiopia. Your literal examples of dialogue with your sons helps me to imagine and practice the conversations I hope my son brings to me - and I say I hope he speaks to me as Kyle and Owen speak to you because I know how significant it is for our children to trust us with their thoughts just as their lives have been entrusted to us. Thank you thank you.

Christina said...

It is just fascinating to me to read how these little minds work. I think it really says something beautiful that your love is an anchor for them while they explore these very deep queestions.

Anonymous said...

Have a WONDERFUL family weekend. I love this post. We are out of town for a litte family weekend of our own. I have Zoe in the hotel bed with me and we looked through all the pictures. She can't help but to smile when she sees the kids. She loves them as much as we do!!

Happy Adoption Day!
-Lori & Zoe

Haitian-American Family of Three said...

Oh boy. That just made me sob. My kiddo is only two so were not yet having these talks but I know they are coming. Its amazing how aware kids are at a very young age that adoption is joy and loss-and those two emotions are so intertwined its hard to figure out what to feel.
My dad adopted me and being an adoptee and a adoptive parent has been very interesting thus far, my husband was also adopted so we are all going to have some deep convertions...
Anyway, thank you again for sharing your stories, I am always moved by your posts.

Anonymous said...

Happy Adoption Day !!!

Tracy R said...

We just celebrated out sixth Family Day with our twins and I was so happy to read your post because, like Kyle and Owen, my daughters (adopted domestically at 9 weeks old) also look at their adoption very differently. I also have one child who has frequent nightmares about being abandoned, neglected or forgotten. Because we have an open adoption I am able to give her and her sister as much information as possible, as well as the assurances you give you sons, but it always breaks my heart just a little bit that nomatter what I say, the nightmares will continue until she manages to find a way to process it all and fit it into her life. And I'm also heartened by just how happy she is, despite her fears.
So thanks for sharing your story; it's comforting to see other families dealing with the same issues.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for sharing! Your kids amaze me. Happy adoption day!

At the end of the week we celebarte
7 month home (same time as she has been in state care before)

Cloudscome said...

Very touching post. Your courage is inspiring yet again. The love of your family will not fail. Happy anniversary!

Holli said...


Elyssium Earth said...

Tough job/J Mcs but one you are heartily assured of doing well. pLEASE DO NOT UNDERESTIMATE THE GOODNESS SPREAD. XX

Laura said...

I continue to be in awe of the deep, deep questions your boys ask! I am learning so much in your amazing responses! Thank you for openly sharing with all of us! I ususally read your posts in my blog reader, so hadn't seen the picture at the top with the JOY - I LOVE IT! May have to use that for our Christmas picture next year!

Mark and Sarah said...

Your boys questions are so profound. I am in awe of the minds they have been given. I am also in awe of your loving responses and never-ending patience. As a mom to a 2 year old from Ethiopia, I come here to learn (and laugh and just enjoy), so I thank you for this post. Enjoy your adoption day celebration. I'd love to hear your thoughts some day about the concept of celebrating the boys uniqueness in being adopted and Haitian vs. belonging to your family and being "American." I am trying to find a healthy balance in our lives so our kids won't have a complete identity crisis...if that's even possible.

Patricia said...

Happy Adoption Day!
love, Patricia

Malia'sMama said...

I can't imagine when MalĂ­a is old enough to ask these things. I hope I handle it half as well!
Happy day!

Anonymous said...

Hi. I've been reading here for a couple of months (turned on here by Light Skinned-ed Girl) and I don't know if I've left a comment before or not. I so appreciate these posts where you share your adoption conversations with the boys. My son is nearing four years old and the questions get more complex every week. He is just starting to express things like his longing/preference for us when he was in his first mom's womb. It is all so loaded and challenging and it encourages me just to know other families are having these conversations. Thanks for sharing, I've so enjoyed reading your blog. (And my son loves to look at the pictures of another family where the colors fall in a similar pattern to ours...oh, and the trampoline video really inspired him and he pretended to be jumping on a trampoline like the twins until we finally got one.) :)

Rachel said...

A truly moving post. Thanks for talking about some of these tough conversations...

Anonymous said...

So many times your blog seems like you have perfect life (but still interesting, so I keep reading). So I really liked this glimpse into the harder parts of being a parent for you, and the harder parts of being adopted for your boys.

Amanda said...

I am crying too, reading this post. I *so* admire the way you are handling this and I am *so* glad that you are blogging it, because it is really a help to newer AP like myself.

Justice said...

oh my gosh. i wasn't expecting to feel so emotional reading a blog post. but i cried several times reading what these sweet boys are thinking and feeling about their adoption. i have to admit, i'm terrified for the day that my son can verbalize his views and fears about adoption. it scares me to death. what if i say the wrong thing? what if he can tell that i don't know the right answers? there are so many "what if's" and i'm glad right now that he can't talk in coherent sentences yet. but your post makes me feel a little relief. knowing that every child processes their experience differently and they all have fears and deep feelings about it. and that there's no way we can "fix" them. as parents we can't fix their hurts and pain. we can only do our best to reassure them of our unconditional love and presence in their lives. and that will probably never be enough. but i appreciate your stories and honest words about your boys. i really love this post and i hope i can be as calm and reassuring as you when my son starts asking the questions. thank you for sharing.