Creating connections with Adoption Choices families

Archive for the ‘The Things Kids Say’ Category

Love and Being Real

sleepA few weeks ago, an inquisitive first grader, with adorable crazy curls, wearing a tousled outfit (reminds me of myself at that age) walks into her kitchen during Daisy Scouts, and overhears me talking to her mom about our family. The Inquisitive first grader then asks me what adopted means. “We’re an adoptive family; I’m her adoptive mom, or everyday mom. She also has a birth mom who gave birth to her.”  I explain a bit more about adoption and how it is for our family, then she announces “that’s sad” and says “who’s her real mom?” I of course laugh it off, and tell the now slightly bothersome, yet still adorable, first grader that neither of us is imaginary, that we are both real moms. Then she avoids my eyes, spying some cookies up on a high shelf, asks her mom for some, and heads back to the scout meeting. Her mom and I gave each other that, “Yup, that’s first graders for you” look and moved on with our conversation.

I rather enjoyed my conversation with the inquisitive first grader, she’s a kid I really like, and I appreciate her frankness. I am also amused that we made it all the way to first grade before anyone asked about my oldest daughter’s “real” mom. We are lucky to live in a pretty progressive place, in an enlightened age, and to have many different family make-ups in our daughter’s school, in our community, and in our church. We have always felt welcome and accepted in our community, and most importantly felt like a “real” family.

With all that said, we do still work on keeping appropriate adoption speak and realistic images of adoption present in our life, most in particular in our girls school. This week, my oldest daughter will be sharing a book with her class, which she and I made, about her adoption story. My husband and I will join her in class to help with the presentation, and to guide, or deflect, any conversation or questions her classmates may have. We will also be bringing in a few of our favorite picture books about adoption for the class to borrow, and some photographs of our family, including some of our daughter’s birth family to share with the kids. Hopefully our story will teach the kids how real bookswe all are, and that the most important thing about our adoption is how real the love is that our daughter has from all her parents.

The Questions are Coming……..DUCK and PRAY that You Say the Right Thing

“Mom, if you are JJ’s birth mom then how come you are his regular mom too?” Bruiser asked this evening between dips of his Chips Ahoy into
a small glass of milk.   It is questions like this that every once in a while randomly come out of our 5 year old twins’ mouths.  Are you ever fully prepared to respond to these types of questions?  As adoptive parents, we hope to be ready with an arsenal of appropriate, sensitive and
truthful answers.   My husband and I seem to be doing ok with the questions and appropriate answers…at least I think we are.  We address the questions in a reassuring manner, in a way that will make our children feel unconditional love, in a way that they will not question their place in the family, in a way that will assure them that their birth mom, lovingly made the choice to place them to afford them the best life possible.

But, I never know how my responses are perceived by my twins.  Today’s question was answered with a spiritual/ religious response of “G-d has a plan for everyone………..the plan was to have me be the mom of JJ, Bruiser and Princess.”  The answer was accepted and conversation quickly turned to potty talk that seems to dominate our kid’s vocabulary these days.

It seems as though the complexity of the questions are increasing but that is to be expected.  It is frightening as a parent to fear the unknown……….what is the next question? Will I answer it with ease? What if my child doesn’t accept my answer?  What if I don’t have a good answer?    My common sense tells me that these fears are universal to every parent……..the questions may be difficult, they may be different but all parents have the fear.  I will continue to give it my best shot and appreciate that my children are coming to me to get their information.
Our family is close, we communicate well and love each other………the questions will come, the discussions will endure, the dialogue will continue
but that comes hand in hand with a child growing up.

Lessons in Honesty

There were a number of topics percolating in my brain this month.  One was my ambivalence toward Mother’s and Father’s Day now that both my parents are gone.  Another was how my great relationship with my siblings sometimes causes me to worry about what K might be missing.  Then I stumbled across a “This I Believe” essay by Corey Harbaugh entitled “Truth and the Santa Claus Moment” and my topic was chosen.

Corey wrote the essay to describe his struggles to answer this question from his 8 year old son, Tucker.  “Dad, if I asked you if it was you who bought presents at Christmas instead of Santa, would you tell me?”

How many times do we wrestle with ourselves over how much of the truth we should tell our children?  What are they really asking us?  “Mom, where do babies come from?”  Is that a logistics question?  A transportation question? A reproduction question?  I’ve always found it best to answer K’s questions with a question of my own in order to increase my odds of answering her real question.  Whether or not I’m successful in uncovering it, I think K knows by now that I try and answer with the truth.  It’s not always easy but since I insist on honesty from her, it’s only fair I give the same.

K asked a tough question after my mother died unexpectedly. K was only 5 and had already lost one of her grandpas by then.  One day she curled up on my lap, took my face in her hands and asked, “Mommy, what will I do if you die?”  Part of me wanted to tell her that she didn’t need to worry, that I wouldn’t die, but there was something in those big blue eyes that made me dig deep.  I took a breath and said “You would be very, very sad but Daddy would take care of you.  You would miss me but you would be okay.”  I don’t know if it was the right answer but it was an honest answer and the best one I had.  She knew people died and when they died they didn’t come back.  She knew that it could happen when you didn’t expect it.  I believed her question wasn’t about me but about her – what would happen to her if I died so that was the question I answered.

Like many kids who were adopted, K has also asked questions about her birthparents from time to time.  Regardless of the question, my approach has been to be as honest as I can.  K’s family history is her story, not mine.  Just as the type of books she is allowed to read or the type of show she is allowed to watch has developed over the years, the details of her history have been shared in what I hope has been an age appropriate fashion, but they have always been true.  I’ve also always tried to answer in a way that welcomes more questions.  I want her to know that when she asks me, I will tell her.

Which brings us back to the Santa question.  This is a question, K never asked me.  It makes sense that she wouldn’t.  K believed in Santa with her whole heart.  When other kids would tell her there was no Santa, she didn’t get upset or confused.  She didn’t even try to convince them of the error of their ways.  She would simply walk away and shake her head at the poor deluded souls.  Since I had never demonstrated the proper respect for dragons, Hogwarts and the like, I’m sure I wasn’t considered a reliable source for information about something as important as Santa.

Tucker Harbaugh, however, thought his dad has some information on the subject but their conversation was delayed due to younger siblings being in the area.  When Corey brought the topic up later, his son said instead, “Don’t answer me, Dad.  I think I know the answer, and right now I just want something to believe in.”  Wise words for an 8 year old boy but I loved his dad’s response:  “Your question was if you asked me about Santa, would I tell you, and my answer is yes.  If you ask, I will tell you.”  I love Tucker’s response even more:  “He considered this for a moment, smiled, and before he drank the last swallow of soda pop told me easily, “Then I’m not going to ask.”

“If you ask, I will tell you.”  “Then I’m not going to ask.”  A lesson in honesty and respect.  Well done Corey and Tucker.  Well done.

Check out for other great essays like this one.  My personal favorites include “Always go to the Funeral” and “Be Cool to the Pizza Dude” but you’re sure to find some that speak to you.   The website also has instructions on how to submit your own essay on what you believe.

Thinking Outside the Box

“It’s so much fun having K in class.  She’s so creative!”  This quote from K’s after school Architecture teacher made me smile, of course.  K is fun and she is creative and I love it when people appreciate that about her.  It also made me smile to think of how different her strengths are than mine.  I imagine the feedback my mother received from teachers was more along the lines of “It’s a pleasure having Gail in class.  She does exactly what she’s told and doesn’t cause any trouble.”  I’m sure they never told her how creative I was.

I don’t know exactly where in K’s birth family her creativity comes from but I know it’s a natural talent not one she absorbed from either my husband or I – two of the most linear thinkers on the planet.  We used to say that K not only didn’t “think inside the box,” she didn’t even see the box.  If she was to have a box, it certainly wouldn’t be square shaped, hers would be more like a dodecahedron.

We tried playing Candy Land when K was young.  I couldn’t wait to share my love of board games with her.  What’s not to love about a board game?  Clearly defined rules of play, turn taking, all those pieces stored in a beautiful rectangular box?  K lasted about 2 minutes flipping over the color coded cards and moving her piece accordingly.  We’d then be off on a grand adventure with K starring as Queen Frostine stuck in the Molasses Swamp.  She’d want me to one of the villains and I’d want her to move her piece forward two purple spaces.  But really, why would she want to play Candy Land when she could be Candy Land?

A few years later, she was intrigued by our chess set and asked me to teach her to play.  We got as far as lining up all the pieces in their appropriate spaces before the King and the Queen decided to host a picnic.  The pieces were moved into concentric circles (!) and they all had a wonderful time.  I was left staring at the board thinking “Circles?? None of the pieces move in circles!”

Then there were the conversations we had as K grew older.  Conversations around topics such as – did I think she’d get her acceptance letter to Hogwarts by mail or by owl.  “K,” I said, “You do realize that Harry Potter is fiction? It’s a story.  J.K. Rowling made it up.”  She gave me the look that Buzz gave Woody when he tried to explain to Buzz that he was a toy not a real space ranger.  It was that “You are a sad, strange little man, and you have my pity” look.  Yet her tone was kind when she replied “Of course you don’t think it’s real Mom, you’re a Muggle.”  Although I had always expected the “You’re not my real mom” retort some day, I hadn’t anticipated being called a Muggle.

When her 11th birthday came and went with no letter, we just went on our merry way to the next conversation.  This one centered on dragons.  K was upset that some boys in her class liked video games which featured dragon slaying.  “They are the best mythical creatures Mom.  How can people be so mean to them?” We discussed the meaning of the word mythical.  We talked about how dinosaurs were real yet extinct but that dragons were never real.  Well, I discussed those things while K shook her head.  “How do you know Mom?  How do you know dragons aren’t real and dinosaurs are?  You’ve never seen a real dinosaur.  How do you know they were real?”  I talked about fossils and proof.  She proposed that perhaps dragons’ bones were too fragile to turn into fossils.  I considered it and conceded that perhaps she had a point.  I didn’t know, did I?  Perhaps there are dragons living someplace we haven’t explored yet.  How did I know there weren’t?

So K has softened the edges of my box over the years.  I’m still quite comfortable in there but it’s more of an oval than a rectangle now.  And I think she’s come to appreciate the value my order can bring at times.  My skills come in handy when special stuffed animals are misplaced and shoes are lost.  And when K heads off to uncharted territory to discover the truth about dragons, I’ll be there to pack the right snacks.

Baby Book Alternatives

I ran into a former colleague the other day.  She was delighted to tell me that her son had just taken his first steps, and I was delighted for her.  First steps, first tooth, first words – all things we typically put in the Baby Book – if we ever bothered to buy one.

I never bought a Baby Book for K, and it wasn’t because the books typically available at the time were more suited to biological children.  I didn’t buy one because I knew I’d never get around to filling it out and I didn’t want to feel guilty about it.  We took plenty of pictures and put them in albums but there were no firsts documented here.  I remember most of the big stuff.  First steps – nine months.  First tooth – four months.  First word – “light” or maybe it was “hat”?

But now that K is about to turn 13, I propose a book with different categories to document a childhood.

Would be really funny if your kid said it instead of mine

K was probably 4 and I was disciplining her for something.  She was really upset with me and stomped up the stairs to her room.  She reached the top of the stairs, turned around and said, “You’re so mean, even your clothes are mean!”

Ouch!  My clothes were mean?  What the heck?

Independence appropriate for a young adult but challenging in a three year old

One day when K was 3, she was playing in her room while I folded clothes in the room next to hers.  I heard a thump, thump, thump and ran in.  K had set up a series of boxes, each one taller and less stable than the one before and was jumping from box to box.  I told her to stop because she was being unsafe.  K responded, “I’m being a frog, Mom” and jumped again.  I crouched down and looked her in the eyes.  “I can see that, but when I tell you something is unsafe, you have to listen to me.”  K looked back into my eyes, put her hand on my shoulder and said kindly, “I do listen to you, Mom, but sometimes, I have to listen to me.”

K, here’s hoping that you remember to listen to yourself when you know the people around you are heading down the wrong path.


Can’t decide if it’s scary or funny

The Lego creation had been set up for several days in the family room.  I told 5 year old K that it was time to put it away.  She said, “God told me that we should keep it here.”  I replied “Really?  Well God told ME that it was time to put it away.”  (Okay, I’m not particularly proud of my response here, but I was a little startled that K had brought God into the discussion.  Although we were occasional church goers, God had never been used as a referee before).  In a voice much older and wiser than her years, K responded “He doesn’t talk to you Mom.  He only talks to me.”

The Lego creation ended up in her bedroom and I slept a little less soundly for a while after than one.

Other categories that come to mind – “Non-Halloween uses for costumes,” “Loud and inappropriate commentary on strangers in crowded places,” and “Creative reasons to avoid bedtime.”  The potential is endless here.  I’d love to hear the stories you’d put in these categories!  Share them with us in the comments section.

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