Last time I shared about our continuous narrative of our children’s origins, beginning from their first days home. You may recall our Chinese housekeeper’s surprise at learning that our kids were adopted. They looked and seemed and felt like ours to the outside world. After I wrote that last post, I recalled other close friends who found out our kids were adopted after knowing us for some time. You see, when we moved to China, folks got to know a family of five with two 5th graders and an 8th grader. And since our kids resembled us and each other (granted, two of them were twins), one suspected that they were adopted. So there were a few conversations on buses and trains in China that went something like this:
Friend: So, um, Liz…I heard something the other day and I hope you don’t mind, but I have been dying to ask….but of course it is none of my business…someone told me that your kids are adopted, but I didn’t believe them.
Me: (Smiling)…Oh, who told you that?
Friend: Johhny Paul, (for those who are not Andy Griffith fans, Johnny Paul is the unequivocal voice of authority on all gossip that was passed to, and repeated by Opey. In our family he is the generic name for those who have something on good authority, and once in a while are actually right.)
Me: Continued smiling , quiet, and enjoying this a little too much.
Friend: So…if you don’t mind me asking…is it true?
Me: Is what true? Oh…you want to know if what you heard is true?
Friend: Yes…if you don’t mind.
Me: No, I don’t mind, (but not sure if my kids will mind is in the back of my head.) It’s true.
Friend: Look of incredulousness followed by the usual remarks about how they look and act and seem like us.
Me: (still smiling, not broadly, just quietly), Yes, I know…they sure do.
Friend: I can’t get over that…I mean…I never would have known…wow….I am stunned!
So I am thinking that if others are stunned at finding out that someone else is adopted, imagine instead if you suddenly found out that YOU were adopted. You would have to cognitively and emotionally re-think your place in this world since you were under one impression and built up an identity around that, and now you are having to drop that and work in a different theory. I picture the brain working overtime in a series of emotional/incoherent power surges that look something like this:
…but wait…my Mom and Dad are…I look like them…and they told me…but I never…and they said…and Grandma and Grandpa…so my sister is…and I never…but how could…this is crazy…so I’m not…and they didn’t ….and…who am I anyway?!!!! DANGER WILL ROBINSON!!!!!!!
Hence my commitment to the unfolding narrative from the time you bring your little one(s) home. Such knowledge does not remove all difficult feelings that are connected to an adoption, but it does remove that huge shocking moment from the mix.
Of course this story brings up so many other issues, such as, how much do you tell your children about their origins, do you leave anything out, do you keep some things from even your family, and whose information is it to share anyhow? I was learning as I went, and therefore do not consider myself the expert. However I will gladly share what we did, in the hopes that it helps someone else, even if my experience shows them how NOT to do something.
The breaking or sharing of such news to the child or to others who know them does bring up the idea of identity. And I think that identity is a huge issue for everyone, not just adopted kids. But adopted kids seem to struggle with this a bit more than others, and often need time to figure out who they are in context of their family of origin and their legal family. And to figure that out you need God, of that I am sure. That is where I will begin next time. And as always, there will be some stories, and no, this will not be on the final.