Today at the breakfast table, my children were arguing about who their “real” brother or sister was. They are still young – 8,7,6 and 6 – but the term “real” makes my skin crawl. They’re not negating the relationships they have with one another; they’re simply wondering about their birth connections. It’s natural, it’s developmental and it’s nothing short of hard.
I thought I would have a bit longer until they dove into the tough questions about adoption. I was so wrong. My oldest began asking questions at the age of three. The others followed suit pretty similarly and now we go through phases of questioning and phases of silence. It’s easy to forget my children are adopted because in my eyes, they’re just my children. They don’t forget. Even if they don’t talk about it all of the time, their little minds are working hard to process what it all means. They’re working to understand the complex nature of their lives.
When the argument broke out at the breakfast table, I took a deep breath and prepared for battle.
“You’re all brothers and sisters, but you two came from the same belly and you two came from the same belly.” I explained. This appeased them momentarily, but I could see the wheels turning in my oldest daughter.
“Well, where’s my mommy now?”
“Your mommy is standing right here with your Cheerios, but your biological mother, that’s the name we use for whose belly you grew in, is in Heaven.”
“Wait…my mom died?!”
“What did you do, steal us?”
“No honey, it’s called adoption. Your biological mother knew that we would love you and have a happy life with you so she wanted us to adopt you.”
This was not new information because we’ve been open about their adoptions since it happened, but as I watched her process, I felt a little guilty. On a very basic level my statement was honest, although I know that someday I’m going to have to get into the nitty-gritty details of their adoption. I dread that day. These fleeting conversations are difficult enough and I don’t want to imagine what they’re going to look like when their minds are able to comprehend more complexities.
As I wiped sweat from my brow thinking that I had survived this episode of tough questions, I hear that same daughter whisper to her brother, “Hmm…I wonder why our momma gave us away.”
I’m pretty sure my heart audibly broke at this point. We try not to use the phrase, “gave away” in our home. It sounds too negative and although the situations around my children’s adoptions weren’t ideal, I will never deny them the knowledge and truth that their biological parents loved them.
“Your biological mother loved you so much and she didn’t think that she could give you a happy life. She knew that we really wanted a baby and would love you and help you have a happy life. She wanted you to be adopted.”
I’m a writer. I play with words for fun and yet can barely complete a coherent sentence when faced with these questions. How do you convey the sacrifice, the heartache, the joy and blessings of their situation in a way that they understand? I’ll spend years trying to figure it out.
The best answer I have is love. Your biological parents loved you so much that they allowed us to adopt you. We love you beyond explanation. What more do they really need to know?