Last year during National Adoption Month, I shared that we had not told our two youngest children that they are adopted and how it was not intentional; it had just never been a topic because our children came straight to us from the hospital. Fast forward to eight months later — and much hand-wringing on my part — they now know and have embraced the newfound knowledge better than I expected.
There were a couple of things that happened in those eight months that propelled my husband and I to look at things differently. Again, it was never our intention to withhold that they are adopted or keep it a secret. Things in our everyday lives flowed in a way that our two youngest never felt they were any different from all of our other kids. Not to brag but I am extremely proud of the way our big family has bonded and how their siblings never made them feel different or not “part of the family.”
But back to my story. The first time I really pondered if them not knowing was for the best was after a visit to the kids’ school. I went for an event and ended up paired with one of my son’s classmates. When people say, “Kids say the darnedest things,” they ain’t never lied.
This sweet little girl was somewhat surprised that I was his mom and told me that she thought I would look “completely different.” I was mildly amused but curious as well. She went on to tell me that some of the other boys in the class teased my son because of how he looked (Meaning his mixed race features. Although he wasn’t aware that he was mixed race, I guess they suspected it.) and that it made him angry. Hearing this hurt my heart. It made me hurt for him and I wanted to help arm him with knowledge so the taunts wouldn’t cut so deep.
But we still waited. How do you tell someone such life-changing news? We didn’t want him going to school and possibly telling a friend and that friend telling everyone else before he was ready to handle things himself. And although I suspected he was mature enough to handle it, I wasn’t so sure about his little sister.
So my husband and I decided we’d wait some more. Honestly, if this next thing had not happened, we’d probably still be waiting to tell them. Then sometime in the spring, a friend shared that she found out after her mom died that she was adopted. Let me tell you, this hit home. It was obvious that it affected her deeply and I began to think about my own children. What if something happened to me and I didn’t tell them before? Would they understand? Would they resent me or my husband?
As my friend revealed pieces of her story over time, it was as if God was speaking directly to me and telling me, “It’s time.” My husband and I talked about it yet again over the next couple of months and decided that we’d tell them while on summer vacation. Crazy, huh? But we knew we had to do it when it was just the four of us and no other distractions. I have no problem with closing the ranks of my household to outsiders to deal with an issue, and this was one of those times.
We went on vacation and each day I was an emotional wreck, wondering if we were doing the right thing. I reached out to my friend to ask if she would have rather known as a child and her response sealed the deal for me.
We had to do this: not for us but for them. We had to give them a chance to own their own story.
The last day before we were to travel back home, we had the most amazing day with the kids. I was still an emotional wreck, but I knew we were going to get it done. We made it back to the hotel and settled in for the night. My husband told the kids that we had to have a serious talk so they got comfortable on either side of me in the bed — as they always do — and my husband sat at the foot of the bed.
I was a bumbling mess, of course, and midway through what I was trying to say, my son asked, “Are we adopted?” (He’s always been a perceptive one.) This made the tears fall even more but somehow through hugging them and crying, I told him, “Yes.” My husband continued to talk them through it, and, although my daughter was not exactly sure what was happening, she was OK because her brother was OK.
Once we got over that hump, my husband told them to ask us any questions and we would gladly answer. There were some funny ones and some very serious ones, and we answered every single one.
The most amazing part is that my kids embraced the news that they were adopted so much better than I could have imagined, even wanting to immediately tell family members the news (as if they didn’t already know). It was as if we were telling them we were moving to a new city again.