Wednesday, February 4, 2015
The Conversations That Become Normal
I heard that age five is one of the biggest for kids to process their stories, their adoptions, their lives. So I was prepared. I was prepared for big and hard and ugly.
E will be six in a few months. (It's hard for me to wrap my brain around.) The beginning of five was difficult with him. But the rest of it? The rest of it has been big, but not ugly. He has processed so much this year. There have been so many conversations around birthparents, orphanages, Ethiopia, adoption, forever and always, death, genetics. You know, the usual stuff 5-year-olds talk about. Right? Maybe. This is my first 5-year-old.
But the conversations have been good and sweet. The conversations have been a success simply because they happened. I have congratulated myself because my son felt comfortable coming to me for this stuff. I recently heard that we parents need to be our kids' go-to people for these types of conversations. That's one of the most important things. We don't want them to go somewhere else, we want them to feel safe coming to us for all these big things.
There has been so much talk of birthparents this year. Before I became an adoptive mom, and maybe even for a time after I did, I thought I'd feel a bit threatened by my kids' birthparents. I thought I'd feel a need to own all of my kids' loyalties and not share them. I thought I'd be a bit stingy with their love.
But the Lord has changed me on that point. I've learned that if I can love more than one kid, my kids can love more than one set of parents.
I've learned that my kids' birthparents are part of our family, even if we never meet. I've learned that there is no competition in love or in family. I've learned that there need not be a discussion of who their "real" parents are because I am real and so is my husband and so are their birthparents. We're all real. We're all important. We're all a part of our kids lives forever.
But I'm still learning to make birthparents a normal part of conversation. I don't want to force the subject on my kids if they don't need/want to talk about it regularly. But I also want them to feel free and safe to say whatever they think or feel on the matter at any time. I don't want there to be any taboo when it comes to the topic of birthparents. So I'm learning to just casually bring it up at times.
The other day we took our kids to meet their new baby cousin, recently born to my brother and his wife. As we were getting in the car, E said, "I wonder if he'll have brown skin." My brother and his wife are both Caucasian so this seemed like a great opportunity to talk about genetics and skin color. Chris and I explained that the baby would have beige skin because both of his birthparents have beige skin. (We've been talking lately about how everyone has birthparents. Some kids' birthparents are also their forever parents and some kids have different forever parents.) My kids were surprised by this idea that skin color comes from birthparents so we talked about it a bit more in depth and gave examples for both of them. Then we went into eye color and hair color and talked about how I look a lot like Grandma because she's my birthmom, etc. This was fascinating to my 5-year-olds.
We told them when they wonder what their birthparents look like, they can go look in the mirror because they probably look a lot like them.
Today E was talking about how much he likes math. So I brought up the idea that one or both of his birthparents were probably good at math. He didn't seem to really go for that one. "No, I just like math," was his response.
But the point is that I said it. The point is that I'm helping them find their identity and their connections. I'm reminding them and myself of the good in their birthparents. I'm aligning myself with their birthparents and establishing that we are on the same team and we are all family.
Sometimes I look at our lives and laugh. I never thought these were the conversations and topics that would be normal in our home. But I love that they are. Because the fact that they are normal is so beautiful. The level of comfort we all feel talking about these things is something that has grown over the years and I so grateful for that.
I'd love to hear from you! How do you help your kids talk about the big stuff? How do you help them feel safe coming to you as their "go-to person"?