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Adoption Blog: Man Up!

The Adventures of Baby Bear Jackson and Manu: Our Favorite Adoption-Friendly Bedtime Stories



Baby Bear Jackson is a bedtime favorite at our house. His story is a work in progress, with new chapters added nightly as our son, Manu, adopted from India, always wants to hear more about his imaginary friend. My wife, Leslie, created the story one night as a way to help Manu wind down before bed. Though many of the adventures are not adoption-oriented, she uses Baby Bear Jackson as a method of broaching mature themes and ideas in a simple way, to which Manu responds quite well.

One day, a little boy named Manu was out walking through a magical forest—which, by the way, little boys should never be allowed to do by themselves—searching for the lost city of Manutopia. Amid the songs of the wind and the birds, Manu heard a whimpering sound coming from behind some bushes just off the path. His curiosity piqued, Manu headed in the direction of the sad, lonely cry. As he got closer, he pushed apart the branches and looked down to find an adorable little brown bear cub with teary eyes. Manu looked and listened quietly for a few moments before the little bear realized that someone close by was watching him. The bear turned and looked up at Manu.

“Who are you?” the bear sniffled timidly.

“I’m Manu. What’s your name?”

“I’m Jackson,” he said, wiping the tears from his eyes with his paws.

“Why are you crying, Jackson?” Manu asked.

“I can’t find my family,” he said, tears welling up again. “I haven’t seen them in such a long time. I’ve been looking for them for weeks!”

“That’s too bad,” Manu said with empathy. “What happened?”

“I’m not sure; I don’t recall much,” he said, the painful reflection obvious on his face. “I remember a lot of commotion and my mommy taking me deep into a cave and telling me to hide. She said she would come back for me when it was safe,” he recalled wistfully. “I heard some loud booming noises and my family's growls, then it got very, very quiet. I was scared. I waited for my mommy to come back for me, but she never did. When I finally left the cave, there were no bears anywhere. I’ve been looking for them ever since, but now I’m afraid I may never see them again.”

Manu sat down next to Baby Bear Jackson and listened to his stories about where he had looked and how long he had been searching for his family. Manu didn’t know where the bears might be, but he wanted to help his new friend.

“I know!” Manu said excitedly. “You can come with me to the lost city of Manutopia, and along the way we’ll look for your family.”

“Manutopia?” Baby Bear Jackson asked. “Where is that?”

“No one knows; it’s lost!” Manu kidded. “But legend has it that it is a place where little boys rule, and they are free to do all of the fun things that their mommies and daddies don’t allow them to do. And they eat jelly beans for breakfast, lunch, and dinner!” He continued, “My family has rules—I have to do what my mommy says, and she makes me eat broccoli—yuck! That’s why I’m leaving for Manutopia.”

While a place without mommies wasn’t exactly what Baby Bear Jackson had been looking for, it did sound fun. Who knows, he thought. Maybe along the way we’ll find my family!

So off they went together, in search of a lost city and a lost family.

After what seemed like an eternity of searching but not finding either the bears or the lost city, Baby Bear Jackson and Manu stumbled upon a wise old owl. The old owl asked them what they were looking for, and he listened intently as they told him their stories.

“I have some bad news for you, my little bear friend,” the wise old owl said gravely, lowering and shaking his head as he spoke. “Hunters recently invaded our forest. To stay safe, all of the bears who survived decided to leave the forest, never to return.” He paused momentarily and then finished softly, “I’m so very sorry, but your mother won’t be able to come back for you.”

Baby Bear Jackson began to cry as he realized that his mommy was gone forever and he was all alone. Manu gave his friend a hug and tried to console him. The wise old owl then directed his words toward Manu. “What you seek is a fantasy, my friend. While it might be fun to imagine freedom in a place like Manutopia, you would soon miss your mother and father very much.”

Manu knew that the wise old owl was correct and that he had taken for granted that he had—and loved—what Baby Bear Jackson needed now so badly: a loving, caring family. Manu then had an idea. “Why don’t you come home with me and be a part of my family?” he asked the little bear sincerely.

“I don’t know,” Jackson said. “Why would your family want me? I’m a bear, not a boy.”

“Families come in all shapes and sizes,” replied the wise old owl. “You don’t have to look alike to belong together!”

“Right!” Manu said excitedly. “You need a family, and I want a little brother. It’s a perfect match!”

So the two said goodbye to the wise old owl and began the journey back to Manu’s house. Baby Bear Jackson was happy to be invited into Manu’s family but still worried that Manu’s parents wouldn’t accept him. When they arrived at Manu’s house, Baby Bear Jackson was surprised when he noticed that Manu didn’t look like his parents at all—he had been adopted too!

Baby Bear Jackson was lovingly accepted forever into Manu’s family. He would never forget his bear mother and he thought about her often, but he knew that she would want him safe and with people who loved him. And though there was more broccoli being served than jelly beans, he was happy in his new home. From then on, Baby Bear Jackson and Manu would set out to find adventure wherever their imaginations would take them—as brothers.

***

And that is the story of how Baby Bear Jackson became part of our family, as told by my wife, Leslie, to our son, Manu. We’re constantly looking for ways to introduce and normalize the concept of the blended family for Manu, and for us right now, Baby Bear Jackson is fitting into our family just fine.

What stories—homemade or not—do you share with your children to bring up adoption themes in age-appropriate ways?


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2 Comments

This is a wonderful story - thank you for posting it!  Have you considered getting your stories published into children’s books?  Our family would certainly be a customer.

By epirau on Sunday, April 24, 2011 at 4:53 pm.

Thanks Jeff,

What a fun way to introduce adoption to your son. 

I adapted the song “Old McDonald” to be all about my daughter one night.  And now I am stuck singing it most evenings.  It’s goes like:

Old McLeyla had a farm
And on that farm she had . . .

With a verse for each . .
Mommy
Daddy
Damian
Dimitri

It’s her special song and makes the family unit revolve around her during her bedtime ritual.  It also touches on that each relationship is unique and special. She always lets me know if I forget someone!

Looking forward to more stories from you to come smile

E

By Ellenore Angelidis on Tuesday, April 26, 2011 at 8:18 am.

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Jeff

Jeff

Kentucky

I have recently adopted or am adopting from...
India

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