Barbara, Like Sadie, I feel like an ambassador for open adoption. My husband Jeff was adopted in 1963 and we adopted a domestic newborn in…...
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Adoption Blog: Our Family Grows With Love
Why, When, What: Anticipating Adoption Questions
You need only spend a short time with our family to know that we have entered what I call the "why, when, what" stage with our son, Max. A typical conversation these days goes something like this:
Max: "Mommy, are you making the car stop?"
Me: "Yes I am, Buddy."
Me: "Because there is a red sign over there -- what shape is that sign?
Max: "An octagon."
Me: "Do you remember what I told you we do when we see a red sign in the shape of an octagon?"
Max: "We have to STOP! Take turns!"
Me: "That's right, great job!"
Max: "Mommy, when is it our turn to go?"
Me: "It's our turn to go now. See, Mommy is making the car go again."
Max: "Mommy, what is that car doing?"
Me: "That car is waiting its turn."
Max: "When will it be that car's turn to go?"
And the cycle of "why, when, what" begins again.
The "why, when, what" stage really keeps me on my toes. My son asks about things I don't think about often, things that are just part of the everyday. As "everyday" as some of the questions are, I sometimes struggle to explain them in a way a three-year-old will understand. When he asks me why green means go and red means stop, I don't really have an explanation other than "they just do." My inquisitive little man isn't going to settle for that answer, of course, so I try to come up with a better answer that is suited to his curious mind. Sometimes my answers seem to satisfy him, other times I think he just shows mercy and accepts "they just do" for my sake.
As we navigate through this stage, with my son's mind racing with questions, one thought keeps racing through my head: If I am not able to answer these silly, everyday questions, how in the world will I be able to answer his adoption-related questions? I know that these will start sooner than I think.
I used to pride myself on being specially equipped to answer my child's adoption-related questions. After all, as an adoptee myself, I would surely be able to swoop in with my special adoptee "superhero" cape on and answer any and all questions he may have (or at least find a way to get him the answer). He would mull over my response for a few minutes, realize how perfect it was, and all would be well in the land of Max. Yeah, not so much. If I have learned anything over the past three years, it's that I am not nearly as smart as I thought I was. I learn something new from Max almost every day, and I have a feeling that what I like to call my "Maxucation" has only just begun.
We have already begun talking with Max about his adoption. We have children's books with adoption themes that we read often. We show Max pictures of his birth family, talk about them often, and explain who everyone is and how they all fit into his life story. We also have visits with his birth family whenever possible. In spite of all of these efforts, I can't help feeling ill prepared to answer the questions I know he will have.
But, then it happened. The other night I was reading Max a "Dinosaur Train" book about Buddy the dinosaur who was adopted by another family. My "why, when, what" man stood up on his bed and said, "Mommy! Buddy is adopted just like me!" Looking up from the book with tears stinging my eyes I said, "Max, you're right! How exciting that you and Buddy are BOTH adopted! You guys are just alike." And then it hit me. I don't need the perfect answer to teach him about adoption. Sometimes, my being an adoptee "just like him" will be enough. Sometimes, he is just going to need to know that, as an adoptee myself, I too felt the way he is feeling or had the same question. Sometimes I might get to wear my superhero cape, after all.
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