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Adoption Blog: My Paperwork Pregnancies

Just Like Mrs. Bear
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When my oldest son, Keith, was in kindergarten I volunteered in his classroom. The first time or two when I arrived in his room and he ran over to give me a big hug, I noticed confused looks on some of his classmates’ faces. Then I heard some of them whisper to Keith, “Is SHE your mom?”

He probably didn’t understand why he was getting the third degree about me. I knew that it was because they assumed Keith’s mom would look like him with dark skin, dark brown eyes, and black hair. Then I walked in with my light skin, blue eyes and blond hair.

Teacher Talk
This year I decided to approach Keith’s 1st grade teacher early on and ask if I could do an adoption presentation. I really needed to do this now before Keith was older and therefore embarrassed to have his mom in the classroom. His teacher was very enthusiastic and agreed.

Should I Do This?
To prepare, I read many articles from the Adoptive Families website, posted on forums asking for suggestions, and spoke to other adoptive parents for ideas. I was shocked by how many adoptive parents were appalled that I would do this presentation at all. They believe that it’s the child’s story and I would just embarrass my child. I was told to simply arm my child with information and allow him and his teacher to field classmate’s questions.

I mulled over these suggestions and had second thoughts. But I couldn’t find a reason why educating my son’s classmates and teacher would be harmful. I just needed to do it in a respectful way for Keith and for adoptive families everywhere.

An Excited Son
The week prior to my assigned time to be in his class, I let Keith know my intentions. He said “We need to tell them that families do not have to look alike.”

When I arrived at school the morning of the presentation, I got a large hug from Keith and he showed me to a big rocking chair in front of all the children who were now sitting on the floor. He then sat in a smaller chair next to me. I have never seen him sit so tall and proud as when he introduced me.

Making Lists
I began by telling the children that I was going to talk about the word “adoption.” Maybe they had heard it related to dogs, cats or even roads, but babies were adopted, too. Some of the children nodded knowingly, but it was obvious some were hearing this for the first time. I continued to say that you could adopt a baby or a much older child - even a boy or girl old enough to drive a car!

Then I pulled out one of my daughter’s dolls from my bag. I announced that her name was Maria and I wanted us to make two lists about her. One I labeled “Parents Do” and the other “Baby Needs.”

First I told all the children to look at Maria and tell me what were some things her “Parents Do” for her. Some of their answers were “give baths,” “hold her,” “feed her,” “change her diapers,” “give hugs,” and “put clothes on her.”

I next asked them to tell me some the things a “Baby Needs.”  Some responses were “diapers,” “bottles,” “binkies,” “a crib,” “clothes,” and “love.”

I told the class that they did an excellent job and we had wonderful lists. But we did forget one thing on the “Parents Do” list that is pretty important and I added “bring a baby in to the world.”

Two Sets of Parents
Some parents can bring babies in to the world, I said, but are unable to provide the other things on our lists. “But why?” some children asked. The reasons are always big, grown-up reasons, I replied, and never, ever have to do with the baby. These parents know that their grown-up reasons are too big, so they need to find another family to adopt and care for the baby.

Then the baby has two set of parents. The family that ends up adopting her is the forever family—those are her everyday parents—but she also has the birth parents who brought her in to the world.

One girl asked who Keith’s birth parents were. I began to say that I wasn’t going to discuss Keith’s adoption. But Keith interrupted me with “It’s OK, Mom” and went on to tell her their names. I was blown away by this considering how some adoptive parents said that children will not want to discuss adoption details with classmates.

Had I just witnessed my son demonstrating pride in the way he was brought into my life? Yes. He chose to share his personal information to further educate his friends. This was proof that Paul and I had raised him to be a wonderful adoption advocate.

Choco and Mrs. Bear
The second part of my presentation included reading one of my all-time favorite adoption books, A Mother for Choco by Keiko Kasza. It’s an adorable story of a bird trying to find his mother, whom he assumes has to look like him. In the end, a friendly bear, named Mrs. Bear, treats him like a mother should. Choco realizes that being a mother and a family isn’t about looks, but rather how you act toward one another.

The class recognized the correlation between the motherly actions of Mrs. Bear and the list they had made for what “Parents Do.” No one had suggested that a parent should look like their child when we compiled our list, I pointed out. And they seemed to understand that a “forever family” doesn’t have to look alike to be a true family. Next to me Keith piped up, “Yeah. We don’t look anything alike but we’re a family.”

Finally my time was up and I distributed hand-outs about adoption for the children to bring home and discuss. Their teacher then stood and explained to the class why a fellow teacher missed the first six weeks of school. She had just adopted a new child. I could see in the children’s faces that they clearly understood what their teacher had said. Some even said, “She’s just like Mrs. Bear!”

A Successful Presentation
I walked out of Keith’s class very satisfied with my talk. There was neither awkwardness nor embarrassment. My intentions were to educate my son’s classmates and teacher, and I felt as if I had.

I am sure that my adoption information made an impact in Keith’s classroom. Now when I go back to volunteer, Keith won’t be bombarded with probing questions of how we are related. Now, when these children hear the word “adoption,” they won’t just think of zoo animals. Maybe now some of their parents will use the handout I sent home to better understand what positive language to use for their friends who are adopting.

Most importantly, it is now more clear to me than ever that my son, Keith, is an amazing role model of transracial adoption and I couldn’t be more proud of him.


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Meet the Author

Danielle Pennel

Danielle Pennel

Missouri

I have recently adopted or am adopting from...
U.S. Newborn, U.S. Newborn

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