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Adoption Blog: Our Family Grows With Love

A Three-Year-Old’s World

All parents have moments when we look at our children and see a little bit of ourselves. When our son Max, whom we adopted domestically, tucks in Mr. Froggie, he takes care to pull the blanket all the way up to his chin and gives him a good night kiss before whispering "I Love You." My husband and I have tucked Max in the exact same way countless times. And Max's interest in all things Star Wars and superheroes is surely related to my husband's enthusiasm in reliving some of his childhood memories during playtime with our son. Both of us take great joy in seeing these glimpses of ourselves in our son. Yet, for me, seeing myself in my son raises some conflicting feelings.

Recently, I've been struck by how much my son is really aware of. I know that probably sounds funny, but I have never had a three-year-old before, and had no idea how much a three-year-old "gets." If you ask Max his name, he proudly answers with both his first and last name. If you ask him his age, he responds "THREE!" with boundless excitement. If you ask him when his birthday is, he will answer correctly, and then start rattling off a list of people in his life and asking when their birthdays are. He knows who belongs in his world, and he notices when they are not there. If it has been too long between visits with one of his grandmas, he asks to go see her. He knows what his little world consists of; his world is safe, stable, and he "gets" it.

But watching my son navigate his three-year-old world also leads me to think about my own three-year-old world. Around that time, my siblings and I were surrendered to Children's Services, separated, and placed in different foster homes with people we'd never met before. I think about how it would feel to have your world turned upside down -- and not to understand why or know whether it was ever going to be the same again. As a three-year-old, I must have been devastated. I must have missed the people I knew desperately, regardless of the circumstances that came with that life and those people. I must have wondered why I didn't live with my brothers and sisters any more, but with these unfamiliar people. I must have wondered if I would ever go home. I must have felt completely alone, and, above all, I must have been scared. Having a three-year-old son has given me an entirely new understanding of what it must have felt like, at three years old, to have the experience I did.

So, understanding what my three-year-old son can process is difficult at times. But then, I see Max complete a new task successfully -- like putting his shoes on correctly for the first time -- and see the pride he feels in his accomplishment. Or I hear him singing a new song we have made up together. Or I listen as he "reads" a story aloud from one of his books. When I see these things, I am reminded -- I can't change what it was like for me at three years old, but my husband and I can impact what it is like for our son to be a three-year-old. And we will do everything we can to make sure that, when he looks at his own children at age three, he thinks back fondly on his own life at that time.

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It’s kind of amazing that you don’t remember any of it, isn’t it?  At three, we can often remember the really big events.  I’m sure it was a very unsettling time for you.

I have a few memories from three years of age.  I remember the moon landing.  I remember eating in the living room on a white blanket watching guys in spacesuits. I remember mom made a very big deal out of it, probably in an attempt to help me remember the moment.  I remember.

We got my brother about two weeks before I turned 3.  I don’t remember actually receiving him.  I don’t know if I was there or not, but I do remember visiting the adoption agency around that time.  I also remember mom being upset that my brother had been allowed to use a pacifier.  He was about 3 months old when he arrived, and he had been allowed one in the border home.  Mom was pretty sure that was a big no-no!

I got my playhouse when I was three.  I had a cereal bowl with Red Riding Hood and the Big Bad Wolf on the inside.  Suddenly, I refused to eat out of it.  I also refused to play outside alone.  I told mom the wolves would get me.  I never explained to her why.  I just couldn’t, but I was sure there were wolves out by my playhouse.  I had seen them.  It was probably a dream, but it felt so real.  I can remember that dream despite never telling anyone when I was little.  The wolves were by my playhouse.  One of them was very close to me—close enough I could have touched it.  Its teeth were bared, and it was growling very close to my face.  I was frozen with fear.  I couldn’t move.  I couldn’t do anything but hope and pray that nothing bad would happen to me.  And then the memory ends—probably because I woke up.

I was six-months-old when I came to live with my adoptive family.  Obviously I was too young to remember it, but as I watched each of my own babies grow and develop, I always paid extra attention when they reached six months.  By that age, they were really aware of me, other family members, their surroundings, and even their toys.  I always wondered what it was like to lose everything and everyone familiar to me at that age.  My border family had three older children.  I was an only child when I first arrived at my adoptive home.  My parents changed.  My surroundings changed.  I left everything behind.  Even my name changed.  I suppose I probably felt very much like I did in my dream of the wolves, helpless and frozen.  I’ve often wondered if that move wasn’t the inspiration behind my wolf dream.  I still remember that dream to this day.

By Jeanne on Tuesday, August 14, 2012 at 4:23 pm.


Thank you for your comments. It isn’t that I don’t remember anything, I do have some memories. Very few, and just little bits and pieces. I feel it is more of a survival or a protective type of defense that my mind has blocked those memories, really. Just too difficult to remember them, so my mind has blocked that for me.

Thank you for sharing your experiences with me, I very much enjoy hearing about other peoples adoption experiences and memories!

By Maximilian's Mommy on Tuesday, August 14, 2012 at 5:27 pm.

Have you been able to keep in contact or reconnect with any of your siblings?

By Jeanne on Tuesday, August 14, 2012 at 6:44 pm.

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Maximilian's Mommy

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