Adoption: Discussing Adoption With My 5 Year Old

My little girl has always been surrounded by a diverse group of children, so it’s only natural that as she matures and becomes more inquisitive, she’s going to ask questions.

The other day as we were driving home from daycare she asked me about adoption. “Mommy, what does it mean to be adopted?” she asked. I explained to her that sometimes people have babies, but aren’t able to take care of those babies when they’re born. I told her that there are many people in the world with lots of love in their hearts who want to have a baby, so they adopt those babies in need. They choose to become their mommies and daddies, and give them the love and support that they need – and they become a family.

“You mean like how you and daddy adopted Keyla?” she asked. Keyla is our dog. “Hmm kind of..” I said hesitantly. “Keyla did have a doggy mommy and daddy, and we did choose to bring her to our home and take care of her and love her as part our family.”

She thought about this for a moment, and I could see the wheels turning as she took it all in.

“My friend at daycare was adopted, and she has very dark skin and curly hair. And my other friend that I also know was adopted and she has brown skin and curly hair too. Does that mean that people who are dark with curls were always adopted mommy?”

I explained to her that people come in all different shapes, sizes, and colours, and that anyone, no matter what they look like, can be adopted. She seemed satisfied with this answer and moved onto a new train of thought…

“Mommy, why is it that people with longer legs are faster runners, but cheetahs can run faster than giraffes, and giraffes have longer legs?”

While I was glad that she had moved on to a lighter topic of conversation, it brought me to realize that we would one day have this conversation again. That I would have to tell her that I was adopted and that I didn’t come out of Nana’s belly. In my opinion it’s not important whether or not my parents gave birth to me, but it’s part of who I am and I feel like it’s important to be honest with my children about where I came from and how my family came to be.

I will tell her one day, but not today. Today we will talk about the necks of giraffes and the speed of a cheetah.
Have you talked to your children about adoption? How did it go?

Adoption: How I Met My Father

“I’m here and available if you can forgive me enough to communicate.”

It was a fluke that I had even received the email. It had automatically gone to my junk mail folder, which I usually delete without looking at its contents. But on that day, something made me look, and there it was. At 32, I had been found and contacted by my biological father.

I was adopted at the age of 5 by the woman who had been taking care of me off and on for years (for the full adoption story – click here). I grew up believing that a loving environment was far more important than biological ties, that while people often repeated the saying “blood is thicker than water”, I believed that a loving bond could trump it all (and I still do).

I grew up without knowing what it was like to have someone’s eyes, to inherit a personality trait from a parent, to share the same physical features as a sibling. I was a biracial girl (African, Macedonian, Irish, German) with Caucasian parents. I was raised as an only child. My family life was perfect in every way, so perfect that I had no interest in trying to find my biological parents. I had known some of the story, had accepted the reality of my situation, and had settled into a kind and loving family. But receiving the email made me curious. I had to know where I came from.

“I have never felt resentment towards you and am thankful for the decision you made to do what you thought was best for me. I’ve had a wonderful life and was raised by the most loving family a child could ask for. That being said, I have always been curious about who you are and where I come from, so I’d love to get to know each other by email if that’s alright with you. I’m sure we both have a lot of questions for each other. Thank you for thinking of me and for feeling ready to reach out to me after all these years.”

My adopted parents welcomed the idea and thought it was important for me to reach out to him to learn more about my biological background. The story of why he had made the decision to give me up, and how he has lived with the decision he had made is a long and complicated one, but we have been emailing each other every day since (for over a year now). We have had 5 visits in person and have started our own unique relationship.

I’m grown up now. I have my own family and have a solid and secure extended family. My life is complete, which is maybe why the decision to welcome this new person from the past back into my life was an easy one. I have no expectations and he has been very understanding, leaving me with the power to decide how far we take this newfound friendship.

I have a unique family – loving adopted parents, 2 step siblings, 2 foster siblings from equally complicated backgrounds, and a large extended family on both sides. But I’m not out of love to give, and I always keep an open mind.

To now know my biological background and history, to have someone in my life who looks like me, who has the same interests and personality traits as I do is exciting and new. I will definitely keep him in my life, although I’m still figuring out how far I’d like to take our relationship. He will never replace the father who raised me, but will always be the one who made me.

How I Came To Bee

When I first saw the topic for this week’s Moday Listicles, I was going to opt out. It gave me flashbacks of my childhood which was laden with projects surrounding the theme of “family trees”. Teachers prompted us to explore our lineages – to draw trees with photos and dotted lines connecting our family members, showing how we were made, where we came from, and sometimes even showing who we ressembled. It was all about biological ties – something I didn’t share with my family.
I love a challenge, so instead of making up excuses for why I can’t participate in this project, I’m going to embrace it. I’m going to face my childhood insecurities and write a list about my own unique family history, how it has evolved and influenced the person that I am today. So here here it is, my list of 10 things “family tree”.
1) It all started with a boy and a girl. They were in love, and they made a baby. They were young, they were financially unstable, and they wanted more for their baby, so they made the difficult decision to give her up for adoption.
2) A woman with a passion for children made the decision to help a family in need. Fate brought her a little girl who needed love, and the woman and the little girl were bonded for life. The woman signed some papers and officially became the little girl’s mother.
3) The woman was temporarily married to a man. Their love ended and he soon married another woman who had a child of her own. Together they had another child and began their own family. The little girl lost touch with that man, and he was never to be heard from again.
4) The woman and the little girl spent a few years living happily on their own, until several years later, when the woman met a loving man who had 2 children of his own. They fell in love, married, and when the little girl was 21, he legally became her father.
5) At the age of 29, the girl met a boy who loved her unconditionally. They dated for many years, and eventually became husband and wife.
6) The girl and her husband longed for a child of their own, so they made a beautiful baby girl. She was their pride and joy. She was the girl’s first biologically-tied family member, and the love that she felt for her baby confirmed her desire to have another child.
7) The girl and her husband made another baby – this time a beautiful baby boy. They felt like their family was finally complete, and the family of four lived happily ever after.
8) One day, the girl checked her email, and to her surprise, she had a note from a stranger who identified himself as her biological father. They emailed each other every day, until one day they met in person.
9) The girl and her biological father shared a few visits, exchanged several emails, and developed a special and everlasting friendship. The biological father had two boys, half brothers to the girl who once had no biological ties. She hopes to one day meet them, and the rest of her extended biological family.
10) The girl now has an adopted family who loves her, who made her who she is and who will remain her constant for the rest of her life. She has her own family of four, that she has created with her loving husband. She has an extended family of friends who have loved and supported her through her journey, and she now has a biological father with whom she has reconnected. He knows her past, her biological lineage, and is the one who brought her into this world.The girl now has a solid foundation, with many fruitful branches, limbs and leaves – all of which have contributed to the beautiful tree that she has become today.

Before 5

When I was 5 years old, I was adopted (for the whole adoption story check out THIS POST). It’s something I’ve known about all my life, as my parents were always open and honest with me, and something that has never bothered me as it has always been a part of who I am.

As my daughter approaches 5, my feelings about my adoption and my past are starting to change. I had never thought about my earlier years – the life I had lived before I was 5. My life with my adopted parents was so wonderful, and the memories so vivid and precious, that I had never even thought to venture deeper into the memories of my past.

I have recently reunited with my biological father, and he has lots of great stories about our earlier days together – how I acted, what we did together, things I said and did. I love hearing his stories, and reuniting with someone who made me is surreal, but what bothers me is that I don’t have any memories from my earlier days. I can’t remember anything from before I was 5.

In the last (almost) 5 years, my daughter and I have created so many special memories together, we have developed an indescribable bond, and enjoyed so many new experiences as mother and daughter. The fact that I can’t remember any of those years from my own life suddenly leaves me feeling devastated. Will she remember the times we’ve shared together up until now? Will the memories I’ve created for her fade and become forgotten once she’s grown?

I’ve decided that there are a few key things that help children to maintain their childhood memories.

Stories. Most children grow up with parents who retell stories of when they were young. Silly stories, sad stories, detailed stories that keep their memories fresh in their minds.

Photos. Being surrounded by photos of your early days, your memorable moments, and the special people in your life definitely keeps the images from the past alive.

Consistency. Surrounding your child with a loving and constant support system definitely keeps the mind fresh and the memories alive. It’s easier to retain early memories when the people who were present in your life at those times are still present in your life today.

I think the trauma of being uprooted to a new family – without stories, photos and the consistency of having the people who made me in my life – accounts for why I don’t have those early memories. I’m going to do my best to ensure that my children remember everything – I’m going to retell stories, I’m going to take hundreds of pictures, and I’m going to ensure that they are always surrounded by loving and supportive people as they grow. I want them to remember everything, and I pray that they will.

{FAMILY} Buy & Sell Baby

In the late 70s, we didn’t have Craigslist (or even the internet for that matter), so when one wanted to search for gently used items, job postings, garage sales, or anything else they wanted to buy, sell or trade, they would look for it in the Buy & Sell. You could find almost anything in there, but I’m pretty sure I’m the only one who found my parents through the popular publication.

1979 was the year of the child. To celebrate, my adopted mother decided she wanted to help a child in need. She posted an ad in the Buy & Sell offering free child care for a family in need. My biological mother came across the ad and jumped at the opportunity. Luckily for me, a babysitter who was found by chance, became my mother by choice. Fate is a beautiful thing.

My adopted mother is a rare kind, someone who doesn’t just love children, but someone who lives for children. She loves unconditionally, endlessly, and altruistically. She not only provided me with the most wonderful life, but has blessed the lives of many other families in need. She has been a foster parent to almost a dozen children, and has spent the better part of her lifetime running an infant/toddler child care centre. She has also been a very supportive and influential person in the lives of my children.

I believe that if you are raised by a loving family, then you believe that your family situation is “normal”. I’ve always known I was adopted, and as an interracial adoptee I didn’t look like the rest of my family. But because I was so loved and accepted, I didn’t feel different from the rest.

Now that I’ve become a mother, I aspire to be like the mother who raised me. I will teach my children about the varieties of families in our world, and that there is nothing more important than being surrounded by a family who loves and supports you.