In the past, people didn’t discuss adoption. It was a family secret that the adoptee was only let in on as an adult. Adoptive parents “broke the news” when the child turned 18 or something. I even talked to a 30-something woman, adopted from Korea as a child, whose parents had been told, “She looks enough like you that you won’t even have to tell her she was adopted.”
Things are different today. Now adoption professionals say that it is best to talk about adoption from the very beginning. Christian and I try to talk to the kids about adoption in everyday conversation. We want the subject to be something they are comfortable talking about, and we want it to be “normal” and not a taboo topic.
We belong to a local Families with Children from Vietnam group, we went to a local Vietnamese Buddhist temple, we went to a Catholic mass in Vietnamese, and we eat at Vietnamese restaurants. Every time we do one of these things, we talk about how Zoe was born in Vietnam. When we went on vacation and took an airplane, we would say, “We took a really long airplane ride when we went to Vietnam to adopt you, Zoe. You went with us, Noah. Do you remember when we flew on the airplane to Vietnam to adopt Zoe?” Still, we didn’t know if it had really “sunk in.”
Then this summer, my mom shared a story with me. She had taken the kids to the pool with my cousin, Shannon, and Shannon’s friend, Erin. Erin was holding Zoe in the pool when another woman approached her to tell her how beautiful her daughter was. Erin was a little flustered as she explained that Zoe wasn’t her daughter, so when the woman asked where Zoe was born, Erin was caught off guard and drew a blank. Then Zoe chimed in and said, “I from Bietnam.” When my mom shared the story with me later and Zoe realized how excited we were that she had said this, she decided she would say it all the time. Now she goes up to everyone and says, “Hi. I’m Zoe. I’m two. I from Bietnam.”
After that we decided we should talk about where Colin and Noah were born, too, and not just focus on Zoe. Noah and Zoe now both know that Zoe was born in Vietnam, that Noah was born in I~, and Colin was born in S~B~. They also tell everyone that Noah is three, Zoe is two, and Colin is one. (Then they usually add that their cousin Michael is five.)
The other day we were talking about birth moms. I explained that Noah grew in my tummy, but that Colin and Zoe had other birth moms. We said that Colin has a Mama Amy and that Zoe has a Vietnam Mama. It was a quick conversation and we moved right on to baths, so I didn’t really think they were paying attention. The next day, however, my friend Amie from work called me. I was listening to her voice mail on speaker phone. When she said, “Hey Trace, it’s Amie,” Noah exclaimed, “That’s Colin’s birth mom!” I explained to him that this was a different Amy, but that it was very good he remembered about Colin’s birth mom and Zoe’s Vietnam Mama.
I know the more complicated conversations will come someday, but for now I am impressed that they really are internalizing what we are saying.