I returned from the Created 4 Care retreat late Sunday night. Wow, my head is spinning with all of the information I took in. I still have a lot to sort out, but one theme that really stuck with me is telling Sunshineʼs story in a way that is respectful and considerate to her. Telling it in a way that is sensitive to her perspective and honors her past. Why had I never given this the thought it deserved? This breakout session really made me think, and Iʼm hoping a post about it might help others too.
Iʼve already messed this up, so I want to do my best to get it right going forward. Itʼs her story. Not my story, but her story. Iʼve always been open to sharing about her referral and what we know about her time in China because I think the details are beautiful. I think the way God weaved her into our family is gorgeous and should be shared. I also want to help other adoptive mamas to understand the adoption process, and I foolishly thought telling her story would do that.
What I didnʼt think about was how sharing those details might make her feel in the future. I didnʼt think about how she might not see those details the same way I do. How the way I shared might undermine the beauty of her being my daughter and make her feel like less than the amazing little person she is. As her mama, that is surely the last thing Iʼd ever want her to feel. I cringe as I think about how easily I have talked about her story. No, I fortunately have not shared the most intimate details. I am thankful I had enough forethought to not do that. But, the details of her time in China, no matter how small, before she came home to us, as well as how she came to us, are hers, not mine or even our family’s.
Even though she is still too young to understand and truly grasp what happened, her story is still her story. I didnʼt think about the fact that sharing would be taking away her ability to tell her own story when she is ready. I didnʼt think about how insensitive it was for me to tell her story without her consent. I didnʼt think about how she might want me to answer questions about her past. I didn’t think that she might prefer to be simply “my daughter,” instead of “my daughter who was adopted from China.” Why didn’t I think about any of this?
Long hours of traveling home gave me long hours to wrestle with all of this. For the first time, I’ve been confronted with my insensitivity. And, it wasn’t easy. In some ways, I feel like I let her down. I owe my daughter an apology and need to ask her for forgiveness as I promise her to put forth my best effort to get it right from now on. I will be more guarded with the details of her past. Because they are the details that make up her past, not mine. She is her own person and deserves to share the way she wants to when she is ready. I want to empower her by giving her the words she needs to share for herself. We will help her learn to tell her own story through books, conversations, and the use of a lifebook so that she can share if she wants to. And if she doesnʼt want to share? Well thatʼs perfectly fine too. Because itʼs her decision, not mine.