They happen in every house from time to time. Sometimes they are easy to see coming, other times they can hit just about blindsided.
And then there are the times you lay your own trap…
Last year I turned 40. The morning of my birthday one of my kiddos came in to wake me up and started immediately with the ribbing, “Hey Mommy, you are 40, oh you are 40, yes you are 40!” (sung to a catchy but made up tune)
Now as my birthday rolled by last April, we had just completed our fifth dossier and all the documents were fresh in my mind. So to throw off the child that was mercilessly teasing me about my age, I retorted with, “Actually, I’m not. Not yet. I won’t really be 40 until 2:09 this afternoon.”
Now this had my adorable tormentors full attention. “This afternoon? What do you mean? How do you know what time of day you were born?”
Without even thinking I replied, “It says so on my birth certificate.”
And just like that I launched a grenade at my child. Because the questions that followed are ones for which I have no answer.
“Oh cool! So what time was I born?”
“What time were you born? Well, actually we don’t know exactly what time you were born.”
(Insert incredulous stare upon admission that I had no clear answer).
“What do you mean you don’t know what time I was born? How can you know what time you were born if you don’t know what time I was born? Why does your birth certificate tell you and mine doesn’t?”
So we began a discussion in detail on why my birth certificate is so different than all of theirs. That my mother and father registered my birth at the hospital when I was born and that their respective orphanages assigned theirs at the time they were found. That mine had specifics on exactly what time I was born and what hospital I was born in and theirs give a day and the province (it is assumed) they were born in.
And it hurt.
It hurt my heart to have question after question pile up with no solid answer to give. Yes, my kids all are aware that they were born in China. Each of them knows that while I am their “forever mommy,” I am not their “belly mommy.” They know they were in an orphanage or foster care (or both) from their infancy until they became part of our family. We have for certain the dates they came into the care of their orphanage and the day, even the time, we met them. Those are facts I can give.
But the “whys” for which I have no answers…the ones that find my children living across the ocean, in a different culture from the women that gave birth to them…are overwhelming some days.
I’ve always tried to answer their questions as simply and honestly as I can even though some days I want to distract them with something else so we can avoid the topic of abandonment. (I mean, how do you break that down simply for a child under the age of seven to comprehend?) Of course I usually find that a simple sentence or two, even if part of my response is to say that I don’t really know the answer, is all they need in the moment. Then they’re back off jumping rope or kicking a soccer ball, just like any other 5 to 7 year old.
Don’t get me wrong. The abandonment of my children isn’t in focus on a daily, weekly, or necessarily even a monthly basis in our house. But the topic does rear its ugly head from time to time. And I…we all, as adoptive parents…need to not sweep it under the rug and pretend it will just go away. Instead we, as a community, need to be prepared to sit down and field those difficult conversations, long or short as they may be…for our children’s sake.