He Didn't Get the Memo

August 3, 2012 heart defect, older child adoption, Sonia 17 Comments

Have you ever seen the TV show Parenthood?
I have.
I like that show.
I like-like that show.

I love watching family dynamics play out in front of me that I don’t have to stress about
or worry over
or problem solve
It’s a bit like how I learned to be a parent by watching the Cosby Show.
Just kidding…..errrrr……kinda.
But I digress.

On Parenthood there was an episode where the Braverman’s were doing a walk-a-thon to raise money for Autism Awareness and Max was especially excited to “Help all those kids with autism.”

And all the while,
Max is the one with autism.

{photo credit nbc.com}

Only he didn’t know it.

Interesting how TV mirrors a bit of reality sometimes.
We had our own Max moment yesterday.

Cue scene.

I was standing in the kitchen cooking dinner.
Enter Jacob.
Who walked right up to me and said,
“Mom. What is an orphanage?”


Now if you can just take a moment and really drink that in.
Because I’m telling you, this was not a case of what is the English word for Chinese orphanage.
It was not a translate this word for me and I’ll know what it is in Chinese.
He truly had no idea or concept of the word.


This was a moment where the innocence of a child directly intersected with the fallen world that we live in. No child, and I do mean no child should have to even know what an orphanage is, much less reside in one for 7 years.

And I so badly wanted to yell, “Cut!”
“Line please”
And I wanted to wait.

I wanted to wait for the script writer
for the director
for the producer
and the lighting director
and the guy from catering to come over and tell me what to do,
where to stand,
what facial expression to convey and just how I was supposed to put down the spatula,
kneel down
pause while the dramatic music rises
look at him and tell this boy what that is.


What I did do was scoop him up and tell him very nonchalantly, swallowing my stomach and kidneys that had promptly risen to my throat, that it was where children lived that didn’t have mommys and daddys to care for them. And I stood helplessly by as I watched the puzzle pieces he had floating around his head come crashing into place.


The surprise was written all over his face.
And not a yay! You got a new bike! Type of surprise.
But more of a, sorry I ran over your kitten in the driveway type.
This precious child had spent his entire life within the confines of an institution and never really knew it.
Never defined it.
Never took hold of it.
Never let that sink into his soul.
Until now.
Until that moment.

It’d be kinda like if you had red hair all your life and the only people you ever saw also only had red hair.
And then one day someone with blond hair walked up to you and said, “Hey, your hair is red.” And you never knew it. But now you do. Now you’re a red-head.

Now he was an orphan.

Jacob realizes that we don’t know the where’s or the who’s or the why’s surrounding his birth and the cicurmstances that played out shortly thereafter.
But what he didn’t know.
Until today.
Is what an orphan and an orphanage is.
He didn’t know it all had a name.

He didn’t have that label attached to himself.
Prior to today,
he was Jacob.
And now, he’s Jacob……who used to live in an orphanage.
And that information has settled right on it to his heart and set up house.
I can see it.
I can feel it.
I can sense the crack that just went straight through his fragile little heart.

“Oh.” he says.
And then he simply walked away.
He got about 10 steps, Beyblade in hand, before I hear him proclaim quietly to himself,
“I lived in an orphanage.”

It’s like he just had to say it.
He had to taste it.
He had to hear it.
He had to have those words tumble through his mouth and go straight through his teeth.


And not a good one.

So as I sit here tonight and type this all out and relive that moment I am, of course,
going over and over
and over
my response to him.
Could it have been better?
Should I have sweetened it up?
Busted out some scriptures?
Should I have put on Annie?
Should I have told him an orphanage is a type of fancy shoe found only in the far reaches of the rain forest?
I don’t know.

And I think I know that this is where my frustration lies in with so much of what we go through with these boys.

I just can’t.
How do you possibly look at this sweet 8 year old child and give him that kind of information almost like a spelling bee.
Can I you use it in a sentence?
Does it have any alternate pronunciations?
Language of origin?
Definition please:

or·phan·age (ôrf-nj)
1. A public institution for the care and protection of children without parents.
2. The condition of being a child without parents.

Prior to today we always talked about his group foster home that he spent the last two years in, as his “China house.”
A term that he coined himself when he first started picking up English.
And he called the orphanage the “Big China House.”
We just kinda went with that.
It was how he distinguished the two when he would share stories about his life.
Perhaps I should have, in those early days, corrected him and given him words like
“group foster home”
But I didn’t.
Nor did it ever even occur to me to do so.
Insert mistake #4,893.
Doin good Sonia, doin good. Sheesh.

I don’t really have any great, upbeat, fun way to end this.
It was a crappy moment.
It just was.

But though I don’t know much,
and I feel like I’m falling more than I’m building,
and I though I never seem to never have the textbook answer at the ready I know Who does.

I know the script writer, I know the director, I know the One who will make beauty from it all.
So as I sleep lay awake in bed tonight turning that conversation over in my mind that is what I will always come back to.
Because at the end of every show,
at the end of every movie
there comes the credits.
And I know just Who is both starring in and producing our show.
And if I could see it…..maybe, just maybe, it’d read something like this:

Starring Jacob ~ as the son. Designed and made beautiful by God.
Starring Sonia ~ as the mother. Designed and made beautiful by God.
Starring Jesus Christ. ~ The ONE who knit them both together and who sees so much more than we can even fathom. The author and perfecter. The redeemer, the risen Savior.

So Max Braverman, I have news.
You have autism.
You do.
But that label does not define you,
or make you,
or control you,
or persuade you.

You are you.
You are Max.
And you Jacob,
You are Jacob.
Beautiful, wonderful, full of life, beat of my heart.
Forever loved by me, but so much more by Him.
You may have once lived in an orphanage but now,
now you live at home.
Orphan no more, but now treasured son.

“…to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the LORD for the display of his splendor.” Isaiah 61:3

17 responses to “He Didn't Get the Memo”

  1. Dawn Wright says:

    Oh wow……I know that moment. Our kids didn’t live in orphanages- or at least the one who did- not for long and he doesn’t remember it….

    BUT they did live with birth families and experienced or faintly remember experiences that happened, but when they come to you and ask- why did I come live with you. I want to hide!!! NO actually I want to RUN FOR THE HILLS, but the problem is I want to take my family with- problem!

    So the deal is……we talk about it, and they give me blank stares, and then we talk about forgiveness for the birth family and what they did or didn’t do. And how we need to pray for them and so on and so forth, but really IT IS HARD STUFF!!!! How do you tell them that their parents chose drugs over them? How do you say- ummmm….they had no idea how to keep you safe from simple things? How do you say you were separated from siblings because well “the system” stinks sometimes. How do you say (we haven’t yet of course he is only 2) you have hiv the rest of your life because your birth mom – who is from the US- didn’t take her medications? Or that you have permanent brain damage because she failed to give you meds, did drugs and alcohol, and well- you get the gist of it.

    Sonia- I struggle with this ALL THE TIME!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! PLEASE SOMEONE COME UP WITH A HOW TO!!!! I am begging you!!!!!

  2. Oh My Gosh… TEARS! Thank You For Sharing that sweet mama… I Understand A LOT of what you have written and feel! Bless You!

  3. Melissa says:

    This was powerful

  4. Kam says:

    You’re doing a fantastic job, Sonia. You’re walking with Him and with Jacob through the circumstances that come from a fallen and depraved world. I know there are always times where, as parents, we look back and think we should have done something differently. But God uses those moments too…to make us more like Him. To grow us in His likeness. It’s a painful realization he came to. But in some ways, a necessary one. It may be the means to the ends of his salvation. Our God makes all things beautiful in His time. Our past, our failures and even our weaknesses…much love to you and to sweet Jacob.

  5. Sarah says:

    I think I cried because remembering that God is the one who writes and directs the script, loves me and my two new daughters, more than I know, gave my heart hope and joy. Thank you.

  6. Donna O. says:

    Oh, wow, Sonia! God has given you such insight and wisdom. Your children know that you and John love them without measure and are learning that God loves them even more. The love that wrote the last paragraph will work with the resiliency God has built into a child’s heart. It has to because He entrusted all children to parents who don’t have a script. You are doing an amazing job with your seven, and seeing what the Lord is going to do in their lives will be an adventure story we are all going to enjoy immensely. So forget about ever stopping the blog! Bless you for your transparency, for making us think deeper, for your heart that is so huge.
    Loves and hugs…

  7. Stefanie says:

    I have had a few of those moments, forever etched on my heart, where I had to share words that I knew were truth, but that would hurt my children’s hearts. There is nothing like it. Thank you for the beautiful reminder that God can be trusted to heal any heartbreak or brokenness this world brings.

  8. Debi says:


  9. Sonia, I’m so glad i read this. Beautifully written! Thank you for sharing such an unforgettable and intimate moment in your family. It seems to me that you did not fail at all. You were there for your son in that moment when a mother should be there. May he always identify himself as treasured son!

  10. Donna says:

    The moment my daughter realized she had been left, LEFT, by the people who should have loved her. She knew she had lived in an orphanage (until she was 6) but HOW she got there was just not a piece of the story that had ever crystallized before.
    Not pretty. I definitely had the desire to run fast and far, but even more to turn back the clock to the moment before that part of her past became part of her present and her future.
    Hard stuff. Awful stuff.
    Now living that reality with 62 “kids without parents”. They call me Mama.

  11. Kim says:

    Beautifully written and oh so timely as I had “that” moment with my (red headed) domestically adopted twins this summer. Thank you for sharing (and teaching)! Love & Blessings, Kim

  12. Tricia says:

    Beautiful – thank you for expressing this so well.

  13. Oh my – I can’t even get my words to go right now. We are having moments like that here. My daughter is just realizing that the people who should have kept her from getting burned didn’t – then they left her. We have been so engulfed with the resulting behavior from that I didn’t even make the connection till now of the source of the behavior.

    I wish there was an easy way to tell these kids that we live in a fallen world – but the grace of God can redeem the lousy start they had. To remind them deep in their soul that they are not defined by the things that have happened to them but by the God who designed them.

    Thanks for sharing this painful moment – that took courage.

  14. Kim says:

    We have that same confusion in addition to the fact that our oldest son has seizures, and despite how many times we try to explain to him what they are, what they do to him, and what happens after, he has no idea. He’s eight and has been in our home for just a few short months. Our boys don’t fully understand adoption, let alone seizures. We go to the doctor to discuss the seizures, and Getu says, “Getu no seizures.” Thanks for sharing this with the rest of us. Even though we don’t all have the answers, there is comfort in not being alone.

  15. FYI, Annie is a no no in this house “no one cares for you a smidge when you’re in an orphanage” are lyrics of the very first song. Not a nice thing or a true thing in this house. This made me weepy. Thank you for sharing.

  16. Tonya says:

    Thank you for sharing such a personal moment. We should bring home our little girl next year and yes, she’s in an orphanage. I’ve wondered about her questions. I’m sure there will be many that I cannot answer. I’m a little teary thinking about it.

  17. Beautiful post. Sad but beautiful. It helps to see these things. They must be faced.

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