Yesterday, a friend who’s adopted herself posted on my Facebook wall a link to a children’s book about adoption and reiterated something we’ve been told numerous times by our social worker and various training sessions: make adoption part of the conversation from the beginning. The fact of adoption itself will be obvious to Teddy from a young age. Ours is what is called a “conspicuous adoption” or “public adoption”: people can tell just by looking at our family that our son is adopted.
But just because something is obvious doesn’t mean it’s automatically easy to talk about. Teddy will know he’s adopted, but we will need to be intentional about creating an environment that’s comfortable for discussing his adoption story. This means welcoming all questions as soon as he starts asking them–as if he’s asking a standard toddler question like, “Why is the sky blue?” –and offering age-appropriate answers. Fortunately, Mike excels at taking potentially uncomfortable questions in stride. I’ll be following his lead on this one. And as a former teacher, he’s also great about answering only what’s asked, as an article I recently read advised. It also means not waiting for Teddy to ask but initiating discussions ourselves, so he knows this is OK to talk about. That same article suggested asking our son on birthdays and other special occasions if he’s thinking about his birth family…and missing them–and validating those feelings. It means talking about his birth family and pointing out his wonderful features and talents that came from them. It means reassuring him of his birth mother’s love for him.
Granted, none of that is necessary now. A four-month-old isn’t quite to the stage of interrogating his adoptive parents because of identity issues. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t some things we can do now. For example, when Teddy was two months old, he made a unique face, making his lips into a round O. Every time he did, we wondered aloud who in his birth family made such an expression. We also know from a photo of the birth mother that we were given that he shares facial features with her, so we mention that. Soon we’ll start telling him his adoption story so that by the time he can ask questions, he’ll have heard it many times.
The key is to make his adoption story as normal to talk about in our family as the weather–whether it’s a stormy time or sunny. We’ll be getting that book our friend suggested to help us get started.