I realized recently that I don’t actually talk to Teddy about adoption that often. When people ask how we plan to tell Teddy he was adopted, we always answer that we intend to make it part of the conversation from the beginning. We want Teddy to be able to tell people that he always knew he was adopted, that he doesn’t remember a specific time when we sat him down and gave him “the talk”.
Now, it’ll be obvious to him at some point that he’s adopted. It’s not like we run the risk of him not realizing he’s adopted if we don’t mention it. But that’s beside the point. We want to make it such a normal thing to discuss that it’s not a “thing”. It just is.
But that requires actually talking about it. Even from this age. Because if I wait until I’m sure he can understand, that’s too late. I do make a point of reading children’s books about adoption to Teddy, but even then, I’m simply reading a story. I don’t spell out how his story is similar to the story I’m reading. Even though I’m choking up as I read it.
Mike is much better about this. He wears an adoption wristband that Teddy loves to play with. Every time Teddy pulls at the wristband, Mike explains what it is and how we’re an adoptive family because we adopted him when he was 6 weeks old. Obviously, Teddy doesn’t understand this; he just likes grabbing at the piece of stretchy black rubber on Mike’s arm. But each time Mike repeats the explanation, he feels and sounds less awkward. And that is key.
His efforts, along with a webinar we listened in on recently, have reiterated to me the importance of working adoption into my everyday commentary with Teddy, especially since I’m the one he hears from most during the week. Learning to talk about it now is more important for us than for Teddy because when he does understand what we’re saying, we don’t want him to detect even the tiniest bit of awkwardness. We want to be comfortable with the topic so he will be. He’ll learn from us the language and tone he’ll use to explain adoption to others. And he’ll learn from us how to respond to others’ comments and questions.
The more I think about it, the more I realize that casually mentioning adoption is actually easier than I’ve been making it out to be. Many parenting articles urge parents to narrate their day because that’s how children learn language. So the next time I’m working on something or reading something adoption-related (which is quite often since I manage a blog for New Rhythm Project, an adoption-advocacy nonprofit), I’ll simply make a point to tell Teddy what I’m doing.
Too bad he’s napping, or I’d start with this blog…