|Some of that wild garlic is in my tummy. It was delicious in a risotto.|
It has been a while since I shared thoughts on adoption. If you are a new reader, you may not know that we have two birth children (Sam and Annie), and two adopted children (James and Alistair). We have been together for over four years now and I don't often think about adoption these days. I am a mother most of all.
Having said that, we do need to make a conscious effort to talk about all things adoption with James and Alistair as their experiences prior to living with us are part of their life story. I am am also convinced that I owe this to their birth parents, who whilst they have been unable to provide a safe, caring and stable environment for their boys are by no means villains, but individuals who have themselves had (childhood) experiences that you would not want to wish onto anyone. We do write regular letters to them (which have not been passed on by the adoption liaison officer until last November, as we found out recently. I do hope he has been sacked)
Our adoption agency runs peer group meetings for future, new and 'veteran' adopters. I like to go whenever I can as I found it very useful during the adoption process to have somebody 'who's done it' to talk to about their experiences and I like to give back some of the kindness we have experienced during this period full of anxiety and stress. I have to be honest, it was not all joy and happiness, although there was that, too.
The most recent meeting was about how to talk to your children about adoption. It was interesting, there were many different approachess. Some seemed a bit formal, like 'lets sit down and talk about adoption'. Other parents were avoiding the subject altogether and now struggle to catch up with reality. Others still, seem to talk about adoption an awful lot. In any case, it is not optional, but one of the duties we took on when we adopted our two monkeys. Personally, I like the slapdash approach we take most. Of course I would.
We (we being mostly me) talk about it in an opportunistic way, for example when watching a family movie. Elf is great to initiate a chat about adoption for example (and of being different for that matter), if you wish to, and there are many other films with an adoption theme. We are happy to answer questions as and when the arise, just as we do when it comes to other 'difficult' subjects, 'where do children come from' for example. I don't push it but sometimes I might mention something in passing, maybe 'you look just like your tummy mummy' or something like it. I don't want to burden James and Alistair with stuff that they are too young to comprehend and it is not easy to explain why they were taken into care without actually saying why. I choose to say that their birth parents couldn't keep them safe and that they found it difficult to even look after themselves, let alone after two little boys. To be honest, I don't think they care all that much at the moment and that's ok. But of course as they get older and start wondering about the ways of life, they will probably be more curious about their origins, and their life story. We'll be ready when they are ready.
We have a birth family album for both boys, and one from their foster family, too. James and Alistair are full brothers, if you were wondering. The birth family album is full of happy photographs taken during supervised visits. It is a bit strange and disconcerting seeing everybody so happy, considering the circumstances. I have worried that James and Alistair might start questioning this but so far, they haven't. All their albums are sharing a space with our own pre-adoption family albums. They are on a love shelve, easily accessible for anyone who fancies looking at photos. I want James and Alistair to feel it is normal to be adopted, just as normal as it is to remain with birth family. I want them to talk talk about adoption with friends and teachers, should they want to. There are so many different kinds of family now that all is normal. I know not everybody shares this (liberal?) view but in my mind, a family is a group of two or more individuals, more or less related (if at all), who love each other and choose a life together. I guess it is a bit like my quilt, a bit random, a bit matching but not completely and beautiful as a whole.
Don't get me wrong, not all is grand it our patchwork family. We all have our own strength and weaknesses, a sum of our individual and collective history. My two youngsters are sweet, loving and well adjusted. They also have tantrums and are sometimes not very nice at all. It would be easy to claim all the good bits and blame the 'bad' on the the neglect they suffered as infants but of course it is much more complicated than that.
I'll maybe talk about this another time, if you like. I would be very interested in your views on how to talk about adoption with your child. Please do share if you like. Maybe you are an adopter? Maybe you were adopted?
Anyway, better stop procrastinating and get on with my job. Have a lovely week. xx