Thursday, December 13, 2007

My Kids on Our Adoption

Today, another mother mentioned how well-spoken Olivia and Josiah seem to be, making them seem so much older than the ages I quoted her. I couldn't help but think about the ways in which this adoption has aged us all. We care more....and so we are older......about more people.....older again......we have millions of anonymous loves all over the world, all of us, and we are prepared to be named family together with any two of them at any time, and they don't know us, and they may not have anything to eat, and every day, we love very old. And so my kids talk the way they do (and you should hear how they talk!).

A long time ago (months? weeks? decades?) I began to consider, for the first time, the impact of our newly adopted childrens' grieving on ALL of the members of the household; Josh and I have done our homework (okay, mostly me...I read, I bring issues before Josh, and he, intuitively, responds much better than the experts.) regarding attachment and grief and have learned so much about hope and loss in the process, but Olivia and Josiah could be faced with a brother or sister who screams and cries for hours with no discernable explanation, and I haven't done a thing to prepare them for this possible eventuality.

So, just as I was mulling over my best approach to the situation, that VERY week, Olivia stopped me mid-laundry and asked me to play with her. I said yes (laundry....Olivia.....laundry....Olivia,......hmmmmm...) of course. She said, "I want to play orphan."

I said, "Okay...." visibly thrown off-balance, I'm sure, but this is a posture she's accustomed to seeing from her mother, so she was unshaken when I haltingly asked, "how do you play?"

"I'll be the orphan," she said. "And you've adopted me, and I'm glad. I like you. I might even love you. But sometimes I get really sad because I still miss my mom, and I'm sad that she's gone, and I don't know how to tell you that. I don't want to make you think I don't like you. And sometimes I get sad, and I don't even know why I'm sad. So you have to show me that you're going to love me even if I get really sad sometimes and you don't know why."

Thank you very much, sweet Olivia.

Fast forward through countless prayers for the "new babies"....earnest, honest prayers.... to this week.

A couple of nights ago, I was home late from teaching. I still had some work to do on the computer, so I didn't make it to bed until VERY late. My usually night-comatose husband woke up almost immediately to tell me that he and the kids had had a "big night." "I think you should know about it," he said, " in case it comes up tomorrow."

"Okay," I thought, blank-brained.

"We talked about the adoption," he went on. "I'm not sure how it came up, but when it did, I asked Olivia if she was getting excited about the new babies....."

Let me interrupt to let you know how deeply invested she is in this whole process. In trying to save for the completion of this process, we eliminated virtually all extraneous memberships/activities from our lives and the lives of our kids. That meant that music classes, dance classes, etc. were all suspended for at least several months until we could be sure that our resources were sufficient to complete this process. Olivia was with me when I stopped by the ballet office to pay the last bill from last spring. I hadn't planned to "announce" the no-ballet edict at the actual ballet studio, but the question was posed, and I stood trying to explain my reasoning to a lovely administrative ballet person while my daughter melted into sobs at my side. Mother of the year I was not. After we left, I talked to her about the choice. Then I decided to try something, committed to affecting whichever outcome my experiment solicited, whatever it took. I told Olivia that I hadn't planned to stop ballet without talking to her first and that I still had time to enroll her in classes. I told her that we, as a family, were trying to cut out a lot of extra costs this fall so that we could bring the new babies home as soon as possible. ...sometimes giving up things we really enjoyed. I told her that, no matter what, the new babies were coming home and that we were going to find a way to make it happen.....that we were making these small sacrifices just to make sure we are absolutely ready when it happens so that there aren't any delays. Then, I let her choose: she could do ballet or she could forgo ballet, and we would include the money that we would have spent in our provision for being ready to bring home the new babies as soon as possible. The Nutcracker is this weekend. We aren't going because she thought that would make her very good choice feel just too sad.

SO, back to the conversation with Josh...

"She said, 'yes, I'm excited....well maybe...' and then she burst into tears. She said 'I'm just afraid that you won't have room on your lap for all four of us.' I scooped up her and Josiah and showed them how my arms stretched so far that there would always be room...that I could hug, and cuddle, and tickle...and I reached around and tickled them....four kids with no problem. We talked about that for a long time. I told her that no matter how many kids we had, she would always be my only Olivia and he would always be my only Josiah and we talked about what it meant to be completely special. Then, I thanked her so much for talking to me because my greatest sadness would be in thinking that she had to be so afraid and so sad all alone...I told her that, even after the babies come home, I want her to always tell me whatever she's feeling so that, no matter what, she doesn't have to feel it alone."

"It sounds like you handled it really well, Josh....You're a great da.."

"There's more. I asked if she had anything else she wanted to talk to me about. She said that she and Josiah were worried about something. She and Josiah, and I looked at him, and he nodded. Like they've been talking about this together, just the two of them, for awhile. She said that both she and Josiah were worried that you and I were going to catch whatever sickness might have killed the babies' mom and dad while we're in Ethiopia. And they are afraid we are going to die too. "


"So we talked about AIDS"

"You talked about AIDS?! You had a HUGE night!"

"I told them that there are a lot of sicknesses in Ethiopia that we don't have in America because there are medicines in America that stop people from getting sick. They know about vaccines, and I told them how you and I are getting vaccinated for everything we possibly can so that we won't catch any of the sicknesses that lots of people die from because of those American medications. Then I told them that one virus that a lot of people die from in Africa called HIV can only be caught in certain ways, and I told them that you and I aren't going to be doing any of the things that can cause someone to catch that virus while we're in Ethiopia."

"Perfect answer."

"You should have seen them. It looked like a 40 pound weight was lifted off of both of their shoulders after we finished the conversation."

How about that father and those kids!

To date, the biggest worry that Josiah has expressed about the new babies is that they will bite or hit him. Who knew he had such heavy concerns? And such conversations with his sister!?

We're all a little older.
I'll be glad when we can be older all together.

1 comment:

graceling said...

Wow! That is some heavy duty parenting right there. You both are doing beautifully, and I hope that when I find myself having these conversations with my little one, I handle it with as much love and grace as you both have shown!