Ever since I was given the opportunity to write for the Rochester Moms Blog, my sweet oldest daughter has desperately wanted to be a part of it. Little does she know, she already is! She is the first reason that I AM a mom and often the inspiration for the things I do. Nonetheless, she repeatedly begs to come to events with me and to “help” me write posts. Needless to say, I always decline. However, November is National Adoption Month, and we agreed that this is the perfect opportunity for her to contribute her voice to our community.
First, let me share a little background about our family. My daughter is ten years old. In my relatively limited parenting experience, ten years old is that wonderful, magical age where she is still very much a rule follower and actually cares what I have to say. She is actually able to formulate her thoughts and is quite an interesting person to talk to. I like ten years old. I adopted my daughter from East Africa as a single mother, when she was just 18 months old. We returned to the United States when she was just over two years old, so she has no verbal memories of her life before us.
We share our experiences with the caution that every family and every adoption situation is very different. Our adoption story may not look anything like yours, or your best friend’s, or your sister’s. We also share our voices with the caution that this is simply where our family is in this moment in time. Our little family has had easier days of adjustment and family functioning, and we most assuredly have had harder days. We recognize that this is just one snapshot in time and that tomorrow may not look anything like today. That said, my daughter and I recently had a conversation about what she wishes people knew about adoption, with the explicit intention of sharing it here.
5 Things My Internationally Adopted Tween Wants You To Know
These are 5 things that my internationally adopted tween wants you to know about her experience growing up in a transracial adoptive family.
1. “Adoption can be hard.”
In the interest of sparing my daughter some of my “wit” (otherwise known as sarcasm,) I did NOT say anything along the lines of “Thank you, Captain Obvious.” Ultimately, she does not have the vocabulary to describe the depths of the loss involved in adoption. If I’m being honest, I often don’t either. I don’t even know that they exist. I use the words I know to communicate the best that I can. Then, I hope that my love and actions fill in the blanks.
When we talked about the hardest things (so far) about being adopted, she mentioned two things. First of all, when we talk about “hard things” (currently code for puberty), she wishes that she knew what her biological mom would say about it. I believe that she will struggle with this throughout her life, every time there is a new life stage. She is poignantly aware that there is another opinion in the world that she deeply values. And she knows that she will never get to hear it. The loss is overwhelming.
Secondly, it is very difficult for her to lack any knowledge about her biological family. Due to the circumstances of her adoption, we do not have any information about her biological family. I cannot tell her anything about her birth mom or dad or whether she has any siblings. I cannot tell her what day she was actually born or where. I’ve got nothing. What feels like such a fundamental part of the human experience, to know where one comes from, is something that I can’t give her. Knowing how much that breaks my heart, I cannot imagine what it does to her.
2. “I like to talk about when you found me.”
We talk about her story. Often, and in detail. It gives my daughter such comfort to tell and re-tell the story of how we met and became a family. Every child enjoys hearing stories about when they were young, but those stories take on a different meaning for my daughter. She can’t remember our first days together, but she loves to hear about them. When we’re really looking for a good time, we pull out her “Adoption Book” and all of the legal documents for her adoption. She loves to see how much work was put into bringing her home and how deeply loved she was before she ever became “mine”.
3. “Being the only African-American child in my family is interesting.”
Personally, I think “interesting” was a far milder word than she wanted to use. It’s hard to be the only African-American in the family! We have been blessed to live in diverse, supportive communities, so we have never had a negative experience related to her adoption. But she looks different than the rest of us, at an age where “fitting in” is the ultimate goal. My daughter is a warrior, though, and she tells me that she “has fun” telling her friends all the stories that make her unique. She also tells me that she has fun imagining what her biological parents look like. She seems so aware that sometimes the dream is more satisfying than the reality.
4. “A lot of kids don’t understand the experience of being adopted.”
This goes without saying, doesn’t it?? As with many things in life, it is difficult to understand being adopted if you have not been through that experience yourself. And how desperately do we, as humans, desire to be known? How desperately do we want to be understood without having to explain ourselves over and over? Sometimes the work of trying to be understood is downright exhausting.
5. “It’s so fun to have found a family.”
Always my brave girl, my daughter had to end on a positive note. Though she doesn’t always feel it, she fits into our family so perfectly. I cannot imagine our lives without her. She loves her brothers fiercely and inspires us all to be better. Though she might be happy to be part of our family, it is truly our lives that have grown richer.