Teachable Moments

(Originally posted November 3, 2011 on blogspot.)

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In celebration of National Adoption Month

It started with a simple conversation about Halloween with two second grade girls. Did they have fun trick-or-treating. Did they get a lot of candy. That sort of thing. Then we talked about Lily and how much fun she had. What her costume looked like.

“Would you like to see a picture?” I asked. One of the little girls is a returning student from last year and has met Lily. The other has not.

“She’s cute!” the newer little girl said. But I could see it in her eyes. “She doesn’t look like you.”

“No, she doesn’t.” I planned to elaborate, but I could see her trying to work it out, while trying to stay polite.

“Does she look like your husband?”

“No, she doesn’t look like him, either. Lily is adopted!”

“Oh! OK!” she responded, handling it with more grace than some adult strangers I’ve met. “She looks JUST LIKE Princess Tiana!”

“Do you know anyone who is adopted?” I asked. They both had met people, but didn’t have anyone close in their lives.

The other girls arrived, the class began, and I moved on.

But it made me wonder about the other girls, and whether they had an understanding of adoption. It usually comes up with each new group of kids I teach. I decided to test the waters with the Halloween conversation again.

“I was showing a couple of the girls a picture of Lily in her Halloween costume earlier,” I said to the ten bright eyes looking up at me. “Would everyone else like to see?”

I had planned to let them react on their own, but the first girl was far too excited, and feeling extremely special. “She doesn’t look like Mindy or Mindy’s husband because she was adopted!”

I showed her pictures to each of the five girls, including the two who had already seen it. And then the questions began. Some of them I anticipated. How old was Lily now? How old was she when we got her? Did we pick her name?

Those questions were easy to answer.

But then I got some others.

Did someone leave her on our doorstep?

Why couldn’t her first Mommy keep her?

Could that Mommy ever take her back?

What if we wanted to give her back?

Some of this was straight-forward enough, since Lily absolutely was not left on anyone’s doorstep. The adoption process is complicated even for an adult to understand, let alone an 8-year-old. But I did explain that the lady who carried Lily in her belly decided at the hospital that she wasn’t ready to be a Mommy, and that the hospital contacted some people who knew we were looking for a baby.

But those other questions were tough. She just wasn’t ready to be a Mommy. I wasn’t about to tell these little girls the specific circumstances surrounding Lily’s conception and birth and her birthmother’s life. So she just wasn’t ready. And I left it at that, and refused to say more.

And those last two questions. We talked about it until I was as sure as I could be that they understood.

Her birthmommy cannot come and take Lily away, and we would never ever give Lily away, any more than their parents would give THEM away. She is our baby forever. And we are her Mommy and Daddy forever. I even told them about going to court, and how a judge changed her birth certificate. We are her Mommy and Daddy. We are the only people she knows as Mommy and Daddy. And that will never change.

November is National Adoption Month. For the third year in a row, I’m opening myself up. (although, let’s face it. I’m always pretty open.) I have a feeling grown-ups have the same questions these little girls do, they just think they’re not supposed to ask. So I’m officially telling you- please ask. I would love to answer.

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