Thursday, February 10, 2011

Family Talk

I’ve had the opportunity to volunteer at the boys’ school a few times. Today, for example, all the Grade 1 and 2 students had an hour in the afternoon for skating at the local arena which is just two streets over from the elementary school. Imagine 100+ six to eight-year-olds with untied skates and unbuckled helmets. And you can easily see why parent volunteers are needed.

We (Abby and Jadon were quite excited to be coming along, too!) joined up with Ethan’s class just before the walk to the arena. Immediately, of course, Ethan’s classmates noticed the two extra children with me. The questions began. There were the spoken ones: “Ethan, is that your brother/sister? What’s his/her name?” And then there were the unspoken ones: “Why does your family look so different? How did you get to be family?” You could just see their little minds working.

And I love those times.

I love the chance to talk about how our family came together. Especially in the simple terminology that kids appreciate. And I love how easily most kids accept it all. “Hey, that’s really cool,” they say.

The experience of positive exposure to adoption is key to removing some of the stigma associated with adoption—the fear that stems from the unfamiliar. So I have a challenge for families that have not been formed through adoption: take a little time to talk to your kids about adoption. There are lots of ways that this might happen. If you know an adoptive family, you could point out the way that family came together. You could get a book about adoption from your local library. If you look carefully, you might even find multiracial families in some of your favorite children’s books (Canadian illustrator Michael Martchenko—of Robert Munsch books fame—often includes multiracial families in his books) and can point these out and discuss.

Last week, a friend told me about a conversation with her daughter. This woman is expecting a child (by birth) in June. As she snuggled with her 5-year-old (who is fervently hoping for a little sister), they discussed the new baby and talked about how the little girl was her mommy’s first baby and would always be her first baby. For whatever reason, the girl thought of our family. “Just like Andrew was Kristy’s first baby, right?” she asked. Caught a bit off guard, my friend had to pause. “Well, it’s a bit different with Andrew and Kristy.” She continued to describe the unique way our family came to be…and a little bit more about adoption, how sometimes parents die and can’t take care of their children or how sometimes parents have to give their children away because they really cannot care for them.

That was the point in the conversation that the little girl looked up at her mommy and asked if it was possible for their family to give away her three-year-old brother. Of course, that proposal was swiftly denied.

But, I’m thankful for my friend who took the time to have a conversation, however simple and small, to reinforce to her child that adoption is a legitimate way that families come together. Such talk blesses my family.

Speaking of families, I have to share Andrew’s comments after supper tonight. As he headed for the broom closet in order to begin his evening chores, he said, “I really don’t like chores, but I do like my family.” :)

I'm glad, buddy. I like our family, too.


kim said...

Ahhhh... we are all becoming families aren't we :) We've had some school friends question our family as well. I think it's brought my kids closer together to explain to others how we came to be!

Rob and Candy said...

Great post!