We were recently invited to come to answer questions about our experience for a group of prospective adoptive parents. The agency provides a list of likely questions which reminded me of all the ones we had when we were going through the process. As we sat with the five of us in front of the group, there was an awkward silence. .where to start. The facilitator asked us, “Did your daughter have any issues when you first brought her home.” As I was responding that our daughter did indeed have a common Ethiopia digestive issue, Leyla, who was sitting on my lap studying those studying her, passed gas very loudly. Her facial expression never changed. I paused and then added, she still has the occasional digestive issue and the room laughed. Leyla then proceeded to show off her lovely belly by lifting her dress and then moving to stick her hands inside her cute little matching bloomers. My thirteen year old son sitting next to me looked a bit mortified but it definitely lightened the mood.
The parents asked a number of great questions. Then one gentleman asked a series of questions that were a bit unexpected given the fact that our three kids – the two oldest - 9 and 13, were in the room and listening to what was said. He asked, “Do you love your biological and adoptive children the same? Do you pay more attention to the adoptive child? Do your other children get jealous or resent that?” He continue on in that vein for a while. It was interesting to watch many of the other parents squirm uncomfortably in their seats or even seem to tilt their bodies away from this man as if to distance themselves from his questions. I also felt my son sitting next to me sit up a little straighter. I knew he was listening very intently.
When the gentlemen finished, my husband responded with a laugh, “Oh I can answer for me and it’s an easy answer. I love her more and I have already told my sons that!” Half the room laughed and the other looked slightly horrified. My husband is from Greece and is not shy to speak his mind or make a joke. As I explained to this room, in the Greek culture or at least in my husband’s family, I have observed that there was a little truth in what he said but it had nothing to do with adoptive versus biological. In my husband’s family, his sister is his father’s favorite and my husband is his mother’s. And they freely joke about it.
These questions are difficult ones but go to the heart of what makes a family through adoption or biology. I mentioned I read a blog that tried to describe the love you feel if you have both biological and adoptive children. This woman had one of each and said her love for them was both the same and yet different. I agree with that assessment although since I have two biological, I will add it is the same but different for each child. One difference with your adoptive child is you want to make up for what wasn’t right in their past even though at an intellectual level you know that is not possible. But the love you have for them still includes that fierce desire.
I also spoke to the the attention question. My youngest son, who was our baby before his sister came, did mention early on when she was home, “She gets all the good attention and I get the bad.” We talked to him about it then and explained that she was a baby and he had gotten that same type of attention when he was a baby. It didn’t come up again so I asked him some months later if he still felt that way. He looked at me like it was a particularly dumb question as only your kids can, “Oh no, mom,” he said. “I may get a little less attention from you and dad. But I get A LOT of attention from Leyla so it is all good.” His little sister adores him and finds just about anything he does hysterically funny. They share a special bond that includes lots of laughter.
As I am speaking, this son has sat down on the other side of me and is poking me – increasingly harder as I try to ignore him. Finally, I say to the parents, “And as you can see, my kids know how to get attention." As I turned to him and asked him what he wanted to share, I waited with trepidation. This son can say the craziest things and they are not always appropriate for the situation. He started, “I was reading a book about a mother who had a biology –ical and adopted kid. She said that she loved them both the same amount but that the love was different for each of them so I agree with my mom.” Wow – I was humbled and proud. I don’t always know what goes on in his head but he had clearly been thinking about this at some point and found his answer through that book.
As we were driving home, my husband and I talked about what a great experience this had been to go back to talk to parents like us. We were reminded of how terrific our boys have been through this whole process and how much choosing this path has made our family learn and grow in beautiful but sometimes unexpected ways. We also felt we were in a small way paying it forward since our experience has been so amazingly positive.
I am a happily married, working mom with three kids - two boys, 19 and 15 years old, and one girl, 8 years old. My daughter is Ethiopian. I want to help raise awareness of the challenges and beauty in that country as well as the opportunities available to be part of the solution. And I want to share what I learn as I work to balance motherhood with career while trying to make a bigger contribution. I also blog at adoptivefamiliescircle.com - look for "Melting Pot Family" and at workingmother.com/momblog - look for "Mom, Mayhem, Missions and More".