I am a mom to a beautiful, smart, funny, witty, bright and clever 5 year old daughter. She is the apple of my eye and the centre of my universe.
My daughter, J, was born in China. For reasons that we will never know, J's birthparents, or tummy parents, as she currently calls them, were not able to care for her. Through a series of events that we will never fully comprehend nor be sure of, she was eventually placed in the care of the Guigang Social Welfare Institute. By the grace of God, she was matched with us in 2008 and we became her parents in March of that year. We are amazingly lucky to have been able to become her Mommy and Daddy.
As a parent, and more particularly an adoptive parent, there are things that define me. Some may be shared by other parents, some may not. Some may be a breath of fresh air to adoptees, and some may be offensive. The only one that troubles me in the latter. I hope to never say anything that will offend adoptees, and I hope that none of these will be taken that way. Honestly, I'm really not concerned about offending anyone else...
Here are some of my defining thoughts:
1. When you adopt internationally, citizenship is an important part of the process. When your child becomes a citizen of your country, it is an exciting day. But please remember that you are actually taking a substantial part of your child away from them. When we went through the immigration process for our daughter, we were performing an essential part of the adoption process. But we were also being forced to take away our child's Chinese citizenship. This is something I feel guilty about, even though we had no choice in the matter. So when J became a Canadian Citizen, it was bittersweet. We feel Canada is the greatest country in the world, for so many reasons. But we've grown up here and it's all we've ever known. We are not at all happy about having to revoke J’s Chinese citizenship in order to become a Canadian…
2. We have no fear or anxiety about J ever finding her birthparents. If any mechanism ever is developed that will allow us to find them, and J wants to do so, we will support her 100%. I would be so happy to be able to have them in our life. J will have questions someday that she won't be able to answer without them. They have had to make the most difficult decision a parent ever has to make. I hope that they would be pleased to see that their child is happy and healthy, and respect the fact that they have suffered great loss in this process. Ultimately, the process of reuniting a child and his or her birth family needs to be based on the willingness of the parties. I am not one of those parties and do not have a say. I’m ok with that.
3. We did not “save” our daughter from China. We did not adopt to “make a difference in the life of a child”. Here is why these comments annoy me… If these things happened as a by-product of the decisions we made, then so be it. But it is clear that our first motivation was selfish. We wanted to be parents. We wanted to have the joys of parenting and we wanted to experience the pride of having an awesome kid. We did this for us. I admit it.
How could I feel we “saved” J? We swooped in there, took her away from everything and everyone she knew, to satisfy our need to be parents. Today, she loves us unconditionally and is a proud Chinese Canadian girl. But someday she will go through a phase where she resents us. And with reason. We have no right to expect her to be grateful to us for becoming her parents. Because to us, this adoption is about creating a family. But to her, adoption is about loss, trust, and heartache. She says she misses her tummy mummy and tummy daddy, even though she does not remember them. She says she misses her foster family too, although she says she doesn’t remember them either. We need to be conscious of the fact that her emotions in this process need to be respected, supported and addressed appropriately.
I feel we are good parents to J. But that will not be enough as she grows up, and we are fully aware of that. She will have to deal with the emotional toll an adoption takes on a child and remains with him or her as they grow up. All I can hope for is that I’ll be able to be by her side during this process and support her as a mom should always support their child.
4. J does not believe in Santa Claus. Or the Easter Bunny. Tooth Fairy, either. I never did and haven’t made her to. At 5, she also knows that it is not up to her to spoil the magic for other kids and respects that. I have assured her that I will NEVER lie to her about anything important. Truth and trust is essential in our family. I do not lie to her about her background either. I tell her what we know (in age appropriate bits and pieces), with caveats where they are appropriate. I am allowing her to choose what she believes in. As such, I will be able to maintain as she grows older, that I never lied to her about anything that was important (and hope she won’t consider it “important” that I lied to her about the fact that chocolate is spicy….).
5. I believe the celebration of the day our child joined our family should be called whatever feels right to us and to our child at any given time in her life. There has been much discussion about the use of “Gotcha Day” and the objections to it. Some families have justified their use of “Gotcha Day” in very interesting and convincing ways. We don’t use the term. We refer to the day we met our daughter as our “Forever Family Day”. But that’s because that works for us and I don’t feel comfortable with “Gotcha Day”. But I have no right to tell anyone else what they should say. I’m all for doing my part to increase sensitivity. But that doesn’t mean I can tell people what works best for their family.
6. I don’t believe in protecting my child from everything in this world. I feel that teaching her the skills to deal with everyday risks is far more important and enduring than ensuring she never gets hurt. Let’s teach our kids that they need to be careful in dangerous situations, instead of making sure they are never put in any situations that carry a risk. Let’s teach them that they will see and hear things in their lives that are not acceptable in our family (swearing, drugs, promiscuity, “adult” clothing on children, etc) instead of sheltering them from those things and having them see those things later, at a time when they are ill-equipped to make decisions about them on their own. Let’s teach kids that they need to make decisions about their friends and what behaviours they are willing to accept from their friends towards them, rather than running to the school or to other kids’ parents as soon as there is something of which WE don’t approve.
These are some of the thoughts that define me and our family. I may add to these from time to time, as I know there are many more....
So take it or leave it-this is me. I'm proud of me-of our family-of our life. We rock! :-)