Friday, August 29, 2008

Sharing/Not Sharing

A commenter (I know who you are!) posted: "Just on the way to school this AM Sydney said "there was a boy at school that asked me who my REAL Momma was." I said "What did you say?" She said "I told him she lives at my house." I replied to her that was true, and perhaps she could ask, in addition, "are you speaking of my birth mother?" She said "I am SO TIRED of people asking me that! If I tell him that, then I'll have to tell the whole story." As a parent the non-sharing concept has been difficult for me to grasp on my end, because I LOVE the "whole story." I want to shout out the "whole story!" But at Sydney and Zoe's age, they want a sense of alikeness and harmony - so I can see how developmentally she would find this classic non-adoptive person's question annoying. "

I couldn't agree more! As you can tell, I'm a "sharer!" Zoe definitely goes through phases with the sharing/not sharing thing, but tends to be more willing to share than I know Sydney is. Not only do different kids have different reactions to it, but even ONE kid can have different reactions to it! We talked about this blog, and whether it was OK for me to share her story, and she approved it. But she will also say sometimes that she doesn't want to share something, so I don't!

A great book to help empower both sharing and not sharing is WISE UP. It tells kids they have a choice about how to respond to questions they might find intrusive. They can:

  • Walk away
  • Ignore it
  • Share about their adoption story
  • Educate with true facts about adoption

Zoe and Maya attended a Chinese Heritage Camp this summer, and the curriculum included a WISE UP session. Zoe was telling me all about it afterwards, and I asked, "So what would you say if someone said -- 'That's not your real mom, she doesn't look like you'?"

Zoe's answer, "I'd say, yes she is my mother. But I also have another mother in China but she couldn't take care of me the way she wanted to, so she put me in a box so I wouldn't have to marry a boy and work for him." Huh?! (When I explained about the 1 child policy, social preference for boys thing, I explained that boys take care of their parents in their old age, but girls are expected to take care of their husbands' parents. I think she got it kind of mixed up with a book I got her to read for Women's History Month called, "If You Lived When Women Got Their Rights (yes, I'm raising a feminist!)." She was pretty incensed about the idea of a wife having to work for her husband and not having her own money. In fact, she asked me if Mimi had to work for Grandpa -- I explained that the book was talking about a long, long. time ago -- so when her great-grandfather died she asked if it meant that Alice, his wife who died before him, would now have to go back to working for him now that they were both in heaven!)

So Zoe's WISE UP answer was definitely SHARE! And maybe sharing more than the questioner expected! She shared the circumstances of her finding with a non-adopted friend (the put-in-a-box thing, which is for some reason a resonant fact for Zoe), who then shared it with her mother. Sure enough, I got a phone call from that mom! She was OK with her daughter getting a dose of the real world, but her husband wasn't thrilled.

I'm actually the one who introduced the idea that her adoption story was private, not Zoe! In kindergarten, she took the photo album from Maya's adoption trip to school for show-and-tell. We carefully marked with post-its the photos to show -- Zoe at the Great Wall, meeting her sister for the first time, etc. Zoe decided to share ALL of it: "And here's Maya's foster mom. . ." and then explained to the whole class the difference between a birthmom, a foster mom, and a forever mom (yes, I definitely heard about it from her teacher!). I could just imagine the dinner table conversations that night, and all these parents trying to untangle all of this for their kindergartners, and going, "Gee, thanks, lady!"


Chinazhoumom said...

Thank you for posting - I loved reading when you lived in China - and am really enjoying reading about how the girls see the world and their experiences...As the mom to an almost 4 yr old - I know the tought questions are right around the corner.
So thank you - adn I hope all else is well.
Carol in FL

Wendy said...

Thank you for the resource. I was cracking up reading this because it is so Madeline as well. I even called Jeff in and he said we will be there next year when she hits Kindergarten!

A similar discussion happened with her best friend when we went over for a playdate. They were talking and her friend went to a local fair and found a book about China in the used books and wanted to give it to Madeline (her mom seemed uncomfortable if it would be okay as the book was very old, but we gladly accepted this loving four year old gift and immediately looked for Guangxi). As we all looked at the photos together Madeline was very excited to share her birthcountry and especially Guangxi and then she started telling her story to her friend. All of sudden her friends eyes seemed to enlarge and it hit me that it was the first time she realized M was adopted! She knew she was Chinese/ Asian and that we
are White, but you could see that it never dawned on her that we were not her bio parents! I think it scared her a bit. We finished the story and since then she has come to the understanding about what adoption is and is "back to normal" about things. I think it just shows that kids need discussion, the obvious is not always that obvious.

Kindergarten, we are on the way!