Wow, I thought the poll results were really interesting! Here are some thoughts:
Only 23 people voted – the last poll had over 70 voters. Why is that? Non-voters might not be adoptive parents, or they might be adoptive parents who haven’t talked about any of these things. I hope it’s the first option.
Not surprisingly, all but one of us have talked to our children about the “gotcha” moment. Of course! That’s the really fun part of the story to tell, and it’s the part our young children love to hear. FYI, I used “gotcha” on the poll because it’s such a well-known term, but we don’t really use it. Zoe objected to “gotcha” because it made her think of monsters lurking in closets, waiting to jump out at you and say “GOTCHA!” So we celebrate Family Day – the day we became a family. Because of the way it happens in China, that just means it's the next day, because that's when the adoption is finalized. What does your family do?
Eighteen people – 78% -- have talked to your kids about birth parents; I think that’s great, but I’d have loved to see 100%! Even if you think your kids are too young, I think it’s a good idea to start talking about birth parents, China families, first family, whatever you decide to call them, really early. It gives you practice before your children get what you’re talking about, and then you’ve opened the door in case your child IS thinking about them long before she/he says anything to you, or long before you think they’re at that developmental mark. I’m continually surprised at how early my kids reached all the big WHY questions – why don’t I have a daddy, why doesn’t our skin match, why didn’t I grow in your tummy, why didn’t my birth parents keep me – LONG before the books said they would! You can introduce birth parents really early and really simply, even if you don't have much information about them. Our story starts like this: "You grew like a flower in your birth mother's tummy until you were ready to be born. Your birth parents gave you your beautiful golden skin and your beautiful dark hair, and your beautiful dark eyes." How have you incorporated birth parent information in even early conversations with your kids?
I was a little surprised that less than half of the respondents had talked to their kids about their birth. I’d really encourage parents to include this part of their child’s story when they tell the adoption story. Adopted kids who don’t hear that they were born might feel that there is something abnormal about them, and might see us as ignoring their life before we met. I started out simply when my kids were very young, saying, as I said above, “You grew in your birth mother’s tummy until it was time for you to be born.” In their lifebook, I've written, "It takes a man and a woman to make a baby. Your birth mother and your birth father were the man and lady who made you! Every child is born, so you were born!" What does your "birth" conversation sound like? If you're not talking about birth, why not?
Less than half have talked about China’s one child policy, and less than one-third have talked about the social preference for boys. Why is that? It might be that you think your children are too young; I first talked about it with Zoe when she was 4, and that was only because we were going to China to adopt her sister, and I wanted her to hear something about it from me in case someone else decided to talk about it in front of her. Our first in-depth conversation was when she was 6, and we were about to visit her finding place in China. And then this summer, we’ve talked about it a LOT. Maya has been hearing about it since age 3, but I’m not sure how much she gets. Or maybe you’ve adopted from some country other than China – amazing how China-centered the poll turned out when I really didn’t mean to! But then, less than half talk about other reasons birth parents might have for placing a child, and that would give non-China adoptive parents to chime in, and not many did!
Less than half have talked about citizenship; one of the reasons we have is because of our return trips to China. My kids know about their American passports, and we have pictures in their albums of us standing before a U.S. flag conveniently placed outside the door of customs and immigration at LAX, and we say, “And THAT’S when you became an AMERICAN citizen!” I’m glad we’ve had that conversation, because they are talking about citizenship in Social Studies in Zoe’s second grade class this year, and I know another child in the class who was born abroad asked about whether she was an American.
So, did the poll responses surprise you? Are you doing the same thing others are doing in telling the adoption story? What are you doing differently? I’d love to hear from the 11 who talk about things not on the list!