How Our Family Talks About Adoption
Isaac says the funniest things sometimes (don't all little kids?)
Some of the most amusing comments these days come to us when he talks about Korea.
He'll start off with, "When I was a baby in Korea," and then continue with something he did back then (or thinks he did).
More often than not, we're pretty sure the memory happened in the U.S with us, and not in Korea. Our assessment is usually informed by the memory he describes. If he mentions a U.S store (Costco, say) that he used to go to, or a toy he didn't have until he came to the U.S., we know he's innocently fabricating a memory.
We're ok with this, even amused by it, because we understand it's just Isaac's way of constructing his world, and of making sense out of his history. At a very young four years old, this is his M.O.: to tell elaborate stories about his life and history and then see what sticks: Will mom and dad confirm? Correct? Deny? Most often we just laugh and say, "That's interesting! Korea must have been a wonderful place for you."
If you've read previous posts, you probably know that Isaac really did have a wonderful upbringing in Korea during his first two years. He had a loving foster family, a foster brother his age, community support and top-notch medical care. In short, he grew up as much like any other kid as possible until he came to us, and we're trying hard to keep it that way as all parents, both adoptive and non-adoptive do.
The important thing, in our minds, is to welcome any and all conversation about Korea, because we are open about his history. We, like he, tell stories of his upbringing (simplified and age-appropriate, of course) so that he knows where he came from, and to be proud of his heritage and culture. Our stories are more abstract at this age, but they will grow more detailed as he gets older, and as his understanding of his origin grows along with it.
We can only hope that, as the amalgam of memory, speech, sense impressions, language, continued cultural experience and influence continue to shape-shift in his big / little remarkable brain, the best feelings about his story will emerge victorious. The facts will continue to be provided by us, when appropriate. To us, at this stage, it's the feelings we must prioritize. That said, our stories to Isaac go something like this:
"You know, you were so lucky to have three mommies who loved you so much: You had your Tummy Mommy (Birth Mother), your Korea Mommy (Foster Mother) and your Korea Daddy. I am your Forever Mommy. George, Patty, Daddy and I are your family and we will be together forever.
We are so happy that your Korea Mommy, Korea Daddy and Tummy Mommy cared for you and looked out for you before we could come to you, and we love you very much.
Korea mommy told you stories of us before we came to bring you to America on the airplane. One day, we came and Korea Mommy said "Goodbye" and you, Mommy and Daddy went on an airplane to America. This was the happiest time in our lives because we became a family. Now, you have us, plus your grandparents, cousins, aunts and uncles who love you, too. There are so may people who love you. And Korea lives on in your heart and in your life at school, in how you tell your stories, and how you speak to your friends in Hangul. You are so special because you carry two countries, two languages and two worlds in your heart: Korea and America. We are so proud of you."
And that's it.
The story varies each time we tell it just a bit, and sometimes gets abbreviated (hey, a kid has to go to bed, right?) But that's pretty much the gist.
We have not made the "life book" (basically a scrapbook with Isaac's origin story) yet. For now, we're talking. Soon, we'll put a book together and start reading it. Until then, we have our narrative, plus a few books we had made with simple pictures of family to remind Isaac how loved he is by so many.
I want to stress that this may not be the right approach for everyone, but it's working well for us.
How do you tell your child's origin story? I'm so curious!
Oh, and if you're interested on how we made our name and faces picture books, head here. The books are toddler-friendly, chunky, easy to carry and hold up really well. (Plus, the design nerd in me loves the simple style.)