We have been talking a lot about openness about and in adoption. I have been somewhat surprised at people I know who think that it is all right to not tell a child that he or she is adopted. That is the basic part of openness about adoption. We believe that lying to a child is wrong, especially about something this basic. We each have an adopted parent, and both of them knew from the very beginning that they were adopted. It was not a big deal. It was part of life. It certainly was not anything to be embarrassed or upset about.
Some of our friends have been somewhat surprised about our approach to telling the child that he or she is adopted as early as we are planning (baby books, for instance, so the concept is there from the beginning). I do not want their story to be a surprise to them at any point in their lives.
If everything goes smoothly, we will be adopting a child who does not look like us. That will raise questions; that is not something that is easily ignored. I have heard about an adoptee who was a light-skinned African American adopted into an Italian family who was convinced until he was a teenager that he was just a slightly darker-skinned Italian. He was quite upset to discover he was adopted.
I do not want to raise a child without opening up the discussion and letting them ask. In the second King Fu Panda movie, the panda asks his father (a duck) why he never told the panda that he was adopted. The father’s response was, “You never asked!” Communication has to be open. It has to be all right for the child to ask anything and not feel uncomfortable, and it is our job to make sure that the the openings are there. Adoption will not be a taboo subject; it will be discussed as easily as food, work, school, and any other common subject.
In terms of meeting with the biological family, there are pros and cons. If we make that agreement, we will hold by it, of course. It can cause some emotional challenges, probably more for me than for the child (I cannot speak for Xander), but I think it is important. If a child knows that there is another family out there related to him or her, it is quite possible that the other family will be romanticized. I know when I was little, if I got angry with my parents, I would wish I had another family. How much stronger could that wish be if you actually knew there were people out there related to you? If the child has the opportunity to meet their biological relatives somewhat regularly, that romanticization could be limited. Also, seeing biological relatives may help with self-identification; it is good to see people who look like you. My older brother and younger sister are both built differently than I am, but I am clearly a combination of my mother and my father. I liked knowing I have my dad’s shoulders, for instance, and my mom’s hips. I think it might help the child grow up with a more comfortable sense of self if he or she knows that they look like someone.
I want adoption, the concept of more than one family, to be comfortable. I do not want the child to feel ashamed or unhappy. I have a lot to learn about a different culture so I can understand how everything fits together for the child, but at the same time, the child will be raised as our child, as part of our culture. I would like the child to feel comfortable with both cultures and to be able to find a path that suits them. I do not expect that path to be easy, necessarily, but I want the child be completely sure of our love and support.
This is going to be an interesting road we wander down…