This is my son’s teddy bear; he got it from my parents on his adoption day. The bear’s sweatshirt has Jon’s adoption date printed on one of the sleeves. It is, by far, my son’s favorite stuffed animal--one he sleeps with each night. Today for show and tell, he chose to bring this bear.
Initially I thought it was a sweet thing to choose, but after Jon had tucked it safely away in his backpack last night before bed, I started to worry about his show and tell choice. I wondered if I should’ve steered him towards his new spy kit or his Ford F-250 pickup and trailer...I feared that the kids in his class would make fun of him for bringing a stuffed animal….and for being adopted. I pictured him standing in front of his class, proudly showing off his bear pointing out his adoption date, March 6, 2014, now partially rubbed off from so much use. I imagined the boys in his class snickering at the bear making comments about how it’s a baby toy. I heard the questions some girls might ask---Why are you adopted? Did your parents not want you? And then I pictured him screaming at the class--a reaction he has when he’s frustrated--before he runs out of the room crying, giving the more malicious kids in his class fuel.
You see, Jon has not been one to want to talk about being adopted. He had some project in Kindergarten that required him to draw or write about something that made him unique. I suggested he share that he was adopted, that his mommy and daddy picked him to love forever. Instead of embracing the idea, he peered up at me, a grave expression on his face and said, “I don’t want to talk about being adopted.” Of course, I couldn’t let it go. I pried and asked why, and quietly he mumbled, “because my friends will probably make fun of me.”
Even at age five he felt this difference, and it wasn’t a special feeling, it was a difference rooted in fear...and maybe even shame. It broke my heart. I thought it would take a few years for him to feel this fear and shame, to realize the difference between him and most of his classmates. I acknowledged his fear, reminded him that we loved him more than he could even imagine, and then I didn’t really bring it up after that. Of course, in our house we talk about how we picked both Jon and Ky to be our kids. We remind them that lots of parents don’t pick their kids, and we try to explain why it’s so special to be picked. We relate it to God picking us to be his children. We try to surround them with other kids who are adopted so they don’t feel so alone. We seek out classes for them to help them explain adoption to their friends. We make adoption a positive thing in our home. But I know that even in our modern society, many still don’t understand adoption--especially kids. No matter how beautiful adoption is, it’s rooted in loss.
During show and tell time today, I prayed that God would protect my baby from any naive or malicious comments today. I prayed that God would help Jon (and Ky) to grow to see their adoption as a source of pride. I prayed that God would give Nate and me wisdom as we continue helping our kids embrace their differences, and I prayed that God would continue to give us opportunities to educate others on adoption--especially foster to adopt.
If you have kids, I encourage you to start talking to your kids early about how each family is different. Click here for a list of 11 books to use to start talking to your kids about families (two books that aren’t on this list are: The Family Book by Todd Parr and All Kinds of Families by Mary Ann Hoberman) . Consider checking your public libraries for these or even purchase a few at your local bookstores.