A seven year-old takes on National Adoption Month, Gotcha Day, and generally tells it like it is

The following is from my seven year-old daughter. We came up with the questions together but the answers are 100% hers.

What does it feels like to be adopted?

I like being adopted because I enjoy where I am but I do have some sad moments. That is normal but those sad moments are hard. It feels like my heart is a puzzle and there is a piece missing that is missing because I am not in Ethiopia. Some of the puzzle pieces that are here are my grandmother, my mama, our dog, my grandmother’s dog, our two fish that passed away, and my friends, and family-friends.

Sometimes I feel like I don’t belong here. When I’m having a hard time I scream in a pillow sometimes. I cry and kick the backseat of the car. When that happens I’m thinking “I don’t belong here but I’m here. I don’t belong here but I’m here. I don’t belong here but I’m here.”

I feel like kids and parents think that the happy parts are the most important parts of life and leave the sad stuff out but that is very wrong because the sad stuff makes your life kind of in a way that’s complicated. Clarifying question from Mom: Is it like you’ve talked about before that if you’ve got sad stuff stuck inside that you’ve haven’t let out and something good happens you can’t really be happy because the happy gets squished by the sad? Yes!

What does it feel like to be black and adopted by a white mom?

It’s not easy to be a black kid with a white mom because people ask questions that I usually don’t want to answer but it matters about the way they say it. If they ask in a mean voice I will not answer and if they say it in a way that it’s like a real question and not just to be mean I will answer. I actually like having a white mom but I wouldn’t like it as much if I didn’t know anyone who was black because black people make my life more special because they are the same race and that helps because they understand racism and it feels good to see people who look like me.

What do you think about adoptive parents celebrating adoption like Gotcha Day or parties when an adoption happens?

Sometimes I feel like it’s not really fair because for them it feels like all happy stuff but for me it’s all complicated like part happy but also really sad stuff too. Even though it’s hard to deal with sad stuff I need to deal with it and if my mom was only thinking about the happy stuff it would feel like my mom didn’t understand and I would feel lonely. It wouldn’t feel like my mommy is the best mommy ever and I wouldn’t feel very safe.

Also I really hate the word Gotcha. It sounds so scary. It sounds like your parents are taking you away from your birth parents and it’s really sad because that’s what adoption is. You’re not with your birth parents anymore and that’s sad so why would you want to have a party. It’s so scary!!!

What do you think about National Adoption Month?

(Note from Mom: I defined National Adoption Month as a time of the year when there is a lot of stuff on the internet, TV, radio about adoption. It’s usually just adoption agencies and adoptive parents who are talking but this year, there are more people who are adopted and birth families who are talking about adoption.)

I don’t think it’s right for people who adopted children to talk on the TV and I think that because the children who are adopted have more to say than moms and they know exactly how it feels but the parents don’t know exactly how it feels. I think having a special time to talk about adoption is okay because it is interesting but if it’s just like a big party and people only talk about the happy stuff then it feels sad to me because adoption is sad because bad stuff has to happen to make adoption happen.

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The power of personal narrative. The sanctity of privacy.

I’ll be honest, I was (still am about some things) an over-sharer. Most of the reasons for that are, well, less than flattering but one reason that I’m not ashamed to claim is the power of personal storytelling. Being from a big storytelling family, I’ve known this all my life but only since becoming an adoptive mother have I understood that the power of personal stories can change or even save a life.

When I was waiting to adopt I scoured over blogs of mostly moms who had adopted from Ethiopia, as I was in the process of doing. I saw photos of the most adorable children and I wondered, will my daughter have long lashes like that, or a toothless grin like that, sweet dark ringlets like that, or the most gorgeous chocolate skin like that? I needed something to fill my months of waiting and since at that point it was all about me and my desire to be a mom, well, those stories filled the bill.

But then, I became a mom to the child for whom I had waited. She did have long lashes, an adorable toothless grin, sweet ringlets, and that gorgeous chocolate colored skin but she had other things too: diarrhea no doctor could cure, food issues, sleep issues, problems with coordination and balance, hearing loss, etc, etc, etc. The adoption agency was no help. The homestudy agency was no help. More often than not, doctors in high level specialties at prestigious institutions were no help. Who helped? Moms of kids like mine. Moms who had been there, done that, and survived to raise up healthy, resilient children.

Now here’s the thing. Some of those mom honestly saved my kid’s life with their stories but because they didn’t choose to do it anonymously, my kid’s gain of healthy firm bowel movements came at their kid’s loss of privacy. (See I told you I was an over-sharer ; ) And frankly, the profound nature of that trade off wasn’t clear to me until I started reading the perspectives of adult adoptees. But now that I know, well, here I am, offering my stories and my daughter’s stories in hopes of helping others who face similar issues but I’m doing it anonymously (or as anonymous as the internet allows) so that hopefully some kid out in the interwebs will finally be cured of giardia or other more complicated stuff I’ll get into later (Anyone up for a convo about adoption corruption??) and my kid will get to tell her story on her terms in her time.

Will people who know me know that it’s me writing here? Yep! I’m kind of a special personality. But if you do and you want to comment or share anything on this blog, PLEASE do not refer to me or my daughter by name. Thanks!

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