My daughter is yearning for a sibling. A baby sibling, that is, considering she already has a big brother. Her big brother only lives with us half of the time, as he lives the other half with his mother (he is my husband’s son from my husband’s first marriage). This is sometimes very hard on her, saying goodbye on Friday morning when he leaves for school, and knowing she won’t see him again until the following Friday afternoon. Baby Girl adores her brother, but from time to time, she asks me to “get her a baby”. Oh if only it were that easy, my darling!
Sometimes she asks for a baby from South Africa, one that will “match” her (her terminology). She has bouts of concern and inquisition about who matches who in our family and social circle. She feels sad sometimes that she doesn’t “match” us. This is hard, because I can’t overcome her being bothered by that. Our family will never “match” in skin colour and even at her tender young age, she is already aware and sensitive to this. I don’t try to correct or dispute her feelings. I try to validate how that must feel for her, I try to explain that being a family doesn’t mean that everyone has to look the same (very common “adopt-talk”). In fact, I often point out that daddy and I have curly hair, just like her, that mommy has “juicy lips” just like her, that mommy has big, dark eyes just like her. But it’s not enough for her. Thankfully we live in a very multicultural neighbourhood and town, where families with biracial parents and children are common. I point out to her that the children of these families don’t always “match” one or either of their parents, depending on their skin tone. However, this still isn’t enough.
To my daughter, I think “matching” goes much deeper than someone having the same colour of skin as her. It is a sibling who comes from another country, worlds away in so many ways more than just geographically. It is a sibling who has a complicated history prior to meeting their “forever family”. A sibling who suddenly at an age that he or she can remember, was taken by people that looked nothing like them, spoke a language they were unfamiliar with, and put into the care of these people for the rest of their lives. In short, my daughter wants a sibling that can relate to her on every level of her adoptive and transracial experience, because I can’t, daddy can’t and her brother can’t.
We are so very fortunate to live in a city where there is a support network of families who have also adopted from South Africa. The majority of these families are also transracial. This network strives to plan and facilitate family events where all of our children can experience their birth culture, play and interract with other children from their country of birth and feel as though they are not that “different” kid at the park or school or sport or art class who doesn’t “match” their parents. Because most of the kids don’t match their parents and that makes our kids feel like they fit in. Most of these children are not old enough yet to be having conversations with one another about how they all feel emotionally about being a black child adopted by a white family, but I know all the parents’ sincere hope is that after years of playing together and bonding as kids, at some point they will feel comfortable enough with one another to share these thoughts and feelings and feel they too have a network of support and understanding from other kids who have had similar experiences as they do.
My husband and I are finished creating our family, but our daughter doesn’t understand the many reasons why that is. She just wants a sibling who matches her. As I’m sure many parents through adoption can identify with, children of adoption tend to know about where babies come from a little earlier than bio kids. The simple fact is, you start talking about birth mothers and being created and carried in another woman’s womb, it’s quite natural and logical for even a very young child (age 2.5 for my baby) to ask how exactly a baby gets in to that womb, anyway. We decided early on that our daughter was very intuitive and bright and emotionally mature enough to handle truthful answers (and probably wouldn’t buy in to the stork story anyway), so we explained this way: The woman has eggs near her womb and a man plants the seed in her womb and the seed and egg join together and a baby grows from that and comes out after 9 months. Simple as that. And she was completely satisfied with this (with the exception of the constant questioning I received after one morning she turned on the TV for cartoons and TLC’s “A Baby Story” was on and she witnessed a baby being born and kept asking me for months and months why the baby was covered in “mud”!). She didn’t ask any further questions at that time, nor has she since. But last week we were sitting at the kitchen table and she again asked if we could make a baby in my womb. I told her that mommy and daddy had tried many times to make a baby in my womb, but my womb was broken and we couldn’t make one. Her response? Mommy, I know what your problem was! You didn’t eat enough eggs when you were trying to make a baby! You needed to eat more eggs so they filled up your womb so there was lots there to make a baby!
Ah yes. From the mouths of babes! Silly us, spending all that time, money and emotional energy on fertility treatments!!! I only wish it was that simple, but I didn’t correct her incorrect assumption. Children are innocent for such a short time, and most children of international adoption are faced with being forced out of innocence much earlier than their bio peers.
This entire subject must be nesting in her constantly ticking mind, however. Last night in the midst of the craziness at McDonald’s (read yesterday’s post) we visited the ladies’ room. As she was there, doing her business, my baby looked up at me and asked “How did I get out of my birth mother’s womb?”. (My daughter is QUEEN of coming up with zinger comments and questions in public washrooms, by the way. Sometime if I’m drinking and blogging, I’ll tell you what she said to me in the every-stall-full washroom at the Mirage hotel in Las Vegas.) I told her how babies come out. A high level explanation of childbirth and a small aside about C-sections, because sometimes babies can’t come out the other way. I then gave her the talk about keeping this information private between her and I and not to discuss it with her friends or anyone else, because those people need to talk about that subject with their parents, not her. I instructed her to come to me with any other questions she might have about what we talked about. She had none at the time – we were finished in the stall and playland was waiting. I’m sure she’s saving them for our next visit to a public washroom!