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Tuesday, April 26, 2011

His journey to self

So my sweet boy and I were looking through books this morning.  We started with The Very Hungry Caterpillarmade it through Good Night Moon, and then we landed on another favorite, When You Were Born in VietNam.  As he always does, he starts with the picture on the cover of the book of an adorably cute Vietnamese toddler.

That's me when I was a baby!  
He identifies most all Asian children in photographs as either himself or Tess.
No, Jude.  That's not you. 
That's Tess?
No.  It's a little baby born in VietNam.  He looks a lot like you because he is from VietNam just like you and Tess.  
We flip the page.
There I am sleeping!
No, that's not you either.  That's a little baby who lives in an orphanage.  He's waiting for his mama and papa to come get him.
Who's that?  (pointing to a image of a nanny in the orphanage feeding a baby)
That's a nanny that takes care of the babies at the orphanage.  She loves the babies there very much.  She feeds them, and kisses them, and holds them, and makes sure they are healthy.

We have a brief conversation about how beautiful the people of VietNam are with their gorgeous dark hair and almond eyes.
He moves on to the next book.  His lifebook.  He opens it in the middle to a picture of a nanny holding him as a small baby, amidst a sterile room of metal cribs all full with babies.  The baby room.  He recognizes himself.  That's me!
Yes, it is Jude!  You were such a cute baby!
He points to the woman holding him.  There's my mommy!

He said it just like that.  He pointed to a Vietnamese woman holding him in an orphanage and identified her as his mama.  No questions.  To Jude is just was his mama at the moment.
Thoughts flew through my head.  He couldn't have confused her with me as we look nothing alike.  There was so much in those brief 3 words.  Did he really comprehend that he has 2 mamas that love him dearly?  Did he mean his "first mommy?"  His "birth mommy?"  His "real mommy?"  Where did that leave me?

No sweetie.  That's a nanny at the orphanage.  She loved you so much.  She was sad when you left the orphanage, but she was happy at the same time that you had your family.  
He flipped through a few more pages, closed the book, and moved on to Ira Sleeps Over.

Didn't we just talk about nannies?  Should I have pointed out that I was his mama forever and ever?  I didn't want to be confrontational in what was just a normal learning experience.  Should I have talked more about his "first mama?"  I don't know.  And although I've been literally preparing for years for these discussions, there was this sudden realization of how little I know about the actual words I'm suppose to have.  A fear that I'm going to say the wrong thing and risk this sweet boy's sense of self.

I guess this is just one of the first small steps in his journey.


  1. Bless his heart. I can tell you're taking everything so gracefully, like an old pro, even though each day is a new experience for you. We've always said that if we adopt, we will be extremely open about it. I almost feel that if you aren't, it almost puts "shame" on all of it. (I hope that doesn't sound judgmental--it's just the way we've thought of it.)

    I love seeing your photos of all your children too btw. Such beautiful little boys and girls.

  2. Oh Jackie... I think the silence could bring about shame for sure. I think of it that way too. Or at a minimum a sense that a part of who they are isn't something to be discussed. And seeing as how 3 of the 8 Crazy 8s are adopted, it's a subject brought up as much as birth stories.

  3. I think you handled it very well--but I know even less than you do about it :) Don't you wish you could just see into their little heads and see what they are thinking? I'm meeting with a 20 year old daughter of a friend today because her personality is so similar to my 7 year old and she is open to sharing with me what about her upbringing helped or hindered her grow into a functioning adult--my boy is so sensitive to the pain and problems around him that he could have a hard heart of anger very easily. Maybe it will help me understand his inner thoughts.

  4. whew. heavy. i always tell myself that we just have to keep trying.

  5. Yeah to Jude for feeling safe and comfortable enough to talk to you about his "other" life. I do NOT have the answers, for sure - I was hoping other commentors would have some sage advice!

    I haven't really had the opportunity to talk to Mya about her First Mother. Since she was in a foster home since she was a few months old - until we adopted her - we talk an awful lot about her Nai Nai (Foster Grandmother) - which is nice, because we KNOW she loved our daughter and our daughter loved her. While we don't know ANYTHING about the woman that gave birth to her...

    Thank God for grace!

    And p.s. I could eat Jude up!!!

  6. Those conversations always seem to come up at the least expected times. Never the way I rehearse them in my mind! And a thousand times yes to being as open and honest as we can about our children's adoption stories. I blogged about that not too long ago after reading about someone who "never uses the 'a' word with her children" as if adoption is a secret to be kept.

  7. Aw what a sweet little guy. It's so interesting to watch their stories unfold ... I guess all we can do as parents is be there to help guide them.

    BTW, I am in love with the last shot in this post - the lighting, the expression, the twinkle in his eyes ... wow.

  8. For the life of me I could not figure out who the third adopted Crazy 8 was… wait that is me. Sometimes I forget. I was always aware that I was adopted and my parents spoke very freely about the wonderful gift I was to them. Every question was always answered directly and honestly to the fullest of my understanding. God bless all of you that have a heart for adoption. James 1:5 If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given to him. I know that often times it feels like we are just making this up as we go along but, God loves us and cares for us and he will give us the wisdom to meet every challenge.

  9. I was trying to figure out the 3rd too, but this clears it up ; ) . Nancy, I just posted something similar about Linhsey and that book. She thought all the kids were her! Does Jude understand that he has a birth mom? Linhsey does not know this yet. The time has come and I need to discuss this with her, and she is such a deep soul that it scares me silly. I feel her pain and she doesn't even know why she has this pain, but it's there. It's clear that it is there. She knows she is from Vietnam, and I have had to explain to her several times she did not come from MY belly, but I just couldn't get the words to come out that she did indeed come from another's belly. The time has come and I MUST do this for her. We talk about Vietnam and the past consistently. We talk about life before her, and what it was like when she was a baby. It's important to her to hear stories about when she was a baby. And she always gets jealous that Gene was around first.

  10. Starfishflinger, you are the best!


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