Recently I was talking with one of my boys and the conversation led to me asking if they are ever sad at school. He paused a bit and then told me that he was sad the other day at school. My heart of course dropped because as a momma anytime your babies are sad and are away from you it makes you feel helpless and as if you should have been there to comfort them. He told me that they were working on a heritage project at school and he was sad because he left the whole page blank and didn't know what to say.
Adoption is so hard.
Later in the day I snuggled with him on the couch and told him that I was sorry that he was so sad, and sorry that he felt so alone in that moment. I also told him that what he was feeling was okay and that sometimes the ways that God plans our lives might not make sense to us, but that they do make sense to God. You see, this child is completely adjusted and happy, but it doesn't change the fact that he's different than his friends, and that he didn't have anything to write on his heritage page.
This got me thinking that just when I think they are good because they aren't asking so many questions about adoption, families, their stories, etc, that I need to keep talking about them. That I need to snuggle up in their beds with them and share their story again and answer any questions that they might have. I have noticed that over the past 9 years that I've been a parent to a child that joined our family through adoption that I have answered the same questions from my kids over and over and over again. Just because you tell them one time, doesn't mean they never need to hear it again.
This also got me thinking that I needed to email all their teachers and get a conversation going about adoption with them. I have read adoption books to each of their classes, but I thought we needed to go further now that my boys are in 3rd grade. If any of you need a little template to get you started with talking to your kids teachers, here's what I sent to ours:
Teachers – I was talking to one of my kids yesterday and they told me that they recently were working on a heritage paper at school and they got really sad because they didn’t know what to put. This is one of the hardest things for children that have been adopted. These assignments usually make them feel left out and different than everyone else, and this is hard for a young child. My heart hurt so bad as they explained to me that they got sad during school while working on this, so it reminded me that I needed to email you all and start a conversation about this.
I would love it if you could let me know ahead of time when you guys might be discussing things like, where you are from, where you were born, your family tree, your heritage and stuff like that. This will help Aaron and I talk to them at home before hand and help them process ways they can answer this. Giving kids ways to process this ahead of time is so necessary. We’d love to help them process this in our home with us, where they feel loved and safe, before they have to do this alone in a classroom surrounded by kids that don’t share their same story.
Adoption is a beautiful thing, but it is built on loss and pain. My kids are super adjusted and happy, but to say they never feel sad about the fact that they had to be adopted because someone else couldn’t take care of them would be false. We talk very open about adoption in our house and are always willing to share their stories with them over and over again. I’m always caught off guard how many times we have shared their individual stories with them, and sometimes they still forget information about their birth families.
I also am always happy to help you with these assignments. I can help with wording for worksheets, and come up with ideas to make all kids feel safe and confident in their families, even if they joined them a different way. I know that we have at least 3 kids in 3rd grade alone that joined their families via adoption, and I’m sure that if Cara and I keep telling our friends about the school you’ll have more!! 😉 I would also be willing to talk to all of the staff about appropriate wording and easy ways to handle these situations.
So, in no way am I upset about anything, but I would like to help us all learn how to make these assignments more adoption friendly. I know that it’s a hard subject to talk about sometimes, but know that Aaron and I are super comfortable talking about it. We would love for our kids to lead the way in their classrooms with how confident they are talking about it. They didn’t sign up to be spokespeople for adoption, so we never want to put that on them, so we’d appreciate if you let them lead the way on how much they do and don’t want to share. Kids are super curious and we get that, but sometimes all the questions “who is your real mom” “do you know your real mom” “do you miss your old family” can really hurt a child. I have heard all of those and as an adult I can answer them easily, but sometimes my kids start to shut down over those questions. So, if you hear those questions I’d love it if you stepped in and helped them out.
“Who is Amos’ real mom?”
His real mom is Jamie. Do you mean his birth mom? Yes, his birth mom lives in Haiti. But he lives with his real mom.
“Did Deacon’s mom not want/love him?”
Well Deacon’s birth mom (or first mom – we say first mom a lot) did love him, but she couldn’t take care of him, so she asked Jamie & Aaron to be his parents and love him forever.
“How can you be Story’s mom because she is black and you are white?
Well, I adopted Story when she was a baby, and we think God can make families that look different and they are still families!”
Those are actually questions that have been asked of my kids and me over the years. We want to prepare them to answer these, but we also know that kids can be relentless (completely innocent most of the time) with the questions until an adult steps in to help. So, we trust all of you to do that for them. 🙂
I am also always happy to come in and read an adoption related book to the class and answer any questions. I believe I have done this already in all of their classes, but am fine with doing it every semester if needed! It would be awesome too, if we could possibly add some adoption related books to the library!
Thank you all for all that you do, thank you for loving my kids, thank you for understanding all of this, and thank you for letting us start this conversation with you guys.
The truth is that every teacher wants to do the best they can to help their kids find their wings and excel in school, and so this tool will help my kids and I am confident that they will welcome the help.
This won't be the first for us, or the last, so it's a good reminder to keep the conversation going with our teachers and with our kids.
Have you guys had to cross this bridge with your kids? I'd love to hear how you have handled things.
GREAT letter to the teachers! Very informative and loving 🙂
Great way to get the conversation going and I love that you’ve gone into the classroom to read to the students. Thanks for the tips! I’ve also found that we have the same conversations over and over with our adopted children about their stories.
Thanks Jamie! I always love your posts. Could you share the titles of the books you’ve shared with their classmates?
YES! the book I’ve read the most is called A MOTHER FOR CHOCO and all the kids love it, and it has been a special book in our house. 🙂
This post just made me smile. Your response to the situation was very kind and loving! It also shows so much love and support for your children. Your such an amazing person, and I enjoy reading all your post.
Thanks Jamie! I imagine this being something I reference back to! So thankful for the community of folks that have gone before us in this journey! I would love to hear about your favorite adoption books…ones to read with our kids! Please do share!!!
Thanks for sharing this Jamie! I’ve found this to be helpful with not only my students who have been adopted, but also with the students who have moved around a lot or grown up in cross cultural environments. It can be very overwhelming for them to have to identify with a passport country they’ve never lived in or have no personal connection to, or that connection has been strained. Not to mention the ways different cultures approach life and how that translates into the classroom. It’s tough for me to know everything about my students and love having feedback from proactive parents who are able to fill in the gaps and give insight, as even my best intentions are not always the best.
I love this! Thank you. Your generosity is beautiful. I’m sure teachers feel respected by you and are therefore even better to equipped to love your children well! My son is in 2nd grade. Recently, he started asking me questions about his birth and first mother for an assignment. I couldn’t believe it was already happening. I pulled him aside and told him I would love to hear how he feels about the project and I would be willing to talk with the teacher if he is uncomfortable. Then, he showed me his paper. His teacher had given him a blank sheet. He could write about anything. He wanted to share his birth/adoption story with his class! Nothing could have prepared me for that happy moment. He was (is) so proud!
I’m commenting on this note, but wanted to say that I was reading a couple of your other notes and two in particular really hit home to me. Both are letters you wrote to younger self – the one about the way your husband took care of you during the pee incident and the one you wrote about sitting down with your husband on your first date and wondering if telling him all the crappy decisions you had made in your life previously particularly in your dating world would send him running and it didn’t. I’m single and a Christian and waiting for the kind of man who cares for me enough like yours did during the pee incident and for someone who can accept me for who I am and where I’ve been as I haven’t really told anyone a lot of things yet. Thanks for sharing both of these stories as they inspired me to keep on going and had me praying again for God’s guidance and care as He always has. That’s it.