Moments of Impact

I don’t watch television very often but was not feeling well today so sat on the couch and turned on the tube to see if I could find something to pass my time. I happened across a show called “Moments of Impact”.  Since I’m unfamiliar with most current shows I instantly thought it must be a show of inspiration, you know, the moments that take your breath away, make you stand up and take notice, people who inspire, or those great aha moments of impact in life. Well, the more seasoned television viewer in this age of reality TV is probably rolling their eyes right now, knowing it was the obvious…tragic moments! Today’s episode featured a great white shark breaking through a cage and an avalanche burying a teenager. I didn’t watch, I just read the show “highlights”. These are certainly moments of impact, just not the type in which I was hoping to find inspiration.

It did start me thinking though; what is inspiration and where does it originate? What are moments of impact, and are these moments also where we draw our greatest inspiration? Without moments of impact would anything truly have meaning? Sometimes these moments are tragic, and perhaps that tragedy turns into something wonderful; an understanding of life on a deeper level, or a connection to other people or the divine. Those moments can turn weakness into strength, hostility and anger to love and forgiveness, pain to joy, sorrow to gratitude.

In looking back on my greatest moments of impact many have been times of sadness, tragedy, loss, fear, grief, hurt or anger. In many of these moments I have come to grasp understanding, acceptance, forgiveness and gratitude. Many have not been the result of tragic moments though, but rather those moments of which dreams are made. There has been the small stuff such as playing with a new puppy, watching a beautiful rainbow appear, getting my driver’s license, or having a special person stop the car, jump out and pick me a flower. Then there are the big moments such as marrying my best friend, buying our first home, watching our children come into the world, or welcoming them into our family through adoption. I could write in great depth about any of these topics, but this is the month I have chosen to write about adoption, which has been a journey filled with inspiring moments of every conceivable emotion.

I have had the experience of both birthing and adopting children. People frequently ask which children in our family are our “real” children (see previous blog for comments on this subject). My temptation is always to use sarcasm, and sometimes admittedly I do. This is an uncomfortable question for it implies many things in my mind and my children’s. It questions who is more worthy or loved more. I mention in my blogs and on my website which children are adopted for the purpose of sharing their individual stories, but I do not do so in “real” life unless absolutely necessary. Necessary things include medical history, milestones, diseases that run in families, past history for schools, doctors or other professionals that are asked on standard forms, which I cannot completely answer because I’m not privy to that information.

The truth is they are all ours and none of them are ours. Children are not possessions, and we raise them to be as independent as possible, so we don’t own any of them; for this reason they are not ours. On the other hand if the question means which children belong to our family then the answer is all of them, none being more or less worthy than any other. They are all loved equally; have their own special needs and gifts, blessings and lessons to be learned, and each one are valuable members of our family and community. Each child has their own story, history and future. Some of our children have siblings they have not grown up with, stories we don’t know, and moments we haven’t shared as a family. That doesn’t change the fact that we love each of them unconditionally. Actually, that is what binds us as a family; our unconditional love for one another.

Each child who entered our family truly left an enormous impact on me and many others whose paths they’ve crossed. They have been my greatest teachers, biggest inspiration, opened my eyes, arms and heart, challenged me to be a better person, and have given me the opportunity to understand things I never would have recognized had I not known and loved them. I want to dedicate a blog to each one of them individually this month, and give all of you a glimpse into the journey of adoption, the world of special needs, different abilities, unconditional love and the greatest Moments of Impact!

From my heart to yours with gratitude and feeling forever blessed, Pam

Who is Your ‘Real’ Mother?

The following is the first in my series of blogs on the topic of adoption. This is written by a guest blogger who wishes to remain anonymous. I feel it’s the perfect story to open the subject, as it touches on one of the most difficult questions adopted children and families face. There are many ways to answer this question, but I feel the analogy the writer makes here is treated beautifully, with respect to all those involved in the adoption triad. The adoption triad includes birth family, adoptive family and child. I cannot express my gratitude enough to the writer for sharing one of her personal experiences which will hopefully shed a little light on a sensitive topic.  

Who is Your Real Mother?

Over two decades ago, my husband and I adopted a six-year-old girl from another country.  Since Elaina, as I’ll call her, did not speak our language, or look at all like us, or the other children in our family, it was pretty obvious to everyone that she had not been born to us.  Human nature being what it is, and rudeness not having yet been outlawed, I guess it shouldn’t be at all surprising that this opened the door to an onslaught of unsolicited curiosity.

 In all kinds of public settings, from strangers and non-strangers alike, Elaina was asked the most amazing things:

          “Do you like your new parents? 

          “Aren’t you glad you were adopted?”

          “Do you remember your real mother or father?”  And even, unbelievably,

          “You seem like such a nice little girl…how come your mother gave you away?”

My personal, all-time favorite, though, was the query directed to me and my husband: “Are you ever going to tell Elaina that she’s adopted?”  How truly sorry I was at that moment that I had been raised to be polite, for it prevented me from answering, “No, we’re going to tell her that sometimes children are born six years old, and a different race than their parents!”

Mercifully, in the beginning, Elaina’s language barrier spared her from some of the pain of these thoughtless remarks.  However, children’s minds are wonderful little sponges, and soon she had mastered enough English to understand that she was an object of curiosity among her peers at school as well.  Most of them had no experience  with, or knowledge of adoption, and while their interest in her story was usually innocent, she often mistook it as cruelty.  We did our best to comfort her, and helped her learn how to respond to their questions.  At the same time, we always told her it was fine to tell her classmates (and nosy adults, too, for that matter), “My mom said I don’t have to tell you that!”

We always shared our concerns about Elaina’s sensitivity to adoption-related issues with her teachers, and she was thrilled, and I was grateful when her second-grade teacher asked me if I would come and talk to the class about adoption.  Elaina decided I should do all the talking that day, so while I shared about many of the aspects of adoption, she passed around photos of her native country, the orphanage she had lived in for almost two years, a foreign-language newspaper, small trinkets, her passport, and a shawl like the ones used by mothers in her native country to carry babies and toddlers.  Then we shared some of Elaina’s favorite fruits that were unfamiliar to children here. 

While the children were eating, I wrapped up my little presentation with an object lesson that I hoped would address what I see as the core issue most adopted children wrestle with—where do I really belong?  I held up a quarter and asked, “Who knows what this is?”  A dozen voices shouted out at once, “A quarter, a quarter!”

“Right,” I said, “and believe it or not, this quarter has a story to tell us about adoption.  One of the questions Elaina gets asked all the time is, ‘Who is your real mother?’  Kids know that she has one mother that she was born to in another country, and a mother—that’s me—that she lives with now.  And so they want to know which of those two is her real mother?”

“Well, let’s look at this quarter closely.  It has two sides, doesn’t it?”  I held up one side of the quarter to the class, and asked, “Which side is this?” 

The kids that were  closest yelled, “Heads!”

I flipped the quarter over.  “What about this side?”

“Tails!” rang out all over the room.

“So, which side is the real quarter?” I asked them as I flipped it back to ‘heads,’ then to ‘tails’ again.  Puzzled stares.

“Well, if I want to go to the store and buy some candy with this quarter, which side do I give to the clerk?”

“You can’t cut it!”

 “You can’t just give one side of it!”  Scattered giggles. “You gotta give them the whole quarter!”

“That’s exactly right,” I told them.  “Elaina’s real mother is like this quarter.”  I held one side towards them.  “On this side is the mother who gave her life.”  I turned the coin over.  “Then here is the mother who does for her all the things your mothers do for you.”  Both of them love her, and cannot be separated from her life any more than we can separate the ‘heads’ from the ‘tails’ on this quarter.”

I hope those children left their classroom that long-ago day realizing that Elaina would not, and could not, be who she is without both of us.