We get asked often how much our children understand about the fact that we are adopting.
I can tell you with a reasonable amount of certainty that our 1 year old doesn’t have much idea about what adoption is or what having a new sibling means. At the very least, he can’t express what he does or doesn’t understand.
But our 3 year old is different. She does have some understanding of what adoption means.
She has heard us talk about children who don’t have a mommy and daddy and that we are going to bring one of those children into our home as our own. She has watched us gather paperwork, go to appointments, complete home study visits, go to parent training classes, get fingerprinted, have documents notarized, pray for our future son or daughter, and more. She knows all of this will lead to a new brother or sister. She knows we are adopting from Bulgaria, and she knows that Bulgaria is far away and we will have to travel there to pick up the new brother or sister. She knows that some kids live together in one place (an orphanage) while they wait for their families to come get them. She understands on some level that this isn’t normal. That children need families.
The other day our daughter was playing in her room. She came out with a huge smile on her face and said, “Mama, do you want to come adopt a child?”
“Yes, of course! I’d love to!” I answered. “Tell me which ones I should adopt.”
“How about this one?” She handed me a baby. Then another, and another.
“Can I give all the babies a home?” I asked. By this time, I was starting to tear up.
“No, Mama, you need to save some for the other people,” her face was very serious at this point.
“Are they all going to have families?”
“Yup. They all have families coming to adopt them.”
“Oh, good,” I said with a smile.
It broke my heart that in her mind, of course every child without a family would get one. Of course, none would be left behind. Someone was coming for each child in her orphanage; she was sure of that.
But that’s not the reality. Some are left behind. Some do not get families.
How can our precious three year old, who has grown up in a loving family, have any idea what it means for a child to grow up in an institution without one? How can she imagine the life our future son or daughter has had so far? The hours and hours alone in a crib, the fact that no one really responds to his or her needs, the reality that no one rocks or kisses or comforts, the possibility of abuse, and at the very least, intense neglect?
She can’t. We tell her what we feel she can handle and we pray for all of those children who will never be held by a mother or father. We also pray that more hearts will be moved toward adoption and that more people will give children families. As she gets older, she will understand more about what adoption means and why it is necessary.
She recently asked me, “Mama, will we be able to keep our adopted child for awhile?”
My answer was, “Yes, sweetie. Once our new brother or sister comes home from Bulgaria, they’ll be with us forever. They won’t leave us and go away again.”
So yes, she understands some things about adoption.
But no, she doesn’t know the whole story yet.