I used to spend long hours wondering and worrying about how Javi's adoption will affect him. Is he happy? Are we doing a good job? Is his life better than it would've been? Will we have the answers he needs when he finds the questions to ask? That last one kept me up at night.
I imagined the questions: Why didn't they want me? What was wrong with me? I imagined how the adoption would skew our experience as parents and his as an adolescent/tween/teen/adult. But through it all, the questions and the worry were for the future. A day way off down the road when things would click for him and the dam would burst. What I didn't anticipate was that his questions would come in small, confused snippets scattered throughout our days.
Last week while loading the dishwasher, he turned to me and asked, "Why won't the police let my brothers come live with us?" I had to explain that his brothers live with their fathers. I expected the gut-punch follow-up to be Then why don't I live with my father? But it wasn't. He said simply and smartly, "I guess brothers don't have to live together."
It goes like that. We're doing the small things that comprise our days -- feeding the chickens, eating dinner, riding bikes, doling out punishments -- and up pipes the random question. Sometimes the question ties into what we're doing and sometimes it doesn't. Yesterday we discussed how we were raising our broilers for a corporation and Javi said, "Like how you're raising me for my biological parents." At the beach this weekend we were doing donuts in the golf cart and he yelled out, "If I fall out and die, you can adopt another son, but he can't have my room!"
His remarks rarely carry that weight, but they are a sharp reminder to me that adoption is shaping him right now. Not in some vague and amorphous someday, but right now in this gritty day-to-day of football practice and forgotten lunches and a sister who raids his room the minute he leaves the door open. Adoption is as much a presence in his mind as I am.
I know the questions will keep coming and that, eventually, they'll be the life-bombs I've always imagined. But for now I'm choosing not to fret and worry and overanalyze. When I'm watching a documentary about adoption and he asks, "How does one family get to have another family's kid? Like, aren't there rules so families can keep their kids?" I won't immediately launch in on his (our) story and will instead just answer the question.
That's the point, right? These are all just questions from a kid who has a lot of questions because, damn it, this is his life he's talking about. While my job is to love and nurture him, his job is question and test and explore -- especially when it comes to his very identity. And while I have the urge to turn every comment and question into a learning lesson, sometimes I just need to chill out.
So that is my plan. I will stop scripting my answers to questions he hasn't asked and be ready to provide thoughtful answers to the ones he does ask. I will be honest and focused on what is rather than what isn't. And when the time comes for the tough questions, I'll have a kid who trusts my answers (even if he doesn't like them).
Would you take the same approach? How do you tackle tough situations like adoption (or divorce or disability or unemployment, etc) with your children? Would you choose the "learning lesson" strategy or the "chill out strategy? Do tell!