The questions he asks

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!


  • TKW

    Wow. I think you are navigating Javi through this very gracefully and with honesty and compassion. I think some of his questions would leave me breathless. But he is one secure kid--I love that he gave you permission to adopt another son but "he can't have my room!" That's a great kiddo.

  • Rudri

    I think its great that you choose to answer his questions with grace and honesty. I've always been an advocate of answering questions directly, but with love. I think you are doing great with him, learning to recognize when to be honest and when to take some steps back.

  • Unknown

    I think it sounds like you have a good idea of just rolling with the punches instead of stressing about it..all in all in the long run he knows you were best and meant for him. you gave up a ton and your husband came into this all open...amazing and well worth it

  • The Drama Mama

    I'm not sure how my mom did it with the twins, but they have never asked the hard questions. I think maybe having always had a relationship with me has helped keep the hard questions at bay. When they turned 18, I got online and talked to both of them and told them the story of their birth and asked them if they had any questions. They didn't really. They are far more interested in the absent parent then the present one.

    My daughter, however, asks the hard questions, like "why didn't you give me away too?" CRUSHER!! I just try to find the line that answers her question without giving too much information. Usually a response of "I was older and in a better position to take care of you" works.

    You are doing a great job with it. Javi's such a crazy guy (in a good way). You're doing fantastic with him. I think he knows it too.

  • Anonymous

    This is an incredible post, and I actually think there is a lot to be taken away even for mothers who answers questions from biological children. It's a wise approach, one that I think I'll keep in the back of my mind always. You are an amazing mother. You care for him and love him and think about all these important things. He'll know that always.

  • amber_mtmc

    Kelly, this is a wonderful post that I'm sure many adoptive parents have struggled through. The questions, though, aren't just for adoptive parents but often for woman who place their babies for adoption. It's a difficult and courageous thing for these women to do and I know they struggle with these questions often. If they only knew how lucky their kids were to be placed in a family as loving as yours. I'm sure your sister does know, but my sister still struggles with this. Even though her adoption is open.

    Now I'm rambling. I guess we have talked about this many times so maybe you can tell me what I'm referring to. : )

  • Unknown

    Through what you've written here & in the past, it seems like you're making the "right" choices - taking it a day at a time. Growing up my parents were honest with me through the easy & the hard questions. It made me grow up to trust & respect the choices they made for me - even if I didn't always agree. What a wonderful post.

  • Cheri

    I agree with the entire approach of answering only the question that is asked. Which applies equally to questions asked of any parent - about drugs, where babies come from, difficult life choices... keep answers simple and age appropriate and usually kids will be satisfied with far less than the scripted lecture we thought might be necessary. You are doing great Kelly!

  • Jami

    Wow. What a powerful post! While I am not involved in any adoptions, every family has "situations" that bring up questions. I admire your approach very much, though I don't think I execute it as well as you seem to.

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