November is National Adoption Month. Halloween just passed, and graveyards are always associated with Halloween. So how are these three things related?
In our family, there is a direct link between graveyards and adoption. We don’t have any information on Danny’s birth family, so it is not that kind of direct link. Danny loves Halloween. He loves (sort of) ghosts, zombies, vampires, skeletons and graveyards, as long as they are not too scary. This is not so different from other five year old boys.
For a couple years he has been pointing out “cemetery” or “graveyard” every time we drive by one. I have even stopped to let him walk around in a graveyard a couple of times. (The most recent one was a rainy day last month, looking for F. Scott Fitzgerald in the St. Mary’s Cemetery in Rockville — we didn’t find the grave, but time is limited with a five year old.) But it is graveyards which so far have been the jumping off place when talking about adoption. At home, I have a bucket which just has books about adoption, which he steers clear of. The only adoption book he lets me read is “A Mother for Choco“.
He knows he was adopted, and knows he was born in Vietnam, but he doesn’t really know what that means yet. I take every opportunity that comes that has him asking about his life story. But so far it has only happened while we are in the car together, alone and we pass a cemetery. So where I have imagined him sitting on my lap reading adoption books together, it is not quite like that as I sit in the front seat driving and Danny sits in the back seat. We can’t even see each other’s faces.
I had hoped to make a life book by the time Danny was three, but it is still not done and he is five. It is hard to explain why he was born to one family but now lives in a different country with another family. I have not been able to write something in words that he can understand. Because really will he ever understand? Will I ever really understand the circumstances?
But we do dance around the subject passing graveyards. Both of my parents died before Danny was born. Both or my husband’s parents are still alive. He usually wants to know why my mom and dad died. I tell him that they were old and sick when they died. This is where sometimes we have to get into a discussion about death or skeletons popping out of graves (“Skeletons don’t pop out of graves, that is just pretend on Halloween.”) or why people die in the cemetery –“They are buried there, Danny, they die other places.”). But on other occasions we get into a discussion about his adoption. Danny says, “Your mom and dad died before I was born.” I say, “Yes they died before you were born and before you were adopted, but I bet they really wish they had met you.” This is where, driving through Montgomery County I try to do my teaching about adoption while keeping my eyes on the road. We talk about his being born in Vietnam, but both his dad and I were born here. I have started to talk about his birth mother and how she lived in Vietnam. And that she couldn’t keep him and gave him to the orphanage where his nanny took care of him until he was seven months old and we came to the orphanage to adopt him.
I’m starting to ask leading questions, now. Danny asked about his birth/Vietnamese father out of the blue. I tell him we never met him. Then I asked if he thinks he is so funny because his birth father was so funny. Danny says his birth father was very very funny, funnier than Danny himself is.
We have not even gotten to how babies are born, he doesn’t seem to be as interested in human babies as dinosaur babies and baby birds popping out of their eggs. We play mommy dinosaur and baby dinosaur popping out of the egg on a regular basis. And mommy and baby bird…
This year he even had an adoption related costume. Back in June, Danny announced that he wanted to be a skeleton pirate for Halloween. He already has skeleton pajamas and a pirate hat, so except for a couple of other non-essential accessories, his Halloween costume has been decided on for months before Halloween.
But I was shopping Target in late September, trying to think of a way to improve his behavior. I spotted a Superman costume. I bought the costume and created a behavior calendar. Danny needed to get 14 checks to get this costume. I explained that it was not a Halloween costume, but would be his when he could get 14 checks. It took 29 days to get 14 checks, and generally his behavior has improved overall at home. But he just happened to get that last check on October 29, two days before Halloween. He was so exited about his costume that he wants to wear it all the time and to wear if for Halloween. So two days before Halloween, Danny got his Superman costume. I picked Superman vs. some of the other super heroes available in size small because Superman was adopted too. He already has a Spiderman costume, and Spiderman was raised by his aunt and uncle because his parents were killed, so that is another adoption story. We read Superman books and I reminded Danny again that Superman was adopted. He was born on another planet and raised by adoptive parents on a farm in Kansas.
So we celebrate adoption, Superman, and other adopted people in November. Adoptive Families lists 30 Ways to Celebrate Adoption during National Adoption Month. How are you going to Celebrate National Adoption month?