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Adventures in Adoption, or Honesty Is Such a Lonely Word

Lately I’ve been struggling with balancing the bitter and the sweet, the firsts and lasts. As Jack sprints headlong into seven, 6 is already becoming a distant memory. Gone are his chubby baby cheeks, long ago melted away into chiseled angles. Gone is the hesitation in his run, long ago replaced by a crazy (if not terrifying) confidence in his body’s abilities to remain upright and strong. I held him and rocked him while standing the other night. I think that’s the last time, as he now weighs 58 pounds, and my 40 year old back simply can’t handle that anymore. Gone, too, are the days where he turned around and blew me a kiss on his way into school (a true heartbreaker, that one). Here, now, is a closed door at bedtime. Here are the days of constant motion, no downtime. Here are the days of “Mom, I’m OLD ENOUGH!!!”. And he is. For so, so much. He can fix his own breakfast. He can take his own, unsupervised, showers, and be trusted to get mostly clean. He can stay up late on the weekends reading under the covers with a flashlight. He can walk the dog. So many firsts, bound tightly with so many lasts. The bitter and the sweet.

This morning on the way to school, he asked me about his China Mommy. I would say it was out of the blue, but in truth, it’s not. Our upcoming trip to China has stirred up some emotions and more than a few questions. Still and all, I was not quite prepared to field the question on limited sleep and no caffeine. Very matter-of-factly, he said “I grew in someone else’s tummy”. “Yes. Yes you did”. This is not new news; we’ve had this conversation since day 1. And then:

“I hope my China Mommy isn’t dead”.

“I hope so, too, baby. I hope that so much”.

“I don’t know my China Mommy. Who is my China Daddy”?

“We don’t know, sugar. We don’t know anything at all about your China Mommy and Daddy. But when you get older, if you want to look for them, we’ll do everything we can to help you. They are very important people, because they gave us you”.

In our house, we tell the truth. Even when it’s hard. Let me give you a recent example, which again took place in the car on the way to school (all the hard conversations seem to happen either there or at bedtime. My theory is that it’s easier for him to ask questions when he can’t see my face. I know it’s easier for me to answer them that way. But I digress). We’re rolling along 8th Street, when out pops “Mommy, did you used to smoke”?


“Yes, baby. When I was a teenager, I made some bad choices, and that was one of them. I stopped a long time ago, though, and I NEVER should have done it”.


Thanks, Grandma! That bus felt AWESOME when it rolled over me. 😉 But the thing is, I was faced with a choice in that moment: lie through my teeth and protect my heretofore untarnished Mommy image, or humble up and tell the truth, even though it was like chewing glass to do so. Thank God I went with the truth. I had no way to know he already knew the dirty details; no, all I knew was that I had about five milliseconds to make the right choice, and I did. Because we don’t lie. Even when we want to. Even when it’s hard.

The day we became a family, I made Jack a promise. I would always answer his questions. I would honor his Birth Family every way I knew how. I would teach him they are important people, even if we never get to know them. I would always let it be HIS decision how his story is told, AND how it unfolds. Back then, I dreaded the day the questions would come. I secretly hoped they never would (don’t worry, I was never truly that naive, but I sure overcompensated in the beginning. Being enough for somebody is terrifying). Imagine my surprise this morning when all of the answers came out easily and without fear. Honestly, the question about my previous smoking habit was WAY worse than this. The bitter: This won’t be the last time his feelings erupt. And it will not always be so easily dealt with, nor should it be. The sweet: He felt secure in the knowledge that honesty would be forthcoming. I felt secure enough to give those answers without a second thought. The razor’s edge between the bitter and the sweet is a scary, exhausting, exhilarating, wonderful place.

Billy Joel once sang that

“When I’m deep inside of me
Don’t be too concerned.
I won’t ask for nothin’ while I’m gone.
But when I want sincerity
Tell me where else can I turn.
Because you’re the one that I depend upon.

It never fails to remind me of the weight of the responsibility we have as his parents. Jack goes deep inside. And when he needs the sincerity, I hope to God I’ve shown him that it’s here. Because in our house, we tell the truth. Even when it’s hard. Especially when it’s hard.

One Response to “Adventures in Adoption, or Honesty Is Such a Lonely Word”

  1. Vayva Says:

    What I just read was a sincere and intelligent realization of your love for Jack and your willingness to assuage his questions by always telling the truth, even though it is painful.
    Oh, how jolting the passages of life can be!
    You and your husband are doing a fabulous job being Jack’s real

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