Sunday, October 12, 2008


Last night Genea was sitting on the couch with me. I was reading Beyond Consequences and she was drawing on a magnet board. Her ability to draw is an area that continues to be delayed. She has caught up so much in so many other ways, but her artwork is similar to a child maybe 2-3 years old.

She asks me to suggest things for her to draw. I usually start with, draw yourself, or our house, or our family, and she always has said no to these. For the first time, she agreed to draw herself. She drew a face with a smile on it, then added something blobulous to the bottom. She said, this is me as a baby, I was so happy! Wow, I said, you sure were, where were you? Ukraine, she answered, right after I came out of my Mama's tummy.


You might think I should have been expecting that. I think I should have been expecting that.
I wasn't.

Genea took about 6 weeks to start calling us by Momma and Daddy. During that time she called us by our names and referred to her first family with the titles of Mom and Dad. In the interest of being honest, I will admit that got irritating after a few weeks. The Husband in particular was annoyed by it, especially when she would refer to her Mom and Dad in glowing terms and tell us what we knew to be outright lies about how much fun they had together. Here we were taking the brunt of this child's rage and grief and fear, and she is speaking to us as if we were the neighbors.

When she began calling us Momma and Daddy, it was a rapid turnaround, and was quickly permanent. We have several picture albums of the first family and she periodically looks through them, although it was about 6 months before she even asked to see them. We were, and are, open about her first family in a matter of fact way, and we discuss them without hesitation and as honestly as is realistic for her. But we are her parents now.

It wasn't until early this summer that I realized Genea was missing a big chunk of her history. I was filling out the 12,000 forms for school registration, and I was debating how much to share with the school- what a minefield that is! Place of birth, first language, etc. Genea knows where she was born, knows she lived in an orphanage, and knows she was brought to this country by her first family. She has no concept of her birth mother.

Genea is 5 years old, and at the time was going to start summer school. It could happen that moms and babies come up and if she thinks about it at all, she is going to think her biological parents are the first family. I don't want her to think that, because when she figures out it is wrong, then what else is wrong? And I don't want her to have no idea and realize the details herself when she is 14 and think we were hiding it from her.

I put a huge amount of thought into this. We will have to slowly work the idea of a whole other person whose tummy she grew in and who is her biological, birth mother. We will have to word things that she is not to blame, she is not bad, her birth mother is not bad. She lives with us because we adopted her and we love her and so on. So I did what many people of my generation do, I consulted her therapist and then hit the bookshelves. It took a long time to find a good book that was gender and ethnicity neutral. One that a child could understand, and was not too graphic. Not too abstract or imaginary. When I finally settled on a book and read it to her, nothing. Read it again, nothing. My other daughter was fascinated by this book and I read it to her. Teena wanted to know did she grow in my tummy? Yes, I told her sneaking several looks at Genea, that's right. Still nothing. I asked Genea a few questions to be sure she was understanding the story in the book. I pointed out the pictures to make sure she was getting the whole idea. Still, nothing.

I have been prepared and ready for Genea to figure out there is a whole other person in this world who gave her life. I had my defenses up and coated with barbed wire waiting. My brain was spring- loaded and ready to block it all out. I think no matter how prepared, and how "ok" you are with the concepts, the day your child refers to someone else as their mother, it is just going to get you. Well anyway, it got me! It didn't ruin my day, or make me crazy. It wasn't a shock though it was a bit of a surprise. Just, zzzzttt, got me with a quick one.

And that was it. The moment came and went and it was over. Genea started practising letters. She would not draw any more people. She drew shapes instead.


  1. What a great post. You guys are making progress. While I think I see a norm to adoption disruption and how new families cope, I am learning that there is many different ways to to help a new child. I appreciate you sharing this.

  2. wow thats a hard one, i guess that i will be having the same thing some day. I kind of kid myself that she will never say anything like that but i am now thinking that one day she might turn to me and tell me that her "real mum" would let her do that...
    Its hard but in the end they are just kids. Good luck and you have the right attitude, i'm sure she'll be just fine.
    ps i found you from the MM site and am just another MM of an adopted child. :)

  3. Thanks guys! It is definately one day at a time. And I never know what is going to come up when. Her circumstances are so different, there is no how-to manual for any of it!


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