Tonight we had a reminder of the real emotional cost of adoption, of the losses as well as the gains that our children experience. It is so easy, as parents, when an adoption fits and works so well to gloss over or forget our children's past. It may not be purposeful, but as we settle in we begin to quickly compartmentalize their little lives into "before" and "after", and if they adjust reasonably easily the "before" begins to fade into the background.
Tonight we received a phone call from Kyrgyzstan, and Kenny was able to speak with his buddies Turat and Askar who were adopted by an Australian couple living in Bishkek, whom we actually had the pleasure of meeting briefly while there. The conversation was stilted at best, as Kenny's speech over the phone is very difficult to understand plus he has basically lost all ability to communicate in Russian, so I am trying my best to rephrase what he is saying in English, and Turat and Askar do not yet have enough English understand so their mom is on the phone interpreting for them all while there is the delay due to distance. The grin on Kenny's face said it all though, but that grin quickly faded the moment he got off the phone, and I could tell he was near tears. He and I were alone in the bedroom to keep the confusion down for the call, and I scooped him up in my arms so we could talk about this call and it's affects.
I asked him what he was feeling and he said "I miss my brothers, I sad they so far away.", he then started crying as he also shared that he was very sad that one more friend whom we talked about on the call has not yet found his family and Kenny said he knew he must be lonely. We talked about the concrete things we could do about this, that we could send a letter and pictures to his friend who was left behind, that we could pray that he might one day have a family of his own too.
I asked Kenny if he wished he had been adopted by a family who lived in Bishkek, like Turat and Askar were, he sat straight up, touched the tip of his nose to mine and said "No Mommy, I love my family, I like America. I sad I never see Turat and Askar again, but I love you.", which was followed by a kiss and more tears.
It is so easy for us, as adoptive parents, to see all that our children gain by being adopted, by their good fortune to be living in America. We see what we are taking them away from as less than desirable, as beneath them and then we hold up a standard of living in front of them as if it is a gold star to be awarded to them.
The fact is, at 8, 9 or 10 years old, we are taking them away from their family. No, it doesn't look like our vision of the traditional family with a mommy, a daddy, 2.5 kids and a minivan in the garage with a "Soccer Mom" bumper sticker on the back. But the children they grow up with are their brothers and sisters, just as firmly as their new siblings will eventually be. The orphanage caretakers are surrogate mothers and often the only version of a mother they have ever known. We rip them from all of this in the name of providing them with a better life, and we quickly want to move forward and sweep the past under the rug because to us, it has no appeal, no emotional pull. But to our children, it is their family they are leaving behind...and we often forget that WE are the strangers they have the courage to walk away with.
It is so easy for us to say to ourselves "They'll forget it all quickly enough." or "Their new life is SO MUCH better than their old life.", because to us viewing it from the outside, it IS better.
It would be much simpler if I could be so cavalier about it, if I could convince myself of the illusion that Matthew and Joshua are Kenny's "real" brothers and Turat and Askar were merely casual playmates. But the only thing that makes Matthew and Joshua his "real" brothers is a piece of paper signed by a judge. They are no more nor no less "real" brothers to Kenny than Askar and Turat, and if the truth were told, they have far less shared experiences on which to base that sibling relationship than Turat and Askar. It isn't biology that creates that sibling bond, it is learning and growing together in the same environment, it is laughing and playing together...it has nothing to do at all with blood ties.
And after all, isn't that really what adoption is really all about?