Monday, July 20, 2009
The following blog was posted two years ago, and a conversation this weekend reminded me of it.
My son TJ was adopted when he was 2. He had lived in the orphanage his entire life, and so he had never known what it was like to have a mom or dad to love him until the day he was placed in my arms a little more than a year ago. I wondered how long it would take for him to learn his place in our home and how long it would take for him to understand that we were now a FAMILY and that he was our little boy.
TJ loves animals, and he loves collecting miniature plastic ones from the zoo or from toy stores. One day when we were out shopping together, he kept trying to place two zebras into the shopping cart, and I kept insisting that we would only buy one. TJ became so upset when I put the other one back, and cried all the way out of the store, trying desperately to tell me why he needed both, but since he only had a few words in his vocabulary at that time, it wasn’t working. I kept assuring him that he only needed one, and he kept stretching out his arms and pointing to the back of the store hoping for the other.
Every time we would go into another store with animals, he always would try to buy two. Mom (being thrifty) would always say “we only need one panda”, or “TJ, you should be happy with one cow”.
It wasn’t until his language began to take off that I FINALLY understood the depth of TJ’s desire to always have two animals. One day he was carefully searching through his bucket of animals until he found two lions. He put one up on the table first and said “baby” and then with great care he put up the second, right next to the first, and earnestly said, “MOM”. He dug some more into his bucket and managed to find two elephants and once more he placed the first one on the table and said “baby” and then gently sat the larger one down near the first while saying to himself with great relief, “MOM”.
TJ had learned so quickly that babies need moms. And that was the source of his distress when I would only allow him to buy one animal. He had been trying to tell me even at age two that his baby zebra needed a mommy. How could I not have seen that? Now we always buy our animals in families. Because TJ is so concerned that everyone needs a parent to take care of them.
This weekend a question was raised at a meeting I attended on whether children who once lived in institutions have a deeper sense about what it means to have a family. What do you think? Can that awareness have both positive and negative implications? For instance, do your children have a heightened fear that something could happen to you someday? There is such a fine line for many children in understanding what it means to be part of a family while at the same time not ever being made to feel like they should somehow be grateful for being adopted.