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Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Was I Cute?

Do y'all remember when I said that I believe children don't process information until they are emotionally ready to understand it? Well, we hit a new twist in the road last week with our little Tongginator. She knows her story. She's even seen a picture of her finding place. And yet...

TONGGINATOR: Momma, why wasn't Josh adopted?

TONGGU MOMMA: Well honey, you know EVERYONE is born. But not everyone is ADOPTED. Who do we know who was adopted?

TONGGINATOR: Me... and Red Fish... and Cinnamon and Spice and Peaches and Cream... and Nemo... and all the rest of my China cousins.

TONGGU MOMMA: Yes, and momma's cousin Sleeping Beauty... and Blackbird and his sister The Pie... and Han Blue... and even our neighbors Tinkerbelle and Peter Pan, Tiger Lily's big brother and big sister. Sweetie, we know lots of people who were adopted, but not everyone is adopted. Are your cousins adopted?

TONGGINATOR: No... they all grew in Aunt Kit Kat's tummy.

TONGGU MOMMA: That's right. And were Momma and Aunt Kit Kat adopted?

TONGGINATOR: No... you grew in Grammy's tummy. But Momma? (pause) Why was *I* adopted?

TONGGU MOMMA: Well, sweetie, when you were just a teeny, tiny baby, someone in your family decided that they could not raise you, so they left you to be found in front of (insert finding place) in Yongning Town in Tonggu. And that's the day you met Red Fish and Director Guo.

TONGGINATOR: But WHY couldn't they raise me?

TONGGU MOMMA: Honey, we aren't really sure. Maybe they didn't feel they had enough money to give you all of the things a baby needs, like food and clothes and medicine and toys. Or maybe they weren't allowed to have you because people in China have to ask permission before they have babies. Maybe they forgot to ask first. You were also really, really tiny and maybe they worried that you were sick and needed to see a doctor, but they didn't have the money to pay for a doctor. Or maybe, if they were farmers, they were worried that they needed a boy instead of a girl to work on the farm. We really don't know WHY.

TONGGINATOR: (long pause... then... in a very hesitant and small voice) But... did they still think I was cute?

TONGGU MOMMA: OH, of COURSE they did, Tongginator! ALL babies are cute... and you? You were SUPER cute. Their decision had nothing to do with you. Your parents made that decision based on grown-up, big people problems. Little babies never do ANYTHING wrong. They mostly just sleep anyways. Do you remember when Baby Ruth was born?

TONGGINATOR: Yes. She mostly just slept. She never even really opened her eyes.

TONGGU MOMMA: That's right, Tongginator. Little babies don't do anything wrong. Not ever. And neither did you. Sometimes big people just have big problems they have to deal with, so sometimes little babies don't grow up with their first parents. And this happens to lots of children. That's why we know so many people who were adopted.

(long pause)

TONGGINATOR: Momma, can I have some juice now?

And the moment was over. It was a moment I will always remember because - for the first time - the Tongginator processed her abandonment and felt... something. Was it rejection? Worry? Grief? I'm not really sure as they are her emotions - and I'm not really sure if I said everything "right" - but I am certain about one thing.

She was and is and will always be... SUPER CUTE.

63 comments:

Buckeroomama said...

THAT, she is, TM. :)

I think you handled her questions very, very well.

Clare said...

I think you did a great job handling her questions. It cant be easy processing it all but how amazing that you have each other.

mumma to many said...

Hugs!
Ruth in NZ

Love Letters To China said...

I am so impressed with the way you handle all of these very sensitive questions. I just hope when my turn comes along I'm able to choose the right way of explaining these topics to my little one. Thank you for posting such inspiring words.

Andrea said...

Nice Job Mom!

Kim said...

Wonderful job Tonggu Momma

Johnny said...

Sweetness.

Joan said...

Wow... that was amazing. Thank you for posting that. You both handled it so well.

Krista ~ Bits and pieces said...

This post is beautiful for a number of reasons. Some being~ 1. God gave you perfect words to share with your baby. 2. It show the love and pure openess that you and her have. 3. Because of her vulnerability and your compassion.

It breaks my heart to think that our babies will think they did something wrong are weren't good enough. Just breaks my heart. But you my friend handled it beautifull

bbmomof2boys said...

Thanks TM. Another tidbit to put away for when Little T starts asking the hard questions.

Hugs,
Carla

Tonggu Grammy said...

I only have one thing to say and that is OF COURSE SHE IS CUTE, PROBABLY EVEN SUPER CUTE. And I'm only the grammy so I couldn't possibly be the least bit biased.

autumnesf said...

On one hand you and I are very lucky we made it to Kindergarten age before we saw them face the lion. I know several that have been having this conversation with 2 and 3 year olds.

Its so tough to watch them hurt over the realization that someone left them.

Aus said...

Morning TM - you didn't handle her questions well -

YOU WERE BRILLIANT!

We've had a couple of those with our 7 YO, younger one hasn't 'gotten there' yet but will...and I'll be hoping to do half as well!

hugs - aus and co.

Sarah said...

yes, brilliant. simply brilliant.

monica said...

Once again, you pave the path for those of us around the corner from you. I always appreciate the wisdom you share and love that you trust your intuition. And somehow you seem to find the right words...Blessings

LaLa said...

I think you handled it beautifully! Annslee's only comment so far is about what she was wearing when found saying "that does not match" Ha ha..b/c she LOVES wearing mismatched outifits now..maybe it is genetic : )

LOVE that her sweet little self was worried about being cute!

Marla said...

Oh I think you did an amazing job answering her questions! I guarantee you there will be many adoptive mommies marking this post so they can refer back to it. Great job, Momma! :)

3 Peanuts said...

Oh Momma..you did a fabulous job here! I am bookmarking this because I know this is a conversation that will have me all flustered and I want to be 100% prepared to say all of the right things---which you did!!!!


I totally agree that even though I mention these topics to Kate is age appropriate ways she has never processed it and I know it will be within the next 2 years thats he does and the conversations will change.

I am sure it was a tough one but you handled it so beautifully. I only pray I can be that eloquent when our time comes.

Kim

Rachel@just another day in paradise said...

(((hugs))) wow. I'm feeling all sad today, because my baby boy is officially 9 years old. You win. You're having a much more emotional day! : )

And how do you always handle each difficult conversation with such grace and ease?

Patricia/NYC said...

Great job with these questions, TM!! We are going through the very.same.thing. right now...yesterday Kiara asked me how many cousins she has, how many aunts & uncles & then, the kicker..."How many birthmothers do I have?"

It's a process...but I am soooooo thankful she knows her story & is asking questions!! YAY!!!

Hugs & hope you are all better now!

Suzie said...

She is SUPER CUTE and you did a SUPER DUPER job of answering her questions. I hope I am as well spoken when I'm faced with those questions.

Great Job TM!

The Source said...

You did an awesome job answering her questions and easing her fears. And of COURSE she's cute!! The cutest!

Magi said...

You did a great job answering her questions. I know that day is coming for us someday, and I must admit that I don't look forward to it.

Briana's Mom said...

I hope I am able to answer Briana's questions one day as eloquently as you did Miss T's question.

Wanda said...

You really did answer her perfectly.

It happened similarily for us too. One day Dahlia just got it and I saw all the beginnings of realization and grief in her eyes and then as quickly as it came, it left and she asked for a cookie or something.

You're so good to record these as they happen. Note to self: Get going before it's over!

And thanks for sharing it!

Blue said...

SUPER SUPER cute.

Aunt LoLo said...

Blue Ribbon and a Gold Star for Tonggu Momma! I think you did GREAT.

CC said...

Wow, I recognize a lot of that word for word from our kids' lifebook! ;) We haven't really had a questioning talk about it yet. But I'm sure it will happen. I'd rather it be sooner than later (I think?).

Holly said...

you handled it VERY well.
I really like how you didn't tell her an imaginary story about what happened and why she was left. that's something many parents do, but in reality we just don't know why our children were abandoned. We can guess all day long and many of them are educated guesses, but still, we can't present them as truth because we simply do not know. I think it is super important for kids to realize that it was NOT their fault in ANY way!
Way to go TM- really. I mean it.
And I too have had moments that were deep and intense followed by "Can I have a poptart?" lol Kids :)

Mahmee said...

I hope I can handle that one as nicely as you did.
R likes to gaze longingly at her baby pictures and remind us just what a cute baby she was. I'm pretty sure our conversations will not be going down quite the same as yours! Ha.
Great post.
M.

delucchi family said...

Oh my that was a big question and a big moment! You almost wish you could record and rewind a few times hey? These things are going to keep coming out, sometimes in little bits and sometimes in big emotions. I love the switch to juice - its like a little "the end".
Lots of Love
Jules
xxx

prechrswife said...

Wow! I'm all teary now. Our junior Tongginator is starting to process things. Today was really the first time that she grasped that she lived with her foster mother when she was a baby, and she asked if she could go and see her [her foster mother]. (We've talked about it before, but I think this is the first time it really registered with her.) The best thing we can do is be honest.

You did a great job!

Mei-Ling said...

I'll probably e-mail you on this later.

One quick thing I want to say is... to the commenter who wrote this:

"It breaks my heart to think that our babies will think they did something wrong are weren't good enough."

Logic indicates mothers are not supposed to give up their children. No matter what the reason. Obviously, there are circumstances where a mother feels she has no choice and the baby is left behind in the orphanage to be adopted.

However, the INFANT cannot process this. The abandonment happens to the INFANT. That is why the adult can understand but emotionally the infant says "Why?!"

I'm an adult adoptee who reunited with my biological family for 3 months, and I can tell you that while watching my mother and sister converse, a part of me just wanted to scream at them because I was "rejected" from the conversation.

Do not underestimate what children are capable of understand... or how love cannot heal everything.

Myrnie said...

There are so many potholes in parenting...you never know they're coming, either. I think you did a great job!

M3 said...

Oh man, how on earth do you handle this stuff so well?!!! I stink at this, seriously stink.

Mom to 5...Daughter of the King said...

Kudos to TM! You did fabulously!!

Kayce said...

Yes, she is super cute and she has a great mama! I too think you did a great job!

Saint Louis Family Robinson said...

Excellent!

We had a moment this summer - "What does she (birth mother) look like?" And I will always remember it because, of ALL places and times, we were in the shower - with shampoo in our hair and I was totally caught off guard... I mean we were naked and covered with shampoo... seesh... anyway, I got my act together quickly and I don't think I botched it too bad. Then 15 minute later we were dressed and downstairs and I asked her if she wanted to see a pictures of her foster mom and other people who took care of her while she was in China (which was something that was said earlier in the shower) and she gave me a "Uh?" and look as if she had no idea what I was talking about... the immediacy of a 4 year old's mind!

thegypsymama said...

Like momma, like daughter!

Kristi said...

Great job! I think part of the key to your apparent ease of having this conversation with your sweet girl is having started long ago.
I often wonder if folks who decide to "ignore" the fact that their kids are adopted will survive this line of questioning from their kids.
You are a leader that we all should be following!

Mama King said...

You brought tears to my eyes. What a SUPER mom you are.

madduchess said...

Wow, just wow. I thought you handled that conversation brilliantly. In fact, I am copy/pasting it into word right now and putting it in my quite hefty binder where I keep all my adoption wisdoms that will be ready when we finally bring our daughter home.

Seriously, a thousand gratitudes to the internet.

P.S. I have no doubt your daughter is crazy cute :)))

YoonSeon said...

I have to say that I agree with Mei-Ling here. Yes, you handled it well, however please remember that your child probably didn't walk away from that conversation as happy with herself as you seem to be. It's likely that she walked away feeling confused. No, you can't answer those questions and her feelings. But she'll still have them, and it's these feelings that probably go unspoken of that you'll need to be sensitive toward. You may have handled it well, but like Mei-Ling said: love isn't always enough.

Sharie said...

Thanks for sharing. I appreciate all of the reasons you gave for why she may have been left I'm certain I've left some out in my conversations with Amelia- I talk to her openly about this, but I know I don't have all the answers and I know I can't change her feelings. All I can do - like you did is answer as honestly as possible and share what I know.

Janet said...

Don't know if I'm super emotional tonight or what, but that made me cry. Not because it was particularly sad but because I will get THOSE kinds of questions one day. I can only pray that I will handle them with grace, kindness, and honesty. And as well as you did....

Makes me scared!

Carla said...

thank you so much for sharing this small glimpse into how you handled this...I've learned so much from this (mainly that I have sooo very much left to learn on how to handle this).

I honestly think you answered everything as best as you possibly could (better than I would have), and I hope it was just exactly what Tongginator needed to hear.

{HUG}

Justin Narin said...

You did a great job in answering her questions... probably she was worried but then she has got the best momma and you have got the cutest TM :)


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Gail said...

Awesome job TM. Grace is 2 years older than the Tongginator(I had to look how you spell her name..hee hee) and a little ahead in the process of dealing with her story. They all process it differently and aren't always ready or able to 'hear' it if that makes any sense. What really helped Grace was when we went to China to adopt Will...she saw the people and country of her birth and what it was like for William. Life long tasks, this processing stuff...at least in my opinion.

Stefanie said...

Oh my. I had a *moment* like that the other day with Sophie.. still thinking it through in my head, it was so heartbreaking to see that connection made in their minds...
Thanks so much for sharing, it's such an encouragement to see others going through similar stuff :)

Raina said...

Beautiful post. I have just discovered your blog yesterday and am already in love with it.

There is so much gravity in this conversation. I recall having a version of this conversation with my own mom. You've opened up some things for me. I hope you do not mind I'll be linking to this blog in my post tonight.

Thanks for your honesty and insight! ~Raina

Patty O. said...

Wow. What a conversation to have to have. My sister is encountering more questions like these with her two children and is so worried she isn't answering them right. I love how you expressed this. So simple and totally right on. Babies NEVER do anything wrong.

And you're right, she is super cute!

The Gang's Momma said...

Thanks for this post. It's another to file away for future reference when Li'l Empress starts verbalizing the things she's been undoubtedly processing since she came home to us. I appreciate all the additional comments also, to think about and pray over as the time draws closer to the verbalized conversations. . .

Half Gaelic, Half Garlic! said...

You handled it so well......Perfectly, really!! I am bookmarking this one for sure. I know there will be a day will I need to answer these questions.

Lisa

Annie said...

Oh TM!!! I think that was a beautiful moment because you made it so!!! Your words were wonderful!!! Thank you!!

Kiy said...

As always, brilliant. I love how you seemed mater-of-fact when I know you must have been second guessing every word. This is a mine-field for our children, and for us. Good for you, good for your CUTE girl.

P.S. Yes, I am playing catch up. And double yes, I really do need to work on Little Bit's life book. As soon as we move into our house and get settled, it's on my list. WAY up there on my list.

Alece said...

woah.

i felt the weight of this one. her heart is so beautiful. so tender... and you held her heart so gently...

Cavatica said...

Nice job! This is such tough stuff and like Mei-Ling and YoonSeon mentioned, I'm sure it isn't easy. It is a process, returning over and over again. I'm looking forward to more of your posts and how you handle it. I always wonder when these moments will start for us.

Dita said...

As you and I have discussed before...it's an ongoing conversation and it only gets BETTER with time...like a fine wine.

When my son was T's age (and for years before...I probably started with him at age 2), we also had the conversation and they'd come without warning. I would mentally prepare and then, out of the blue when I'd least expect it....whammo...I'd get hit when my brain was least into choosing every single word right.

As soon as it'd begin it would turn into a "can I have more juice" too. He'd move on and I'd be left flailing in the wind and reliving the conversation in my head of how many other "better" ways I could have handled it.

Today, he is 10 1/2, the conversation still pops up but he answers his own questions and he is so, so solid about it. Sometimes he even runs the conversations himself and I can barely get a word in edgewise. He is processing and learning his own route to accepting where he came from, the choices others made, where he is and where he's going.

He drives this bus...I'm just his adoring passenger.

Michelle said...

That's one smart cookie you have there, and one smart mama, too! These are such difficult conversations, but so critical to have.

anymommy said...

Thank you so much for sharing this conversation. It was amazing. I picked up tools I know I'll need some day and I teared up for your daughter - they'll always have these questions, won't they - for her pain but also for how lucky she is to have such a sensitive, informed mother. XO.

mommy24treasures said...

Ahhh, I am so glad she is processing all of this and including you and not trying to figure it out and keep it bottled up in her little heart. She is so precious. So tender... so beautiful...and so so CUTE.

Special K said...

Well done! Taking notes for future reference.

Colin and Jill Canada said...

Aww, you are such a sweet mama.

I am book marking this page for future reference.

Well said T.M.

Jill xx