He casually answered, “Colombia.”
Unsure of what on earth he meant, I spoke to his teacher about it. He explained that both the boy and girl were adopted but not blood related, and his sister was in the process of coming home still, and the family had gone down to visit several times.
Then he said, “And neither of them know they’re adopted.”
What? How was that even possible?
Apparently the family adopted the boy around the age of 2, so he didn’t remember anything. But the little girl got caught up in all the legal problems that can happen, and had been waiting several years to come home. In the meantime, she’d grown up in an orphanage there. Somehow (and I have no idea what enabled this to be pulled off) the parents had convinced her and their son that she was actually theirs but had to live in Colombia for a while.
The second year I taught we actually got to meet her and indeed – their new daughter only was told she had been born to both parents and stuck in another “home” for a while.
All of us teachers were asked by the parents to never tell the children or anyone else they were adopted. Even though the entire small community knew. The girl and boy did strikingly their mother by all having dark hair/eyes, so it wasn’t noticeable right off the bat to a stranger that their family wasn’t blood related.
I have no idea if they plan to tell them later, and it’s not my place to judge, but I’ll admit that quite frankly I was shocked at all of this and wondered how it would impact these children’s lives – told or not? One day they’d have to start to question it all.
We respected their choice but I told myself if I ever adopted I would never pretend that. Besides the honesty and mental issues later on, not to mention the stress that keeping a secret of that magnitute would cause, here are some of my personal reasons why we’ll always tell our adopted children their whole story, regardless of if they look like us or not:
No One Wants to Marry Their Sibling 1 of 10Just this. Yes, it's a long shot. But there was a couple on Dr. Phil one day that discovered they were brother and sister - so there is always a possibility. And it's not a fun one.
Because of Birth Parents 2 of 10Your child may want to find their birth parents one day. The birth parents may want to get in touch with the child later on. It's to the benefit of everyone to be honest with your child from the beginning about as much as you know so they can choose what they want to do.
There are Medical Reasons 3 of 10If your child has no idea they're adopted, they also won't know to tell that to their doctor. While many adopted children come home with no past medical information or information on their families - just knowing they were adopted can save a lot of confusion. They won't be using your completely incorrect medical history for a diagnosis.
It Hurts to Find Out Accidentally 4 of 10I can't even imagine how it must feel to find out by accident that your entire life is different than you've grown up believing. If you choose the time and place to tell, or you make it a part of their lives from the beginning, it will be much easier for your child to process.
Definition of a “Normal” Family 5 of 10By telling your child about their adoption, you help them accept themselves, and others around them who might live differently than the "norm." And really - what's normal anyway? Families are beautiful in any way.
They May Want to Discover Their Cultural Roots 6 of 10I remember finding out my great grandmother was a full blooded Arapahoe Native American when I was young. It was fascinating for me to learn about and stuck with me ever since.
Seeking Help is Easier 7 of 10Adopted children and adults can have an easier time talking about their emotions if they know part of the cause. It's also helpful for a therapist to treat them correctly when they know the details.
They Can Grieve and Have You There 8 of 10Telling your child, even later on, can make the time they need to grieve perhaps just a little less painful by having you there. You can answer their questions, help them process, and be their rock.
Knowing the Genealogy 9 of 10If your child knows he or she is adopted, they can search for their genealogy later on in life. Imagine finding old pictures of their grandmother or knowing who their extended biological family was.
Understanding Their Personality 10 of 10I think the main reason we'll always tell our children, no matter how much they might look like us or how young we adopt them, is because it helps them find themselves. They can understand why they might think or act differently than us, why things trigger emotions in them that others don't feel, and they can make their adoption a part of their story and the life they choose to have.
*identifying details changed to protect privacy
All photos credit of iStockphoto