Monday, September 14, 2009

Unexpected reaction

Liam has always known that he was adopted. In fact the first time I told him his "adoption story" he was a few hours old and I was walking the hallway of the hospital with him. Given that I'm also adopted and very active on adoption boards and forums, the topic of adoption comes up often and easily in our home. Liam is comfortable talking about it, is not confused as to who any one is in his life, and has even brought up the fact that he has siblings that don't live with him with strangers on the bus. He has pictures of his first family on his wall in his room where he has friends over for play dates and has never expressed any concern with them being "out there" for everyone to see and potentially ask questions about.

So when we got a project assignment from his teacher last week I didn't think there would be an issue for Liam. I had an issue with the project, just because of my involvement with the adoption community and having done these things as an adopted child myself.

Liam's class is studying the living body and charting 2 newborns growth and development over the next few months. So the assignment was to gather data on themselves as infants: weight and length at birth and then again at 2 years old along with pictures.

As an adoptive family we are lucky to have all that information for Liam. We were there the day he was born. The first picture of him we have he is seconds old, in an incubator in the operating room. I was planning on educating the teachers on the fact that not all kids have their newborn info. The school has several girls adopted from China and friends of ours have a child there whom they adopted from foster care. I seriously doubt that any of these families would be able to complete the project. So, being the advocate that I am, I planned on printing off articles, offering alternates, and explaining how it can make the child uncomfortable to be the only one in the class given an alternative assignment just because they were adopted.

Then I mentioned the project to Liam.

I try to be very careful to keep my tone neutral and chose my words carefully when I bring up topics with Liam. I don't want my own emotional crap to colour his view of his adoption and story. So I casually mentioned that we got this sheet and that his teacher would like us to write down information about when he was born. His immediate reaction was "NO! I'm not doing that". When I cautiosly probbed as to why, he explained that he didn't want to talk about when he was born because it made him sad, because that was when he was seperate from "K". WOW. I hadn't seen that one coming.

He has expressed sadness over his adoption before and mentioned that he misses his first family. We have never used the term "seperated" so I found that very telling in how he is processing things right now. I reassured him that he would not have to participate if he didn't want to and left it at that. We made sure to bring it up again the next day to see if his initial reaction was the same, or just based on being tired or something the night before. He maintained his position and will not be participating.

I talked to his teacher and she reasured me that he won't have to participate in anything he doesn't want to. She is also going to talk to him to let him know that the other kids may be discussing this in class and that if it's bothering him to let her know. I don't think she really understood why I felt that these types of projects shouldn't be done at all, but I will still take in my pile of articles, alternative assignements and suggestions. I'm hoping that she will share with the other teachers, and I will offer (again) to come in and talk to all of them about adoption and class room activities. The other room of kids Liam's age are doing a family tree project right now too. Of course, it's a "typical" tree that would not suit every adopted child.

And don't get this lesbian started on the fact that it only has spots for Mother's Name and Father's Name. That is a whole other rant!
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