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Knowing it’s Coming Doesn’t Make it Sting any Less December 13, 2011

Filed under: adoption thoughts,Matthew — Elizabeth @ 9:58 PM

Last night, Matthew, Isaac and I had a conversation.  It was a conversation that, as an adoptive parent, I knew I would be a part of at some point.  I was prepared for the conversation, but I wasn’t prepared for how it made me feel.  It went something like this.

Isaac:  Mom, when can we go on a trip to Korea?

Me:  I don’t know, Buddy.  I was thinking maybe when you and Matthew are about 8 or 9 it would be a lot of fun to go.  Wouldn’t that be fun, guys?

Isaac:  YES!  I give that TWO THUMBS WAY UP!

Matthew:  No!  I go to Korea BY MYSELF.

Me:  You don’t want me to come?

Matthew:  NO.

Me:  You don’t want Isaac to come?

Matthew:  NO.

Me:  You don’t want Daddy to come.

Matthew:  NO.

Me:  So you want us to stay at home while you go to Korea by yourself.

Matthew:  YES!

Me:  Do you want to live there?

Matthew:  YES!

Me:  Well, you’re just a kid.  Who will take care of you and make your food for you?

Matthew:  Omma.

Isaac:  Mom, this conversation is making my heart feel very sad.  Make Matthew apologize.

Me:  Matthew doesn’t have to apologize if this is how he feels.  Now Matthew, you can go live anywhere you want to when you are a grown up.  Anywhere in the world!  But for now, you have to live with us.  And when we take trips, we will all take trips together.  Because we are a family, and it is mommy and daddy’s job to always take care of you.  And Isaac, you can also live anywhere in the world that you want to live when you grow up.

Isaac:  Well, even when I grow up, I want to live with you, Mommy.

Me (feeling antsy about both of my children’s choices at this point):  we can talk about that when you get closer to growing up.

Matthew:  Well, I will live in Korea!

Isaac (very dejectedly):  I give that two thumbs waaaaaay down.

Then we started talking about something else.

I really felt like Matthew was doing a little bit of fishing here.  I don’t negate any of his feelings about Korea or any desires to return there one day, but a part of me thinks he was hoping I may lay on the floor, gnashing my teeth and begging him to love me more…….choose me over Omma……our home over Korea.  And I didn’t…..even though my heart was faintly throbbing and I was trying not to register anything but mild curiosity in my expression.

Later on that night, while the boys were cleaning up their toys, Jason and I were in the kitchen talking.  Matthew brought a toy in the room with us and played with it in the floor for a minute.  Then he got up to leave the room and said on his way out, like an afterthought–I gonna live here.

I guess this is my cue to steel myself for these kinds of conversations.  The fact is that I truly believe that this particular time was Matthew feeling me out, wanting to know if I would freak out, beg him to stay, or simply tell him that was not an option.  But one day, he may come to me without any ulterior motives.  He may genuinely tell me he wants to go to Korea…for an extended period or permanently.  He may tell me that he wants to begin a search for his birth family and that he wants me to help him (or that he wants to do it himself and I am strictly forbidden to be a part of it).

And all of that is fine.  And normal.  And expected.  But the fact of the matter is, while these conversations are all healthy, they don’t necessarily give me the warm fuzzies.  But that’s not really what matters anymore.

My job now is to nod.  To listen.  To do my best to understand.  And to keep the tiny fractures in my heart to myself.



16 Responses to “Knowing it’s Coming Doesn’t Make it Sting any Less”

  1. Kimberly Says:

    Hugs for you — that must have been tough to hear.

    Adam has always been pretty upfront about the fact that he misses his birth mother, wishes she could come live with him and would one day like to find her. (Last week he was incredibly sad that while he has photos of his foster mother, he has none of his birth mother.) In fact, Adam has so clearly always felt this way that it wouldn’t surprise me in the least if he chooses to live in Korea once he grows up. I usually encourage him in whatever his plans are because I think it’s awesome that he’s trying to make sense of all the various people in his life (and — perhaps strangely — I think I’ve always thought that Adam and Leah may eventually resent us for adopting them and will choose to return to Korea).

    Good luck in helping Matthew sort out his very complex feelings about adoption, which are likely to change frequently (and without warning!) as he gets older.

  2. deb jacobs Says:

    you couldn’t have handled it any better, mom xx

  3. Maria Says:

    I absolutely love your response! Total perfection. 🙂

  4. tina Says:

    Wow. You responded so beautifully — only a mom could respond like that!!! Hugs to you.

  5. Beth Says:

    God Bless you Elizabeth. You are such a wonderful mother. Both Matthew and Isaac are very lucky He chose you to be their mom – you handled that situation perfectly. I love how you can make me roll in laughter in one post and then cry my eyes out in the next. 🙂

  6. christine m tomberlin Says:

    Oh–you did so good! And I love how Matthew told you “I gonna live here.” Of course he has all kinds of feelings (as does Isaac) but as kids they dont know how to resolve the conflicts. You taught them best–ALL those feelings are OK and it will all work out for the best.

  7. Jenny Says:

    this was hard for me to read, is it weird that I’m really good at forgetting the fact that Jack (or Chloe for that matter) may one day want to return to the country of their birth? We try very hard to teach them about Korean culture and never shy away from the fact that they are Korean, but I guess I always thought they would live down the street from me 😉

    you are always teaching me.

  8. Christy Says:

    You handled it so well. That was not an easy conversation. And don’t worry – Isaac one day will probably choose to live somewhere that isn’t under your roof – you know, when he’s like 30 and married. 🙂 But down the street is nice… 🙂 You made me think about how my older two kids may react when our youngest (who we’re still waiting to see his/her face) has thoughts and feelings like this. I should probably do more to prepare them. Is that possible?

    It really is a wonderful thing that Matthew expressed his thoughts and feelings! And then expressed them again with “I gonna live here”. It does sound like maybe he’s fishing for a reaction and you handled it so well. I guess if our children choose to live in Korea for a period of time when they’re older it’ll give us a great place to go visit, right? Big hugs!!!

  9. Kelly Says:

    Oy, that must have hit like a ton of bricks. It was even hard for me to read. Sometimes I try to avoid thinking about things like this. But it’s good to remember our kids may have these thoughts and desires, and that’s OK. I like how you handled it, and also how Matthew handled it, too!

  10. Yvonne Says:

    Testing, testing, just testing. Just to see if it is okay to talk about this, to share these feelings, to explore the possibility. And also to say “do you really want me” and “will I always belong here, in this family?” Conversations like this are so hard on us, but I also try to think about how important is it that we have them because it had to be hard for our kids to say something at all about this. Hugs to you for your fractured heart and for giving Matthew what he needed. I did laugh at Isaac saying he’s going to live with you forever, though – two extremes!

  11. I struggled with those fluttery, uncomfortable feelings in my stomach while I read this post. Every now and then I’ll imagine Daniel going back to Korea to live and it makes me nauseous (gosh, I’m nauseous about him starting kindergarten!). I need to come to terms with lots of different possibilities for the future and start learning to let go. At 3 1/2 years old, Daniel has still not had any questions about his birth mother. Should I bring it up?

    • Mary Says:

      My daughter had brought it up by then, my son did it later. I didn’t initiate the conversation with either of them because knowing them I knew they would when they were ready (you know your child, if you think he wants to be needs help then perhaps you should start it). That said, I gave them many opportunities to bring it up. We read many adoption books so that they had the concepts and words to use when they had questions. i would bring up adoption topics in the car (they like to talk about things in the car because you can’t look at them and they don’t have to see your face, they also bring up stuff before bed). There was one suggestion I read that I am so very glad I followed: I practiced my reaction to “YOU’RE NOT MY REAL MOTHER (another favorite variation, you’re not my real mother, you can’t tell me what to do). So when I got it, I was able to be very calm and it actually didn’t hurt. I just said words to the effect that it is true that you have several mothers (your birth mom, me , your foster mom) but I am the mom who is here now and you still need to . . .

      Just my thoughts, I am sure there are many other and probably better ways.

  12. Joyce N. Ingram Says:

    Oh Elizabeth, how well you teach us all! Matthew and Isaac are blessed to have you for their mom. Remember, “and Mary kept all these things and pondered them in her heart.” I thought of this and know that you will be keeping these sweet conversations in your heart.
    Love you all

  13. Lori Says:

    Matthew and Jack are so much alike in some ways and at this age, Jack says things like that to me all the time to get me to freak out about it. Remaining calm almost always changes his tune so I think you’re probably right on with that assessment, but the reality is that you may have these conversations in your future. I just think that Matthew is very blessed to have parents who are willing to put his health and happiness first. I believe that he will cherish that and the two of you for that – no matter where he chooses to live one day.

  14. Mary Says:

    My kids are older than Matthew but not yet teens and adoption comes up with increasing frequency. I love the way you handled this one. You are so right that keeping calm and letting any hurt stay inside helps them so much. We’ve had variations on this and I always let them know that I want them to live where ever they are happy, that is my goal for them. I also let them know that we hope that they will be able to find their birth families, that the potential to know the birth family is one reason we picked Korea instead of another country for international adoption. I also let them know that wherever they are, they will take my love with them, just like I have my mother’s love with me (when I first moved to another state and even now after she died).

  15. Melissa Says:

    Oh, that is tough! And I agree with all the others that you handled it the best possible way. Rory says things like this alot as well.

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