A Memory: When my Adoptive Family Went Broke

My adoptive mother recently asked me how I thought being adopted caused me to view certain life experiences differently growing up than another children might.  One vivid memory that I recall involved how I recalled how adoption had been explained to me, and how that explanation impacted how I viewed a family financial emergency.

When I was a young girl, I watched the short, Christian movie "Gerbert: Before my First Day Began."  The main character, Gerbert the puppet, learned he was adopted, just like he had adopted his stuffed lion named "Roary."  The lesson of the movie is that Gerbert had received a better life because his mother had put him up for adoption.

One day, in the very real world, my adoptive father had to leave our home for several months to find work.  In my  very young mind at the time, I started to worry that our impoverished state would mean I would have to be adopted again by someone else.  According to my understanding of adoption, original impoverished family had done the right thing by giving me up for adoption; now my new family was poor too.

My mother has always been stunned that I remember my dad needing to leave to work in another state so vividly because I was only six at the time.  We had never had a whole lot of money but I remember it being explained to me that my dad needed to leave to find work and that my mom and I would be staying put in our apartment.  I remember helping her hang plastic across the doorways of the rooms we couldn't afford to heat and carefully avoiding the large kerosene heater in the middle of the hallway when I needed to walk from one room to the other.  Dinners were simple, sandwiches, macaroni and cheese, hot dogs, to keep the grocery bill down.

I remember it so well because it was punctuated with a worry, a silent worry, that I have never told anyone about until now.  I remember being fully prepared to offer to eat store-brand macaroni and cheese for the rest of my life to help save money.  I searched my young mind for ways that I could help keep my family together.

How do you explain adoption to a child then, my mother wanted to know.  This is such a tough question as I now as a parent struggle with how I will explain being adopted to my own children.  I concluded by telling her I don't think there is any way to do an adoption or explain adoption to a child that wouldn't result in that child viewing life through a unique lens, having unique issues and thoughts, and having unique worries.  We simply be as sensitive as we can, learn a lot along the way, and offer support when it is needed.

Photo credit: Daniel St.Pierre