For most parents of adopted children, the first concern is to make sure that their adopted children know and understand that they are just as much a part of their family as they would be if they had been born into it. For parents with a mix of adopted and natural children, this can be a particular concern. Naturally, the tendency is to talk openly and honestly with all your children about adoption, but to avoid calling undue attention to the fact that the adopted children were, in fact, adopted.
However, I think that this tendency allows the parents of adopted children to miss some really wonderful opportunities to celebrate the special nature of their family.
As a child adopted at birth, I was one of three children in my family. My older brother is also adopted, and my younger sister is the natural child of my parents. Fortunately, my brother and I knew that we were adopted since before we could even understand what the concept meant, so we never experienced any of the anxiety that some adopted children feel when they are first “told” that they are adopted. In our family, adoption was generally considered to be a non-issue. It really wasn’t discussed or even thought about much, except in the natural way that families tell stories about the past or discuss topical issues that might introduce the topic. And even in those cases, there really wasn’t a lot of emotion attached to the subject of adoption- it was just a simple fact of life.
That did not stop my parents from finding ways to slip ways of making my brother understand that we were special into our consciousness. In my family, adoption was both “normal” and “special.”
The first thing that I recommend to parents of adopted children is that they don’t shy away from honest conversations with their children about the adoption process and what lead them to it. Letting your adopted children know just how long you wished for and wanted a child, what struggles you went through before adoption made your wishes a reality, and how long you waited for the adoption to take place helps the adopted children to maintain a sense of their importance in your family. It is a tremendous feeling to believe that you, and only you, are the thing that your parents wished the most and waited the longest for.
Although, as I said, adoption was not an issue in our family, there is one day per year when our status as adopted children was made into a very big deal for my brother and I. My parents invented a holiday that I would like to share with all parents of adopted children and encourage them to consider. The holiday is called the “Homecoming Day.” Our Homecoming Day is the anniversary of the day our parents were allowed to bring my brother and I home and to make us a part of their family. Celebrated as sort of a mini-birthday, my mother would bake a “homecoming cake” each year on our day, and my parents would reminisce about the experience of adopting us, and talk about the happiness they felt, as they were able to become our parents. Usually, my mother would write a weepy card or letter. Always fair-minded, my sister had a Homecoming Day as well. Her Homecoming Day is the day she came home with my mother from the hospital. That, of course, was only several days after her birthday, so the three of us have always acknowledged that she got a little jipped in the Homecoming Day department. She has always been okay with that.
These are a couple of ways that my parents very successfully made my brother and I feel that, as adopted children, we had an extremely special place in our family, despite the fact that we thought of adoption as something that was completely normal. “Normal” and “special” is really a very nice combination of feelings for an adopted child to experience.