About five weeks ago, on October 26th (I know this because I keep notes!), Seth and I had an interesting conversation...not that different from a conversation other adoptive families might have.
Seth had done something to one of Matthew's toys that Matthew had repeatedly asked him not to do. After Seth blatantly did exactly the thing that Matthew pleaded with him not to do, Seth and I found ourselves upstairs in the boys' bedroom talking about making mistakes. Seth told me that he didn't make mistakes...as in, never. I said that this must be very unusual because I sure make a lot of mistakes - sadly, I make mistakes every day. I asked him if he thought it would be ok for Matthew to take one of his toys and do to it what he had just done to Matthew's toy. Seth was visibly (and audibly) outraged and said "no" very emphatically; he said that he would be mad if Matthew did that to his toys. After some time, he appeared to realize the inconsistency between his actions and his statements, but was still clearly reluctant to acknowledge that he sometimes makes mistakes. I didn't push this issue, but I did ask him what made it so hard for him to say that he makes mistakes sometimes. His response??
Seth: "Seth make mistakes, Mommy leave?"
Shit, is what I thought...not a word that normally comes first to mind, but he just blew me away with that casually-stated question. And suddenly, things that I'd been suspecting about Seth clicked into place; for months the kid has been trying to be a really good kid. He works hard at life. At everything. There have been many, many issues to deal with but one thing has never changed: he tries hard...even when he invariably messes up.
I asked him confirmation. "Seth, are you asking me if I will leave you if you make mistakes?"
Me: "Do you worry about this?"
Me: "Do you worry that Daddy and Mommy will take you back to the orphanage if you make mistakes?"
Seth: "Sometimes. But I think no."
(I thought whew - at least he's pretty sure we won't take him back)
Me: "Seth, please come and sit on my lap for a minute."
He came. I asked him if he would still love me if I made a mistake - he answered with a resounding "yes, Mommy."
I then asked him if he would leave me if I made a mistake. Again, a definite response. "No, Mommy."
I then told him that, similarly, I would never leave him because he makes a mistake; and I told him that he was not ever going back to the orphanage.
He asked if he would be going back to Ethiopia.
I wasn't sure what he needed at that point, so I asked him if he wanted to go back to Ethiopia to visit.
Seth (emphatically): "No!"
I told him that we would never make him go back to Ethiopia unless he wanted to go. I said that he might change his mind someday and that it would be very ok with us if he wanted to go back for a visit, and then come back home to Mommy and Daddy. He asked if we would come with him someday if he wanted to visit; I said "yes." His whole body relaxed.
At this point, the enormity of the stuff he was asking about sunk in a bit more and my eyes filled with tears. I hugged him and told him that someday he would understand how much Daddy and I loved him and that it didn't matter to us if he made a million mistakes.