I remember reading in that book Twenty Things Adopted Kids Wish Their Adoptive Parents Knew, by Sherrie Eldridge, that just because your (adopted) child doesn't talk about their birth parents doesn't mean that they're not thinking a lot about them. One of the suggestions contained within that chapter was that adoptive parents should initiate conversations about birth parents. I do that a lot, in large part because so much in that book resonated with me.
A couple of weeks ago I asked Seth, while having a conversation about something in his past, if he thought about his Gashi (first father) a lot. He nodded. I asked whether he thought about him every day. He nodded. I asked if he thought about him every day "a little bit, a medium amount, or lots and lots."
Seth's answer? "Lots and lots."
I was a little surprised because it's not that often that he initiates conversations about his life in Ethiopia, but then the chapter in the book came to mind and I realized how true it was that he needed me to be the initiator - to give him the freedom to know that it was ok to think about this stuff and to talk about it if/when he wants to. Seth went on to talk very specifically about what kinds of things he thinks about, the kinds of things he misses, the kinds of things he wishes for. Poor little fellow. He so loves life in Canada, I believe that to my core; but I just can't imagine how torn he must feel between wanting to be here, where life is relatively easy and good and secure, and wanting to be with his Ethiopian father. I imagine that he must struggle with guilt, knowing what life is like for his first father. Though Lizzie is younger, and has far fewer memories of her earlier life, she too loves to talk about life in Ethiopia and about her Gashi...I don't think it's overstating it to say that I think she loves to hear me talking affectionately about Gashi.
One of my dearest hopes is that Seth and Lizzie never feel that we, their second parents, are 'competing' with their first parents - that would destroy something in them, I believe. I want them to know that we love and honour and respect their first family, and that we are not out to be 'better than' just because we have more resources with which to care for them. I want us to remember and treasure their roots, and I hope that by continually talking about their lives in Ethiopia within the privacy of our family unit, Seth and Lizzie will be healthier for it as they mature.
I hesitated writing about this because it reveals something about Seth that he may someday not be comfortable with my having shared; but Seth being a pretty wise kid I'm thinking that ultimately he will want to help other kids who have been adopted. Because I know that many adoptive (and soon-to-be-adoptive) parents read my blog, I'm putting this out here in the hopes that it might encourage other such conversations. Just because our kids aren't talking about their first parents doesn't mean that they're not thinking about them...probably "lots and lots."