Parenting is hard. I make mistakes as a parent ALL THE TIME! I’m learning to tell my kids when I make mistakes, so that they can learn from my mistakes as well. I made a lot of mistakes as a new adoptive parent as well, and I know I still make them, even though I am more educated on adoption than the typical adoptive parent or prospective adoptive parent. As I talked about in a previous post, I told way too much of my child’s adoption story when she was first born, and I’ve had to deal with the consequences as a result.
Now, on the 6th Anniversary of my daughter’s adoption finalization day, I am struggling with another potential mistake I’ve made in our adoption journey. If you’ve been following Purl for awhile, you may know that we have always celebrated my daughter Cora’s adoption day by calling it Zimmerman Day, the day our whole family shared the same last name. We made this decision because we are a family that is made up of biological and adopted kids, and we never questioned whether we would celebrate this day, but instead how we would celebrate it without one feeling left out or not included. I talk about that day more in this blog post from a past “Zimmerman Day.” I talked there about how I didn’t like the term “forever family” and I could fill a whole post about how much I hate the term “gotcha day.” But now, instead of questioning what to call this celebration, I’m questioning even celebrating this day at all… is celebrating this day really about me, and not about her? Can I really celebrate a day that is really trauma for my child? Is she always going to want to celebrate having our same last name and a different name than her birth family? And how can she say no to celebrating it now when it comes with things she really wants, spending quality time with her mom and sister while we bake, and then eating cake?
It is so hard to predict how an adoptee will feel about their adoption as they grow older. And those feelings will likely change over time, and I need to prepare myself that what seems right or wrong now may be different down the road. I try very hard to do what I think is right in parenting – and I make knowingly make mistakes every day. And the same thing goes for adoption. I try to do what I think is right in how I talk about adoption, about her birth family, but no matter how much I educate myself, my instincts aren’t always right! Sometimes I let my own pride and my own feelings cloud my judgment. What I learn from listening to adoptees are also not going to fit EVERY adoptee, as each adoptee is going to feel differently about their adoption. I always encourage prospective adoptive parents to learn about adoption by listening to various adoption perspectives, and particularly those from adult adoptees. As more and more adoptions become open, it may become easier to predict how my child might feel about her own adoption down the road and about how we might properly, sensitively acknowledge those feelings. But the most important thing to remember is that you will sometimes just be wrong with how you chose to handle something in your child’s life! There will be a time in your life as a parent, and as an adoptive parent, where you’re going to have to admit maybe you made a misstep, and you’ll have to adjust, to do things differently than you planned. For me, that may mean letting this day go by without celebrating it at all, forgetting that there ever was a “Zimmerman Day”. But I also don’t want her to think that this day isn’t so important to us, as it was such a momentous, positive day in MY life. And how do you stop something that seems fun, but really may have been a mistake in the first place? So for now, I guess I’ll continue to honor it in this lowkey, fun way, and hopefully it evolves where she can truly decide whether to celebrate it at all or even recognize it.
Today, when I reminded her on her way to school about what this day signifies and asked her if she wanted to celebrate it with our normal tradition, of course her answer was yes. Because it came with spending quality time with us baking, licking the bowl, eating lots of sprinkles and then getting to decorate and eat one of the messiest (and arguably, ugliest) cake covered with the letter Z. Of course she wants to do that now as a six year old
However, I need to be prepared and be ready for the day she DOESN’T want to do that, and as her mom, I have to provide the space for her to be okay NOT celebrating this day — without making her feel guilty or sad for her feelings. Remember, adoption is not about you, it is all about your child, and there are times you just need to get used to the discomfort you may feel from that. But for now… I’m sure I’ll continue to wonder if I made a mistake to have started this tradition, at the same time licking the spoon…