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Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Sticks and stones...

When I was a kid, one of my favorite retorts to anyone who picked on me was "Sticks and stones may break my bones but words can never hurt me." It was a nice, non-violent creed that left my opponents frustrated when they couldn't get a rise out of me...but as an adult, I've come to doubt the veracity of the statement. Words can be brutal weapons...just ask my children.

When you adopt kids, you also adopt all their baggage...their history, their memories, their birth families...and their trauma. In our family, we have one bio and four adopted kids so we have a whole lot of players in our family dynamic. Let's review: We have Kate who has a simple and rather boring background, only one Mom and one Dad that she shares with her 4 siblings (that would be us). Then we have Tanya, Max, Aniyar and Madiyar who have various birthparents and step-parents entering the mix. At times even I lose count...but it's roughly nine people that my kids can be referring to when they start talking about Mom and Dad. Considering that all 4 of our kids from Kazakhstan suffered trauma and neglect while with their birth parents, it can get pretty intense when the kids start swapping stories. Sometimes the conversations are poignant, sometimes funny...keep reading and you'll see what I mean.

Our kids can sometimes use their knowledge of family history as a weapon in a sibling disagreement, as is reflected in this recent exchange between Aniyar and Mom:

Aniyar:(Crying) Mama, Max say my mom drunk. He say my brain not work right. He lying!

Well, sweetie, Max isn't lying but he isn't being kind. The truth is that your mom did drink a lot of alcohol when you were a baby in her tummy. That's why sometimes it's hard for you to remember things and to control yourself...but that's not your fault, just like it's not your fault that your mom hit you.

Aniyar: My mom hit me? I not remember! How you know?

: Madiyar remembers...and you dad and aunt told us, too. But you have a new family now and you're safe here. You're my boy and I love you.

Aniyar: I you baby now? I youngest.

Mom: Yes, you're my baby now; even when you're a big tall man, you'll still be my special boy. Now let's go talk with Max.

Then there's the conversation I had with Max about a little girl at his school:

Max: Mom, there's this girl who is being really rude to me. She picks on me and calls me names. Today at lunch she said at least she wasn't adopted. I think she was trying to say that being adopted is bad.

Well, you know that's not true. What's bad about getting a family?

I think she meant that my mom and dad threw me away like trash...

Mom: Sweetie, you had a lot of very bad things happen to you but none of them were your fault. I can't change the awful things that happened to you when you were little but think about this fact today. You have a mom and dad who not only chose you to join our family but we traveled half way around the world to do it! You certainly aren't trash...

Sometimes the conversations reflect how well our kids have bonded to each other. For example, the other day, Max and Madiyar were chatting about their Dads. This is how the conversation went:

Max: You know, my first dad was nice but for some reason he went away. My second dad was nice at first but then he started hitting me for no good reason.

You should have punched him and used Kung Fu on him, man!

Max: Are you kidding, man? I was a little kid, practically a baby. I could barely walk even.

Madiyar:(Thoughtfully) Well, if we gonna go to Kazakhstan and I see him, I'm gonna punch him for you.

Max: Thanks, man...

My kids know all too well the pain that words can inflict...but they're also learning that words can heal...and they're learning the healing power of family, too.

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