My dearest K,
Last night, as an early birthday present, Daddy gave you a new pair of Superman pajamas. You already had a Captain American nightgown that I bought for you at San Diego Comic-Con, and of course you have your beloved Star Wars jammies, but the rest of the family has accumulated Superman jammies over the past year.
You think it is cool that you are Captain America to everyone else’s Superman, and you asked if we could take a family picture with you in the middle, dressed as Captain America, while the rest of us surround you, dressed as Superman. But . . . you also have expressed a desire to be like mommy and daddy and your sisters. “I want a pair of Superman pajamas too,” you told me.
It strikes me that the Superman pajamas are a metaphor for your place in our family. You are different, because you were adopted. To deny that difference is to invite a world of angst beyond what you already experience. But you are also the same, because you belong in our family, our team, our clan, and that sameness glues us together. Superman, Captain America, the Black Widow (yes, you are proudly wearing a new Black Widow T-shirt to school today) – all are superheroes, all are the same; yet each has unique qualities and strengths that create differences.
An adoption therapist recently advised me that it is important to acknowledge to adopted children that you are different. During her decades-long career as a counselor, the adoptees she has worked with that struggled the most were the ones whose parents always stressed to their kids that they were the same as biological kids and never talked about what made them different. But adoptees often DO feel different, and if we as parents can’t talk about that with you, it opens the door for you to feel isolated and confused.
What to do, what to do, when as a parent my whole world’s longing is for you to feel happy, content, secure and attached? Do I tell you how you are the same as your younger sisters? Do I tell you how you are different? I think the answer is to talk about both, what makes you the same, and what makes you different. Being adopted is complicated. It can be so joyous, truly a wonderful thing to behold. And at times, it can be wrenching, devastating in its losses.
You eagerly put on your Superman pajamas when you unwrapped them after dinner. Your smile was huge. We gave your sisters their baths, and they put on their Superman pajamas. I put on my Superman nightgown, and at bedtime, Daddy put on his Superman pajamas, even though you were long asleep and couldn’t see him. At the moment of midnight, even as we were sleeping, we wanted to honor the fact that it was your birthday. Last night, we were all the same. Some nights, you will sleep in Captain America pajamas, and your sisters will sleep in Superman pajamas.
What will not change is that we are all on the same side. We are on YOUR side. We are there for you, always and always and always some more. We are a family, and that is a constant.
Happy 11th Birthday, K. I can’t wait to see your face when you open your admissions letter from Hogwarts.
Check out Portrait of an Adoption’s fantastic new chapter book for kids: JAZZY’S QUEST: ADOPTED AND AMAZING!
Check out Carrie Goldman’s award-winning book Bullied: What Every Parent, Teacher, and Kid Needs to Know About Ending the Cycle of Fear.