Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Owing an explanation

Elijah went to physical therapy again yesterday. Each time he goes, "Miss Jenny" says that she can see tremendous improvement. We can see it at home too. He is actually starting to look to his left a little bit. I've been meaning to post some pictures so you can see the head turning "issue", but I just haven't gotten around to it. I will try ... I promise!

Good ol' Brittney R. watched Isaac for me so I could take Elijah to his therapy appointment and also get some groceries in anticipation of my father's arrival. He showed up on base at 3pm and is staying a week. I am so excited to have him here with us especially because JB is headed out of town on Thursday again for a conference in Tampa. I was also excited because you could tell that Isaac actually remembered him. Isaac went right to him and was obviously excited about his arrival. They've already been reading tons of books (well, mostly his dinosaur book over and over and over again) and doing lots of playing.

While I was at Brittney's, she and I got to talking about adoption. As some of you may know, Brittney has two daughters. The first is biological and the second is adopted. Her daughters are one year apart.

I shared with Brittney about the abundance of questions we were asked while in transit this past week. People seem to talk to each other a lot in airports and on planes, and we received the question about the distance between our two boys at least a dozen times during our two visits to the airport.

Brittney said that when Jocelyn was younger, she felt that she "owed" people an explanation as to how she had two daughters so close in age. But as Jocelyn has gotten older, she doesn't want to say that Jocelyn is adopted in front of her. And if she does, Jocelyn always corrects people by saying, "I'm not adopted. I'm Jocelyn."

I can totally relate to what Brittney said. Since Elijah is so little, we inevitably get the questions. "How old is he? And how old is big brother? How many months apart are they?" I planned to say, "Less than a year," and I do say that sometimes, but it doesn't seem to be the answer people want to hear. When I say, "Eight and a half months," they look at me funny. It is at that point that I often feel obligated to explain. These are just strangers, aren't they? Why can't I just leave it at that. Or when they ask how we managed to have children less than ten months apart, why can't I say, "It's a long story," or something else clever and appropriate?

I think this situation will improve as years go on. When the boys are older and we aren't counting in months anymore, it will be much more natural to say that they are "about a year apart." But what do I say when someone asks me how old they are and during February through May, they are both the same age? "They are two," I'll say. "Are they twins?" someone will ask. "No." I'll say. And then, the obligation will come flooding back to me again.

I definitely know that this obligation is something I am totally putting on myself. No one is making me feel that way, and I know that I do not owe anyone anything -- especially strangers. I'm just not sure how to field these questions. During one conversation with a woman on the plane, I told her they were eight and a half months apart and when she crinkled up her nose, I did not allow myself to try and explain. A few minutes later, the flight attendant asked me how I managed to have boys less than nine months apart. I answered such a direct question honestly. This caused the first lady to pipe in, "Oh okay. I've been sitting here trying to figure out how that was possible for the last half hour."

Anyways, I'm not really sure that I can come up with a good conclusion for this blog post. I know this is something I need to just work through and figure out. I am not embarrassed that Isaac is adopted whatsoever. But I also know that as he gets older and can understand more, I don't want him to be forced into answering questions. His adoption will be his information to share as he wishes. It's one of our concerns about the boys being in the same grade. If we put them in the same grade, will Isaac have to constantly explain why his brother who is not his twin, is in the same class as him? I remember teaching sisters that were not twins in the same class and I too was curious. They had to explain that one of them had been held back.

JB's opinion is to just take each comment or question as it comes and answer as we feel comfortable at that moment. However, we have both agreed that we should not feel obligated to provide information to strangers and we should not provide information that is not requested.

So anyways, for now, what I do know, is that as overwhelming as it can sometimes be having two little boys, I am so enjoying this journey. I love that they are close in age. I love that they will have a best friend (and worst enemy) to grow up with. I love seeing Elijah laugh at Isaac or Isaac come up to him to give him a kiss. We have no regrets whatsoever about this journey. If we would have known Elijah was coming, we would have still adopted Isaac in a heartbeat. We just have to continue to figure things out as we go, and I know the Lord will continue to provide us direction on this interesting journey.


Anonymous said...

I love your blog. You haven't mentioned Scrubbs since you have been home from you trip. How did he do at doggy day care? Were the boys glad to see him?


tammy said...

Hi there- I've been a long time reader and really love your blog. I'm an adoptive mom to a fabulous son and 10 months later gave birth to an amazing baby girl (IVF same month as last minute placement, negative-or so we thought!), so I have a similar situation. The kids are the same age 2 months out of the year, they are now 13 & 14 years old. They are a year a part in school which, in retrospect, is a huge blessing for them (less competition, less comparing amoung friends/teachers). The question about their birth span certainly decreases as they get older but it was a VERY frequent one during the first 5 or so years. Long intro to tell you how I answered it, I'd say "G" is 13months and "A" is 3 months" and they'd say wow, how'd that happen? and I'd say "we were blessed with an adoption and a pregnancy" and inevitably they'd ask, "which one is adopted?" and I'd say, "you know, we love them so much, we forget!"

As my kids got older, they'd tell their own age and when someone would ask if they were twins they'd say no my mom and dad adopted one of us but they love us so much they forgot which one! Now, obviously they knew we didn't forget which one and my son embraces and is proud of his adoption story, but to strangers, it really doesn't matter which one is adopted!

Sorry for the incredibly LONG comment--just so used to fielding these questions and still am sometimes shocked that strangers feel so comfortable asking such personal questions!

Seems to me that you're doing a great job, and that both your boys will feel special, loved, and so very wanted, which is after all what we as biological and adoptve parents, want our children to feel!

Blessings to your sweet family!


Anonymous said...

I want to say first off I have absolutly NO kind of experience in this type of situation, but decided to comment based on a thought I had while reading this blog entry. During the months while they are the same age, you can say "two and a half" and "two". I know that won't fix the situation, but it may help with the twins question.

Also, I read Tammy's comment above and I loved the thought of saying "we love them so much we forgot which one was adopted." I think it conveys alot about the strength of the family and its kind of cute! And while the second half of the comment may not be true (forgetting which one), I know (from reading your blog!) that you truely do love both boys A LOT!!!!!!!!

I know what I have said is not very helpful, but I felt liek I should say something. Good luck in this situation, I know God will give you the guidance you need in each situation to say the apporpriate words!

Jess said...

Oh man, do I ever know what you mean!

I think it's incredibly cute what Tammy said about her kids!! And COMFORTING that they take it in such stride!!

Since my two are the same age half of the time, it's hard for me, too. They are OFTEN the same age, and like you said...right now it's much more "how far apart are they" or a bewildered look and "....are they....twins...or....?" since they're OBVIOUSLY too close in age yet Ava is VERY large compared to Ethan. If they were twins, SOMETHING would have to be wrong with him.

As for me, it's a fine fine line. I don't want to share too much for the reasons you said...I want Ava's story to be hers, and I don't want to make her feel like "the adopted child." However...she is, isn't she? And while that might seem "bad" to people, like "she's the adopted one"....well, she IS THE ADOPTED ONE and I want her to fully understand that while society doens't necessarily think that's super! cool! The sterotypes aren't valid anyway, and there are very very COOL things about being adopted. Yes, her bio family coudln't care for her, but they love her and continue to make her FAMILY a bigger and better one! She's unique and special and so very loved. I think at this point, as we are working on integrating her story into HER LIFE, and especially as she starts understanding more, it's important to answer even stranger's questions with honesty and sincerity....not for their benefit, but for hers, and also to honor where she DID come from!

In the same light, the story obviously also makes Ethan "different" as there's no way to tell her story without talking about his being an IVF baby. So I like to hope that they will both SHARE their story, even if they didn't share the growing in my womb. There's no way to unconnect their coming into our family, and I like it that way.

Travis would prefer us to hedge and/or actually fib to strangers to avoid the questions. However, I've been SHOCKED at how many times I've been able to hav ea pleasant conversation about adoption (or, actually, to educate about openness and what birth families are REALLY like) or about infertility. And even pretty regularly abour God working in strange and wonderful ways.

Sometimes I feel like I've comforted, and sometimes I feel like I've been comforted....and although SOMETIMES I'm met with ignorance about either adoption or IVF or both....I ever walk away feeling like I've done bad by talking to them. And I often walk away feeling like I've done GOOD by talking and sharing.

I want Ethan to be proud that we wanted him SO MUCH that we did all those treatments to have him....and I want Ava to know that we CHOSE HER even though we knew we were pregnant before she was born (not before we went in on her profile though!). I want her, more importantly, to know her story and NOT feel like it's something she should even THINK of hiding.

As a side, it extends further, too...Rachel (Ava's bio mom) says that she is asked the "how many children do you have" question a lot and is in the habit of answering honestly that she has two, one son who lives with her and one daughter who lives with her adoptive parents...and she said she gets a lot of questions and looks and inappropriateness...but it does my heart good to know that we're on the same page. And I think that her son, too, is learning the right thing by those exchanges. That weather or not Ava lives with him, she's still his sister.

Growing up I was an only child and I always wanted a sibling. I still regret that I didn't have one (or two, or...). Because of this I want to do everything I can to enforce into Ava's mind that BOTH her brothers are her EQUAL brothers...and the same goes for her Moms and Dads. How can I really make her believe that if I hedge her begining to even strangers?

Anonymous said...

You are absolutely right to feel strangers don't need the full explanation. My boys are 12 years apart due to infertility (we had been married 17 years when #2 came along). We also were/still are confronted by inquiring minds wanting to know. We also get asked if we are our youngest's grandparents. To strangers, our comment is that "God's timing is not always our own" & "we are grateful for his hand in our miracle"! I do have to admit that being asked if we are grandparents is a bit offensive; however, my younger sister has 9 grandkids so I do understand. I caution folks not to "assume" when they see a slightly older woman with a younger child as it is way more common than some people would imagine.

All of that said, you are smart people who love both your children & they will never, ever doubt it! Keep up the good work! Blessings on the journey!

Leslie said...

Hi! I've been a long-time reader and love, love, love your blog. I have 2 1/2 year old twins and I cannot tell you how many times I get the, "are twins in your family?" Which, I'm pretty sure is a "polite" way of asking if we did IVF or another fertility treatment. We were fortunate enough not to have and twins do run in my family, but I am still annoyed any time I get asked that. And if we did, I would be seriously annoyed, like, thanks for the reminder of one of the hardest things we had to deal with.

I'm not sure if I explained this well, but I totally hear you on the nosy stranger issue and now I try extra hard to keep my own mouth shut. :)


Anonymous said...

As a twin, it was a blessing an a (opposite of blessing) to be in the same class most of my gradeschool years with my twin brother. Teachers loved to address behavior issues with my parents by attributing it to our being related (different than if we disagreed with someone to whom we were unrelated). In some respects (and I have no basis of comparison), I wonder if it would have been wise to purposefully separate us in classes (we were grouped according to reading ability-how creative).

As for your sons, given that they were born in different years, it seems unlikely that you would have them in the same grade, especially with their birthdays of May and January. I may be wrong, because I know it's different up North (cut-off is December 31, versus August 31 for most Southern states), but in the end-God knows best, He put these two boys on this earth at just the right time and place for each of them-it will work out. And shame on nosy people!

Anonymous said...

Who would have ever thought you would be in such a dilemma? LOL!
I'm seeing an opportunity to give the glory to the Lord each time you're asked.

"It was a huge miracle from the Lord!" and then proceed to do what John recommended and reveal what you're comfortable with in each situation.

June said...

I love Tammy's answer about not remembering which was adopted. What a great way to gently deflect nosy questions!

An unrelated note - we are preparing to start meeting with the REs again in July and hope to do another IVF cycle. I'm terrified of getting back on the emotional roller coaster again. Do you have any advice for me? Being a mother already will probably help take the sting out of failure, should it occur, but I am so afraid of riding the crazy bus again and of what effect the stress might have on my relationship with my daughter. Thanks for your thoughts.

Judy Woodford said...

You know what Wendi, people will ask questions even if they are 1 1/2 years apart because that is what our first two boys were. The thing is that they very quickly became the same size and stayed that way for years, people asked all the time if they were twins, (which annoyed them) so what I am saying is that people will ask questions about kids no matter what the situation.

Anonymous said...

While our situation is different it's similar in that I've had to make the decision as to how much to tell people too. There's an obvious difference in how Peter and Mitchell look compared to us - red hair and brown eyes vs. brown/blonde hair and blue eyes. I don't know how many times I've been asked where they get the red hair. I've rarely told strangers the whole story or even part of the story. We've usually just come up with some remark to satisfy curiousity. Usually we tell them it comes from the Irish side which is the truth. It really confuses people when they knew I was pregnant. I'll never forget one day a lady was holding one of the boys (at a niece's graduation party) and was wondering where they got the brown eyes. As soon as she asked the question I started dreading her discovery - not because I was trying to hide how the boys came about, but because I didn't feel like answering questions. Anyway, she was a nurse (in L&D so knew I had been pg) so it was a matter of seconds until she'd figure it out. First she looked at my eye color, then Pat's. She turned as red as the boys' hair. Why she was embarrassed I don't know. I did end up giving a brief explaination. Kinda had to then.

I used to struggle with whether or not to tell others, including those we knew fairly well, how the boys became part of our family. I felt like I was lying or being deceitful when I didn't tell people, including strangers. I finally stopped worrying about that and realized that they were my boys. Why should anything else matter. Gradually we've told people as we've gotten to know them, (like church family or daycare families - the Rochester Women's article has helped with that. Thanks to you, Wendi! :o) ) and as far as strangers, only when I feel that God is leading me to share with them. It does take a while to get to that point of not feeling like you have to answer. And as the boys get older there will be less questions. You'll also find a few rote responses that you'll use all the time.


Blessed Blackman Bunch said...

Absolutely you are not obligated.
I think women obligate ourselves to things a lot more than men. My husband handles things like JB as they come and easily. I like to have a plan (like you). I felt obligated with our children. They are 11 months apart and neither adopted. Strangers and friends alike would ask all kinds of TOTALLY inappropriate questions. In my case I could explain HOW pretty easily but I didn't always like that I, too, felt you said, something I did to myself. And I didn't really like people asking such personal was crazy some of the things I heard. But I reminded myself pride was creeping in (for ME...not saying that for you) and my desire for comfort. You will figure it all out and until then take it one question at a time! Good job on the plane! A crinkled nose would not serve we well at all! :)

Jen (choosingjoy) said...

I can really relate to this post! :) My oldest sons are 3 months apart (both age 4 now...both adopted), and their younger brother (bio) is almost 2. When they were younger (3 under 2 1/2) I couldn't go anywhere without people stopping us to ask questions or make comments. Isn't it funny how curious and bold people can be? :)

When people in the store/dr.'s office, etc. ask if the boys are twins I usually just give a BIG smile and say "sometimes it feels like it" and keep walking. :) Some people press the issue...but most just let it go. It's not that I mind sharing, cause I actually love telling people about how God built our family, but I don't always have the time to play 20 questions when I'm out with the 'troops'! :) One thing I've tried very hard to remember is that the boys are listening to my response and learning from it. While I don't usually offer more details to strangers than necessary, I am always READY, WILLING and EAGER to share all about the MIRACLE of the boys adoption with new friends, folks from church, etc. I hope the boys can see how proud we are of their story and how COOL we think it is that they get the BENEFITS of twins (someone to grow up with, built in best friend, etc.) PLUS they get their OWN BIRTHDAY! :) How cool is that? :)

Regarding the school thing - we have a February birthday and a May birthday. We're planning to send them to Kindergarten together to see how they do. We could have held #2, but with only 3 months between them - developmentally, academically, socially - they are at the same would be strange to split them up. I understand your dilemma - it's a tough choice because you want to do what's best for them individually/academically and what's best for them and their relationship as brothers. Lots to think about - I'm sure as they get older you'll have a better sense as to what to do.

Aren't we blessed to have such WONDERFUL boys? :)

Jen (Choosing Joy)

Jen (choosingjoy) said...

P.S. - Another response I've thought about using, but I'm thinking it would really confuse the boys -

"Yes, they're twins...he was just 3 months late." :) HA HA!!! :)

Anonymous said...

Wen, i've not been on for quite awhile and can't seem to find the post of when you were in was hard not to be here! but i wanted to see the pics of your time here! xo Tante Jan