Talking

One of the reasons I don’t write much here anymore is that fairly early on, I realized that Nat is a private person. She is reticent to talk much about important or complicated topics and I didn’t feel it was right for me to go on talking to the general public about her business if it was likely she was going to dislike it when she got old enough to realize I was doing it.

So while I’m not going to tell you exactly what she and I have been talking about lately, I do want to share that we have been talking.

I have heard that many times, adoptive parents assume that if kids aren’t talking/asking about something, they aren’t thinking about it. I have also heard that that assumption is usually proved wrong–sometimes in sad ways that might have been avoided with better communication.

In our case, Nat has typically been very unlikely to raise the topic of adoption or race or having same-sex parents, or any sensitive topics that affect her personally. But we have always talked about those things openly anyway, to try and make sure she grew up knowing that those topics were not secrets, shameful, or in any way threatening or off-limits. I could also get hints that Nat was thinking about these kinds of things from other sources–lately, she’s been writing stories, for example, that, while fictional, are exceptionally transparent! Also, Selina, who is a far less pensive kid, is much more open about these topics, bringing them up casually and frequently.

But in the past six months, Nat and I have had some really intense conversations, all initiated by her. In fact, long as six and a half years might have seemed to wait to hear her broach topics I’ve been chattering about to her all that time, her way of engaging has turned out to be (or at least seems to me, to be) quite precocious. We’ve had some difficult discussions that I had assumed we would have when she is a teenager. She’s only seven.

I wanted to break my general Nat silence to tell you this because you may be or may know an adoptive parent who is shy about bringing up these topics or is waiting for a child to bring them up first. I want to add my two cents to the pile of advice suggesting that we keep bringing things up. I feel like my persistence is beginning to pay off now, because my sweet, almost painfully empathetic kid has gotten the message that no matter how challenging the issue, she won’t hurt me with her honest feelings and I will always be on her side in difficulty.

Keep talking. Even if you get changes of subject, rolling eyes or silly faces, at any one moment, try, try again. Let them know you won’t shy away from any of their truth, no matter how hard.

8 responses to “Talking

  1. This is great advice for every parent. Thanks so much for posting it. I wish you and your family all the best in your ongoing conversations about all topics, easy and hard.

  2. Yes yes yes. I was talking today to two white moms, each of whom has a child adopted internationally and both of whom had just seen one of those “why white parents don’t talk about race” articles for the first time. Both of them were also sure that their children, ages 5 and 6, “haven’t really noticed yet” how people stare at their families in public etc. I had to break it to them that yes, they most definitely have noticed, even if they’re not talking about it.

    • By five and six? Heavens yes, they’ve noticed! They’ve probably had other kids say stuff about it, too.

  3. Yes! Kids who aren’t talking are still kids who are listening….and they learn that we are thinking about things, and we are willing to talk about them. CG turns to some topics when I least expect it.

  4. Respecting our kids’ privacy is always wise. Glad you write about other things, though!

  5. Such excellent advice. Open communication is so important in any relationship, (perhaps) especially in adoption.

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