The Open Adoption Roundtable is a series of occasional writing prompts about open adoption. It’s designed to showcase of the diversity of thought and experience in the open adoption community. We’re up to Open Adoption Roundtable #50.
Whether you have children in your home or not, it is hard to miss the fact that it is back-to-school time. School brings with it a whole host of things which can be made more complex when adoption is involved, from family tree assignments to meeting new teachers to simple milestones like sharing of first-day-of-school photos. How has adoption come to the forefront for you when it comes to school?
Write about open adoption and school.
Jackson started preschool when he was 2-1/2. He had probably been there about one month when, one evening, he came running across the playground to me at pick-up time, yelling, “Mom! What’s my brudder’s name?”
A little confused at the context, I told him, “Iggy.”
He ran back across the playground to his friends yelling, “My brudder’s name is Iggy.”
The extended day teacher (who is the sweetest person ever) walked over to me with questions in her eyes. I explained, “Jackson’s birthmom has an older son whom she parents.”
I had already disclosed on the school’s registration forms that Jackson was adopted in an open adoption. I specifically disclosed it because I wanted to note that if he made gifts for Mother’s Day, I wanted him to make two – one for me and one for his birthmom. (Jackson’s birthfather is not involved, by his choice, so he didn’t need to make two Father’s Day gifts.)
While he was at preschool, but when he was a bit older, Jackson was talking about his brother again. This time, one of the kids insisted that he didn’t have a brother. After all, the kid had been to school with Jackson for 3 years and had never seen this brother. Because the teachers knew his story, they were able to back Jackson up and say something like, “Yes, Jackson does have a brother, but that brother doesn’t live with him.”
The year he was 4, I came to school and gave a little presentation about adoption for Jackson’s Adoption Day. The kids were very interested. The older ones had a few questions, including, “Why don’t Jackson’s brother and sister live with him?” which I was expecting. Thank goodness none of the kids asked questions I wasn’t prepared for!
When it came time for Jackson to go to ACA II, Max and I simply told his Primary teacher that Jackson was adopted in an open adoption. I can’t remember if we told her about his siblings or not. When he entered Elementary, he came home one day with some interesting thoughts, based on a conversation he had had with two of the girls in his class who were adopted from China. There’s also a girl who was adopted from foster care. At that point, I decided it would be a good idea to tell the teachers a little of Jackson’s story, so they would know how adoption is handled in our house.
I realized that I had never explicitly discussed Jackson’s adoption with you all. He’s very open about it, as are we, and I know he’s been talking with some of the other kids about being adopted too. I just wanted to give you all the basic facts so you’d be aware.Jackson was adopted at birth. His birthmother, S, placed him. He wasn’t in foster care. We have an open adoption with S and her family. They live in Missouri. We talk to them and share pictures.(Information about a school-related project and his birth family here.)For the record, S has 3 children whom she parents – Iggy, Princess A, and CJ. I tell you this because Jackson will talk about his brothers and sisters (plural). Iggy is 8, but he’s autistic, and developmentally, he’s about 18-months old. I tell you this because Jackson might talk about his older brother “being sick and acting like a baby.”I actually came to Jackson’s preschool and talked about adoption once, at Jackson’s request. However, so far, he has said that he doesn’t want me to that here. I don’t want adoption to be something that is hidden or seen as awkward, so if you have any questions, or you notice the kids having questions, please let me know. If there’s anything you think you need to know as Jackson’s teachers, please let me know. Even if you just want to ask random questions about adoption, I’m game.
The project to which I’m referring was one in which the students chose a country of interest and worked on different homework assignments throughout the year. Jackson chose Germany, because his birth-grandmother is German, and I also have German heritage. The school hasn’t asked for any baby pictures, they don’t do Star of the Week, and they apparently don’t do family tree projects either. I do have baby pictures (and his preschool did ask) and I already have it worked out how I would suggest Jackson do a family tree (I love family trees).
So far, school and adoption haven’t been a big issue for us. My main goal in telling the teachers a bit of Jackson’s story was ensuring that they could help him in conversations with other kids if he needed it. I don’t see him being labeled as “adopted” and that being a bad thing. Of course, he’s only in second grade. When he’s older, he might not even want me to tell his teachers as little as I did.
Oh, and for the record, Cassie starts preschool when she turns 2, at the same school Jackson attended. I also included that we’re in an open adoption with both her birthmother and birthfather, so she can make presents for everyone.