Thursday, June 10, 2010

A Big Step

Monday night while Erin & I were snuggling in for the evening, Erin asked me a question that knocked my socks off.  After years of insisting her adoption journey pictures remain private, she asked if she could take her photo album to school so she could share them with her teacher & classmates.  Even David was shocked.

Tuesday morning before we left for school, Erin went to get her photo album & carried it to the car.  I decided that rather than allow Erin to do this on her own, I would go in to the class with her.  This way if there were questions that she didn't have the answers to, I could help.  What a great idea.  While Erin wanted to share the pics, she was shy about telling her story.   As soon as the children sat down, Erin got shy & hid behind me.  She asked me to help tell the story & show her pics.  And so it began . . .

I started out by asking if anyone noticed that Erin & I don't look alike.  Lots of laughter.  Then I mentioned that Erin doesn't look like her daddy either.  This I told the students was because Erin is adopted & comes from China.  I asked the children if they knew the meaning of the word adopted.  Some of the children raised their hands.  The answers were interesting:  "When a person has a baby but doesn't want it, they give it away."  or "When a person has a baby but can't take care of it, they give it away."  Pretty hard to hear but pretty close to the truth.  I explained that Erin is from China where they have a one child policy & that some people don't necessarily have the ability to keep the baby or may not want the baby.  I also made sure to tell them that we don't know the exact reason that the birth mother gives up a child.

We showed them many of Erin's pictures.  Face it we have about 300 from 2 weeks & some are too private to share.  Erin allowed me to show pictures from the orphanage & she explained herself that not all of the children were adopted at the same time.

I showed the room where families wait until the babies arrive.  They got to see pics of the first time I held Erin & that David held Erin.  We showed them our first family photo.  And then it happened.  One of the boys asked if Erin was adopted legally.  Holy cow! How & why does a 7 year old know about illegal adoptions!?  Thankfully the next pictures were of me signing the paperwork accepting responsibility for Erin & of the adoption being completed LEGALLY in China.  I turned to Erin & very clearly explained that all of this paperwork made it so that she was our daughter forever & no one could take her from us.  The children were thrilled to know it also. 

To make it all a little lighter in tone & atmosphere, I showed them pics we took at the Chen Family Temple (I think that's what it's called.) & the artwork in the lobby of the White Swan hotel.  The students & teacher were amazed by the beauty of it all.  The next set of pictures I showed were of the rooms we went to for the baby's physicals.  The scale & eye chart amazed everyone - especially since here in the US our eye chart is a big E & in China it was a hand facing in different directions.  The children asked if Erin & the other babies understood what was happening.  It was almost like those dumb questions people ask "So did she use chopsticks?  Did she speak Chinese?"  The difference is that the children were truly trying to understand so I asked them if their younger siblings spoke or understood everything.  It was so easy for them to get that concept.

They got to see pics of the birthday party a few of us threw for one of the babies (Ashley G.) because she turned 1 while we were in China.  They were amazed that the birthday cake didn't have some cartoon character & wasn't all sweet & gooey like they are here in the US.

Finally we showed them the Red Couch photos.  Erin very proudly pointed out where both she & her friend Julianna were.  The kids loved it! Her teacher was blown away by how Erin handled everything because she remembered that last year Erin wouldn't even mention Chinese New Year.

I ended by thanking the children & their teacher.  I explained that they must all be very special since Erin has never shared these things with anyone outside the family & her China group. 

That night in karate when all of the parents were asked if there were any yellow striped to be awared, I raised my hand.  (The yellow stripes are awarded by parents when a child does something extraordinary.)  When asked why Erin should be given a stripe, I explained to Sifu Helana that karate has given Erin, among other things, confidence in herself.  I awarded her the yellow stripe for confidence & having the strength to share her pictures & story for the first time.

No.  I didn't take any pictures at school.  I was worried that it might turn out negatively for Erin & wanted to concentrate on  her needs.

Erin, your mama & dad are so proud of you & we are honored to be your parents.  Forever.


Vivian M said...

Wow. Just wow.
We are so thrilled and proud of Erin for showing her bravery and confidence. And for earning her yellow stripe.
Way to go Mommy for being there to field off questions, it might not have gone as well if you had not stayed.
What a great day!

Love Letters To China said...

You are an amazing mommy Tammie. You are doing such a great job raising Erin. She really is so lucky to have you in her life!

Crystal Somers said...

Wow Tammie, that is such an awesome story! I am happy that Erin had the confidence to do that.She should never be ashamed of where she came from. As she gets older this experience will help her to know that. I am also happy that the other kids accepted and understood. Kids can be so cruel sometimes. Your a great mom! My favorite part of your story is you awarding her a yellow stripe. Congrats Erin!

Magi said...

What a fantastic story, Tammie. You are right to be so proud of Erin. Thank you for sharing this story. It is so helpful to have someone leading the path.

Michelle said...

Oh Tammie - what an amazing day. I had tears in my eyes when you were talking about the day at shool but when you got to the karate class...the tears began to flow. Absolutely amazing.

Shari McConahay said...

You have done (and still are) doing such a great job with Erin and as a mommy. I am so grateful that I have you in my life so that I can learn from you, share the joys of adoptions, and maybe a tear or two (or ten). I am so proud of Erin, I know how hard it has been for her to talk about her adoption and this was a huge step, hopefully it will lead to more positive days and confidence. Where's the like button? I'm such a fan of Erin! = )

Sandra said...

You made me cry! What an amazing girl you have.

Gretchen said...

Wow! What an amazing experience for both you and Erin. So proud of her!!!

SoyJoyChina said...

Wow, wow, wow! Incredible! Thanks so much for sharing. I will remember your story when this comes up for Tessa. Thanks so much!