When you adopt children internationally, the adoption agency always asks how you intend to keep the link between your child and their birth country. At the time, I thought that was a silly question, and I had so many other things to worry about at the time. I don’t remember what I answered, but it must have been enough to appease the agency, and the foreign courts.
Once we arrived home, I didn’t think much about my daughters’ heritage. With Elle, if you didn’t know she was adopted, you would never guess she was from Russia. With Bunny, it is a bit more obvious considering her dark skin, black eyes, and ability to swing her hips to any music. But it wasn’t until they were older that I considered the importance of their heritage and birth countries.
We have always been very open about their adoptions. It was nothing we ever hid and something we’ve always celebrated. From the time Elle could talk she was always proud to announce she was from Russia. Then she came home from school one day with a map of the US and instructions to color the state of her birth. Well, that was a problem. We ended up printing a map of Russia, Elle colored in the region she was born, we stapled it to her US map, and back to school it went.
Both girls could point out their birth counties on a globe at an early age, and each has a flag of their birth country hanging in their bedroom. Now that Elle is studying world history, she is becoming more aware of the significance of Russia on the world. She is both proud and horrified. We want them to know about their birth countries, the good, the bad, and the ugly. We don’t sugar coat things in our house, plus Colby and I are both history buffs.
When we adopted Bunny from Guatemala, we offered to take Elle with us. She said she didn’t want to go. That was OK; she was feeling insecure about gaining a sister. But, we have discussed the idea of taking the girls back to their birth countries as a high school graduation gift. That means they will be 18 and more mature. If we take them too early, I think the significance would be lost on them. As with everything concerning their adoption, a graduation trip has been openly discussed. Bunny is still too young to understand the concept, but Elle is looking forward to going.
I have always felt their place of birth is just one aspect of who they are. It is not the most important thing, but it is not something to be ignored. As they grow older, they will learn and be able to maintain their own links to their heritage. I’ve given them the building blocks.