A couple of weeks ago, my husband was asked the following question about our oldest daughter: “Does she know she’s adopted?” He went against his initial thought, to make some kind of a sarcastic comment, and just said, “Yes, she knows.” We find this question pretty humorous…for one thing, our daughter is Asian, and we are not, so it is pretty obvious that she is adopted. For another, the act of shielding children from the knowledge that they are adopted is not nearly as common as it once was.
A better question would probably be, “How much does she know/understand about adoption?” And, since I am not my daughter, I cannot fully speak to her level of understanding. She is 4 1/2, almost 5, and understands things in a childlike way. That said, here is what she knows...
*She knows that she was born in China.
*She knows that she grew in her birth mother’s tummy, although she still confuses birth mother and foster mother at times.
*She knows that she lived with her foster mother when she was a baby in China, and that her foster mother took care of other babies, too. (MJ told me this about the other babies. I don’t know if she is generalizing information from books like Shaoey and Dot and I Love You Like Crazy Cakes, or if this is a genuine memory. I do know she had a foster sister who was adopted by a family in Spain.)
*She recently has come to understand that she lived with her foster mother in China when she was a really little baby. For awhile, she thought she was never a tiny baby because we don’t have newborn pictures of her. Now she understands the reason.
*She knows that Mama and Daddy really wanted to be a Mama and Daddy and prayed to God, and that we came to China and “adoptioned” her. (You have to love 4 year old terminology.)
*She knows that we went to China to get her and bring her home, and that we flew on a big airplane.
*She knows that China is very, very far away (and will tell you this on a regular basis).
All-in-all, I would say she has a decent grasp on things for a child her age. We make it a point to answer her questions when she asks and to be honest with her. When she asked me her birth mother’s name, I had to tell her that we don’t know. That was tough, but it was truth, and tough truths are something that must be faced. And for these precious children, those tough truths are a part of their stories...