Sunday, March 13, 2011

Are We Like those Slave Owners?

Friday night Mike took the girls to their first ever Daddy-Daughter Dance.  So, at Wenxin's suggestion, I took the boys out for a Mother-Son dinner. 

On the way home, Nathan made an interesting comment.  He said that when he thinks of how Wenxin is doing, he keeps wondering if we are like the slave owners back in Civil War times.  Huh?  He went on to explain that the slave owners insisted that the slaves were just fine, even grateful for the opportunity to work on their plantations. 

In Nathan's 11 year old heart, he wonders if we are way more excited about this whole adoption thing than Wenxin.  Do we mistakenly think he's grateful?

I was blown away by Nathan's humility. . . and empathy. . . and insight.

Later, I pulled Nathan aside and talked with him.  I told him I believe Wenxin is happy to be a part of our family.  Given the choice, I believe he'd much rather be in our family than in the orphanage.  As I carefully watch, I believe he is loving having a mom and dad and siblings.  He seems genuinely happy.

But even knowing that, we can never forget that Wenxin comes to us with a history of big losses.  I listed them for Nathan.  He lost his first parents and probably will never have any information about them.  He lived in a foster family until he was 5, and then he lost them when he was moved back to the orphanage.  At seven, he lost China  - being surrounded by people who look like him and speak his language.  He lost  familiar foods and smells.  He lost it all to come to a strange country.

I told Nathan that at different times in Wenxin's life he may grieve these losses and feel angry.  Who will he be angry at?  His birth parents?  Kind of hard, because he doesn't even have a face to put with them.  His foster mom?  Maybe.  But that was long ago and far away.  The orphanage staff?  Probably too impersonal.  Nathan followed my line of reasoning.  "He might get angry at us," he offered. 

I softened it a little by saying, "I hope he never feels that way, but it is possible, as he gets older that he may feel angry at Mom and Dad.  He may need to feel angry at someone, and hopefully he'll know that it's safe to share his real feelings with us."

I told Nathan I don't expect Wenxin to feel grateful to be in our family any more than I expect Nathan and Julia and Katherine to be grateful to be here.  Sure, we are called to be grateful to God for all our blessings.  But kids generally consider "being a part of the family" their birthright.  They don't walk around every day feeling "grateful."  I don't want Wenxin to be singled out as the one who has to feel especially grateful.  It seems even more absurd to expect gratefulness when he got here as a result of loss.

But as for me, I left that conversation feeling grateful.  My 11 year old son, who was scared to welcome an adopted brother into his life, has grown to truly love him.  Nathan loves Wenxin enough to see past the adoption stereotype of "the grateful adoptee."  In this area, he's more mature than a lot of adults I know.


  1. Nathan has always been such a bright kid & this conversation just simply melted my heart. What a sweet heart he is!

  2. Incredibly insightful. Thank you for sharing what an amazing gift adoption is, not just for us as parents but for all those around us. I hadn't thought about how much stronger that "stereotype" might be, the older the child. Lots to think about. I remember taking a class about adoption and and the instructor saying even if you don't think you are prejudice, you are.....about something. We all have preconceived notions even if we don't realize it.

  3. I was wonder how you all are doing. Sounds like you guys are processing like we are...the girls have more questions and we process anger and sadness on some days.

  4. wow...very insightful comments from your young man. Good things to think about.

  5. It's so heartwarming to read your posts and see what an incredible Mother you've become. You are truly blessed!!

  6. Dana, your responses to Nathan, the way you lead the conversation were inspired by the Spirit. So insightful! I'm glad you are seeing the goodness of the Lord in this season!
    Debbie Cox

  7. Love this post and brings tears to my eyes. Very insightful. Our Nathan is 8.5 years older than his soon-to be adopted Ethiopian baby sister. Praying the Lord brings and keeps al of our kids close to all their siblings. Amen.