Saturday, October 10, 2009

All the answers that I started with turned out questions in the end*

Lana has been asking the hard questions for about two weeks now.

THE QUESTIONS. The Big Questions.

The questions that have come from her these last two weeks...are the ones I have trouble answering. I'm not entirely sure what I'm "supposed" to say. It's one thing to read about these scenarios in a parenting book. It's another thing entirely to look into your child's face, to know they are looking for answers, and to know that sometimes the only answer is "I don't know."

The other day, she pointed at a photo of her foster mom and asked if she had grown in her belly. I told her no. She asked me "whose belly then?" and I told her what I knew about her birth mother.


I know this is difficult for her to understand. She remembers her foster mother. I am pretty sure she believed her foster mother was her biological mother. To the best of my knowledge (and believe me, I understand that it is a blessing to have the limited information that I do have), Lana's birth mother never saw her again after Lana was about six months old.

We have had lots of questions about her foster mother, but the questions about her birth mother are, for the most part, recent.


"Did she give me a name?" she asks. (I am surprised by this - the question seems complex to me.)

"Yes, she gave you a name. She gave you a name that was very close to her name. Her name means Jade Lotus. She gave you a name that means Jade Orchid."


Lana knows what a "Jade Orchid" is - I have an orchid made of white jade on a necklace, and she knows I wear that necklace for her**, she knows that an orchid is a flower, and that jade is the stone it is made of. She knows her name in Vietnamese and she knows it means this type of flower made of jade.***


"What is Lotus?" she asks me.

"It's a kind of flower, like an orchid is a kind of flower. A beautiful kind of flower."

We were lying in bed together (so often these hard conversations take place at the end of the day) - so she spooned her body closer into mine, but turned her face away from me. "Why did she even have me at all?" she whispered.

I said the thing that I thought she most needed to hear. "Because she loved you."


I expected her to question this. I just wasn't expecting it...yet.

The truth is, I don't know why she had Lana. I wasn't about to explain the concept of abortion or it's incidence in the place of her birth. Vietnam doesn't have a rigid "one-child policy" for me to point to. I have nothing, really, no knowledge, of why Jade Lotus chose to give birth to my daughter. Perhaps she was in love with Lana's biological father. Perhaps she was hopeful they would have a life together. Perhaps she couldn't afford to do otherwise. But, in my heart, it seemed the only answer that was appropriate to give a confused 6 year old girl who has concrete memories of two mothers and questions about a mother who gave her away when she was seven days old was, "Because she loved you."


Then she hit me with another big one. "Why did she leave me with her?" she asked, pointing to a photo of her foster mother, the other mother Lana remembers. The mother Lana lived with for three and a half years. The mother who still, on occasion, emails me to ask if Lana is okay, if she is eating, if she learning, if she is a good girl. The mother who, I don't doubt, loved Lana very, very much.


I think...I probably should have told her she left her with her foster mother because she knew her foster mother could take care of her when she (her birth mother) could not. But I don't know for sure. Jade Lotus either wasn't particularly forthcoming with information, or that information never made it into Lana (extensive) file.


What I did say was, "She wanted to make sure you were safe and loved and cared for."


What do we tell our children, when they look at us for answers to questions that we have no answers for? There is a school of thought that we should tell them the truth - that we simply don't know.

The truth can be harsh and ugly. There may come a day when those answers can be discerned. I do not have it in me to tell my child, my beautiful, joyful child, MY child - how can I give her any answer that does not lead back to the only answer that she needs to hear - "She had you because she loved you. She gave you to me because she loved you."

Even if it's not true - even if there were extenuating circumstances - I have to believe that the woman who brought this joyful, amazing person into the world - love had to have been one of her motivations. And if it was not...if it was not...well, if it was not, I don't ever want my daughter to know. I want her to always believe that she was loved. And if that's not the truth - what good would it serve her to know that, at the age of six?


*Alison Kraus, Gravity - many thanks to MAM for this post title

**I also have a St. Gabriel's medallion on a necklace, for Gabriel, obviously. I cannot wear them at the same time - I try to remember to wear one or the other of them if something important is happening for either of them.

***Any native Vietnamese speakers care to tell me if "Bich Lan" (Jade Orchid) refers to a specific kind of orchid - an actual flower? Any searches I have done on the term Jade Orchid have results in orchids made out of jade, as opposed to living orchids in any shade of green. I am intensely curious about it, though.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

hugs xxxxxxx. I'm right there with you.

Sunday, October 11, 2009 3:40:00 PM  
Blogger Erica said...

Thank you for sharing how you confronted this so honestly. My son is young and those questions haven't yet occurred to him, but they run through my mind late at night when I ponder the beauty of his love, his smile, and his sense of humor.


Sunday, October 11, 2009 8:34:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh yes, I have been there, a few times now with R. And I think you are doing very well. It's SO hard to say "I don't know" - I try to use it sparingly. I think it's okay to say "I think" about the things that we can speak to as mothers. ("Does she miss me?" - "I know I would miss you." - that one feels like a dodge, but I think helps her anyway.)

It's just another one of those times where as mothers we do our best and pray our kids will look back and see we were doing our best. (There are so many of those times, aren't there?!)

Sunday, October 11, 2009 10:29:00 PM  
Blogger Monique said...

As an adoptee myself, I had the very same questions as your Lana. I remember I wanted so much to have something physically in common with my adoptive family. For the longest time I thought my Dad was my Dad because he was the only one who had brown eyes and dark skin whily my Mom and brothers had blond/brown hair and light eyes.

My husband talk all the time about how and when we will have the very same conversation with Ava. We don't know if we will bring it up first or if our son will "spill the beans." Ava may never ask us because I am 100% Vietnamese and my son is half. So to her, she wouldn't have any questions to ask because she would never realize she's "different". I just know we don't look forward to the day.


Monday, October 12, 2009 10:15:00 AM  
Blogger mam said...

Wow, you're good. Your parenting posts stay with me, like some of the few things I remember from school, and I bring them out when I need them (I still remember the banana fight post and it gets me though some tough spots). I know this post will stay with me and I expect I'll be drawing upon it in hopes of giving Lulu the comfort you were able to give Lana some day. I think you handled it wonderfully, and I agree that 1) love HAD to play an part, and 2) even if we're wrong, 6 isn't the time to learn that lesson.

Monday, October 12, 2009 12:49:00 PM  
Blogger Trying Traditional said...

Very hard questions indeed. The twins have started asking questions, though not quite that deep. I worry about how to convey that their first mother loved them without conveying that loves means seperation and loss. I know at some point if I am saying "she loves you", then they are going to ask "if she loved me why didn't she do anything and everything to keep me." I want so badly for them to not feel cast aside or unworthy. My words play a role in shaping this and no matter how much I read or ask questions, I still feel unprepared.

Monday, October 12, 2009 1:29:00 PM  
Blogger thecurryseven said...

Wow! Those are tough questions. I vaccillate between wishing TM was emotionally aware enough to ask questions like that and relief that I'm not havinf to field them right now.

It's so hard to answer tough questions when we only want good things for our children...and sometimes the answer definitely don't fall into the 'good' category.

Monday, October 12, 2009 2:37:00 PM  
Blogger j'lynn said...

Your post moved me to tears tonight. I think you did great. My munchkin asks different questions as they revolve around his dad who he hasn't seen since he was not quite 2.5. I think the hardest part is right now since I am involved with his dad, but it will be another year and a half before they can be in one another's lives. I just make sure my son knows that his dad loves him and he had to leave because his daddy was sick and needed help. When he asks now I am able to tell him that his daddy is getting better so he can see him again soon... I've never lied to my son, but it does hurt.

Even in the darkest hours of my ex-husband's turbulent times, I told a friend of mine that I sometimes wished my ex was dead. He didn't understand and thought it was due to my anger with him. I told him, not even close...fearing that my ex would never get the help he needed I didn't want to have to one day tell my son what/who his father was and if his daddy was in heaven I could tell him that how great his daddy was because all little boys deserve to have a superhero as a daddy.

I think that is the hardest thing as a parent...answering the really tough questions and I think you did a beautiful job! Kudos to you... Your daughter is very lucky to have you! (Your son too!)

Monday, October 12, 2009 11:51:00 PM  
Blogger The Browns said...

My mom has always had a habit of giving me the answer I want - and need - to hear, especially when I'm hurting. It's always been the truth I've needed to hear - even when I was old enough to know better.

In answer to your Bich Lan question, my mom (who is Vietnamese and named Xuan Lan) says it's not an actual orchid as far as she knows. It's a literal translation with Lan meaning orchid. (Xuan means spring, so my mom is spring orchid.) Hope that helps.

Thursday, October 15, 2009 8:58:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm not sure if I've ever commented on your blog before, but I've been reading it for quite a while.

I think you did great. My son is only 2 1/2 and he's already very aware he has a "mom in Viet Nam" as he says. Unfortunately, I know nothing about her...but, I will definitely tell him that she loves him. I am always careful to say something like, "yes, there is a lady in Viet Nam who is your mom, but I'm not sure who she is - but I know she loves you". So far that's enough for him and he moves right on to the next thing. I've heard the arguments against saying the first parents loved the child if you don't know 100%, but I disagree with them.

Regarding bích, in addition to referring to jade, it can also mean simply a blue-green color - according to my VNese tutor. I know it doesn't help with your question, but thought I'd put that out there.

Monday, October 19, 2009 4:21:00 PM  
Blogger Kelly said...

no matter how long I am away from bloggerland (and it has been a long time, sadly) when I return and read your posts each time I am given pause for thought and grow a little as a person. Given recent developments in our life, it is extremely helpful to me to hear about the ways in which you handle/d conversations with Lana about her birth mom and foster mom.
thanks, ever so much.

Monday, November 02, 2009 1:54:00 PM  

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