Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Let's talk about adoption

How do you tell an adopted child that s/he was adopted? Many parents are afraid to. They find it difficult to tackle their own insecurities about the child not being theirs, and do not know how to broach the topic with a young child.. 

Children’s writer and illustrator Deepa Balsavar addresses these issues through her picture book The Lonely King and Queen. Simple yet heartwarming, this sensitive story gives an entry point for parents to share and discuss adoption with their child comfortably. In likening the narrative to a bedtime tale, the deceptive simplicity of the text and the warmth of the pictures give room for each reader to discover what family truly means without mystifying the fact of adoption. More than anything else, it reaffirms that every child has the right to be loved and to have a home, making it a once-upon-a-time unlike any other. In author (and illustrator) Deepa Balsavar’s words now.... 

What is a family?
Ask yourself what a family is and you will start out with your parents and your siblings, your spouse and in-laws, perhaps a favourite aunt or two who may be twice removed but grew up with your father. Then you start to think and include your best friend whom you met in kindergarten and still keep in touch with 35 years later (if she doesn’t count as family, who does?) and your bosom pals in school who are all over the world, but would do anything for you (and you for them) and your college mates (with whom you can be 18 again) and a couple of work friends who can read you better than anyone else…

So, what is a family? It is more than a shared residence. Much more than shared DNA (doesn’t everyone have a brother or sister or black sheep uncle who cut themselves off long ago?) And it is not at all about a relationship that can be defined in precise terms (my cousin sister on my father’s side). Family is simply, those you hold in your heart.

Your family may be big or small; it could have existed before you were born or be formed by you as you grow up. How a family came to be is not important, what is important is that you have a family – people who care and to care for; shared responsibilities, shared joys, shared sorrows.

Let’s talk about adoption . . .
So let’s talk about adoption. Adoption is just one more way in which a family is formed. A child enters your life and your heart and becomes part of you. What could be more natural than that? Yet parents fear telling children about their adoption as if being asked to reveal a guilty secret. As if the fact of adoption reveals the relationship less perfect, less natural than any of the others. And even when the decision to tell is made, there’s ‘What to say? How to tell the child? When to do it? Should we, shouldn’t we?'

Tell the truth . . .

The answers are simple. Tell the child the truth. Make it a story. Do it when the child is young and let your child know that she or he was wanted, loved and welcomed even before being born. Talking about adoption should not be a problem if one realizes that the actual process of adoption takes half a day. After that there is no adopted child or adoptive parents. What you have is simply … another member of your family. The one you hold in your heart. I know . . .

I should know what I am saying. There are four beautiful, strong, wonderful girls in my immediate family who were all adopted. My daughter Tara’s first bedtime story was about her coming to us. Our story times were accompanied by much laughter and merriment and the telling took us around the house and often outside it. As a result, Tara grew up accepting adoption as a most natural way to bring families together. So much so, that when my niece gave birth to a baby boy, Tara aged three was horrified. She wanted to know if the adoption center had denied my niece a girl, forcing her to have a son!

This bedtime story I now offer to other parents. I know it will help them introduce the issue of adoption to their children. The story is about a voice, a Queen and King and a long journey that changes lives forever.

- Deepa Balsavar

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