Archive for March, 2015

Elijah Owning his Story

Elijah is beginning to form his identity as an African American boy being raised by white parents. It’s not necessarily the “normal” way of life for an African American boy, so he has to learn how to navigate the world with this different identity. There are times where he doesn’t want to talk about being adopted with other people and there are times when he is very private with his story. Nonetheless, I’m constantly talking with him and Natalie about adoption, and about their adoption specifically. When kids, or adults, make comments about our family and how we came to be a family, which can sometimes be really uncomfortable or often-sensitive moments, I answer, in front of him, in simple ways that make sense to him using language that he can also use as he learns to respond.


As a mom, you never really know what is being absorbed into his little brain and soul, but I got a glimpse of his “identity formation” this past fall.

Elijah’s in first grade, and one of the things you get to do in first grade is “sharing” or “show and tell.” Well, it was a rushed morning in the Graham house. Elijah remembers, just as we are leaving the house, that today is his day to share. He has the opportunity to bring three items from home that are important to him to share with his class. He hurriedly rushes to his toy drawer and looks for something. Knowing that there are not many significant things in the toy drawer, I say, “Elijah, why don’t you take a picture of our family to share with everyone.” So, he rushes upstairs and grabs the picture of our family off of his desk. Ok, one down, two to go.

So, I say, “Why don’t you take your copy of Harry Potter and The Sorcerer’s Stone?,” which is one of his absolute favorite books that we’ve read together. SO, he agrees.

Realizing we have less than a minute to get out of the house, I make one more suggestion. “Elijah, do you want to take a picture of your birth family too?” Strangely enough, he agrees. And off we go to pile into the car.

Now, here is a kid, who is very private about his life, and he’s about to share the most intimate, significant part of himself with his whole class. While in the car I begin to freak out a little bit and I try to say something to help him prepare. So I put together in my brain, “You know Elijah, you and Harry Potter have something in common. Harry was adopted too. Of course, his adoptive family was kind of crummy, but you were both adopted. Isn’t that cool?”

As we rock up to his classroom, I pull his teacher aside and say, “Elijah brought a picture of his birth family for his sharing time, so just be aware. I’m not sure how it’s going to go.”

I was nervous that without me there to help him answer questions that the students might ask, he would get in an uncomfortable situation and he wouldn’t know what to say. But he went for it, without me there, and I held my breath from a distance.

At the end of his sharing time, all of the children had an opportunity to ask him questions. The teachers later reported back to me a couple of special moments from his time of sharing.

One child asked, “Do you ever get to see your real family?”

If I would have been in the room, my heart would have been racing and anxiety would have risen in my chest. There it is one of those uncomfortable and sensitive moments…

But Elijah responded, without missing a beat, “I live with my real family, but I get to see my birth mom every summer when we go to South Carolina.”

Another child asked, “What is special about your birth mom?”

Elijah responded, “My birth mom is special because she chose my real family.”

If my heart could have leapt out of my chest it would have. I was so proud of him. He got it! He totally nailed it! What a beautiful moment! He’s learning, growing and absorbing. And his adoption story is becoming his own. His identity is slowly being shaped and formed. Does he still have stuff to learn and does he have to continue to practice sharing his story, yes, but he’s getting it. He is owning his story! There will still be moments of uncertainty, confusion and sadness, but he is practicing, he’s learning and continuing to grow into his story.


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