Monkeychops, my cheeky little handful of an 8 year old, has realised she is adopted.
We have not been keeping it a secret. She has life story books which record her journey from birth parents, through two foster placements to home with us by the age of two. We have talked her through the books, answered her questions and told her over and over that we love her and that she is safe. From time to time her elder sister has grumbled that she is jealous of Chopsy: “She came when she was still a baby. I never got to be your baby”. So she knew, but did not know. She knew it as a fact. It was a fact like the colour of her eyes or her snort when she laughs — a characteristic without any obvious significance. Something that was neither good nor bad. Certainly not something that could threaten her happiness.
I was putting MC to bed. She had her life story books with her. “Can I keep them in my room Dad?”
“Can I look at them again now?”
She sat cross-legged on the floor and opened a photo album of contact visits with her birth parents. Then she looked up at me and shuffled round so that her back was to me.
“What’s up Chopella?”
She sobbed. “I wish I was still a baby. I miss my foster parents.”
I picked her up and held her in my arms and she wailed. She wasn’t quite clear who her birth parents were and which foster parents she missed but a little black hole had grown inside her: a tiny but pwerful sense of loss that steadily tore away at its surroundings and sent waves out across her universe stretching and compressing her world.
A schoolfriend, it seems, had been telling people that MC was adopted. It had become a playground sensation. Now she felt … different.
We’d been through it with her sister. We’d told her as we now told MC that she was different but special. She had so many people who loved her, not just her birth parents, but all those who had cared for her since and the now dizzying array of uncles, aunts, cousins and grand-parents. We told her we were proud of her because by coming to be a family with us she had shown a bravery that few kids have to demonstrate.
MC writhed mentally as if some injury had left her unable to get comfortable. She seemed to recognise that she could never be so unconcerned again. She just wanted to turn the feeling off and be a baby again instead.
When she turned six she asked me when I would be six too. I had to explain I couldn’t go back. I was wistful — how brilliant it would be to be her friend and raise hell together. I cannot go back any more than she can and I don’t want to. I have a great privilege — it’s my job to help her forward into the future. It’s my job to help beat back the black hole or better still to fill it with joy.