I’m the mom to three: one from the vagina, two from China. My “vagina child” is 23, and I mostly say this just to mess with her, because it just makes you cringe when your mom throws out the V-word, doesn’t it?
My adopted kids are 6 years old. They’re 4 months apart, not biologically related. That trips people up sometimes, believe it or not. They were adopted separately at ages 2 and 3, respectively. We talk about adoption openly with our kids. We let their questions guide our way and use things they say organically as conversation starters.
Lately they’ve been asking if they lived in my tummy or what they were like as babies. I gently explain that they lived in another mommy’s tummy and that I didn’t get to meet them until they were a little older, and they’re having a hard time wrapping their heads around that. They don’t remember a time when I wasn’t their mom. It’s both endearing and scary to see the little wheels turning in their heads. I know the harder questions and the more painful conversations are not far in the future.
It’s not our intention to keep adoption information, but we believe in giving them information as they grow and mature… and yes, at our discretion. We’re pretty open about adoption, but there’s one area we don’t plan to address in the immediate future: adoption costs.
We all know adoptive parents don’t like the “how much did it cost to adopt” or, worse, the “how much did he cost” question. We all know that, right? We don’t like questions about cost because they’re often nosy and inappropriate, but one of the main reasons is that we don’t want to hear this question:
“Mommy, how much did I cost?”
At some point, kids understand that stuff costs money. They might be told they can’t have this or that because it’s too expensive. We might have to explain why we don’t have a pool in our backyard or go on four vacations a year, and that’s fine. That’s part of growing up and learning, but I don’t want them growing up thinking about the fact that their dad and I had to pay money for their adoptions. I don’t want them to see themselves as commodities. Objects. The last thing I want them to feel is that they were “things” we saved up for. I want them to see themselves as just my kids. Because they are.
So get this:
We spent $7,000 on an antique Gothic dining room set. It was a splurge, and we have a love-hate with that expenditure. The chairs are cool-looking, but they’re uncomfortable. We had to spend an extra $500 to have the damn thing fumigated because it came with antique Gothic woodworms.
Also, our dishwasher crapped out while my husband was out of town, and I ordered a new one without consulting him. I know zip about dishwashers and got weaseled into buying a shitty dishwasher for top dollar.
Am I comparing our adoption costs to furniture and appliances? Of course not, but my point is that how much stuff costs is discussed openly at our house. Our kids have heard us gripe about the dining room set. They’ve heard my husband bitch at me about my solo dishwasher purchase. We talk about what we “can and can’t afford,” and we buy a shit-ton of K-Cups when they go on sale at Costco. Our kids know about money and that money buys things.
I just don’t want them to see themselves as those things.
If you’re an adoptive parent and you freely discuss adoption costs in front of your children, maybe you shouldn’t. You might think that saying, “It cost $35,000 to adopt Gabrielle, but she’s worth every bit of the sacrifice and penny-pinching, because she belongs in our family, and we’d do it all over again,” is a positive affirmation, but it’s not. Saying that reinforces that Gabrielle is a commodity.
Adoption is complicated. These kids experience all kinds of emotions as they navigate their way through their birth stories.
Will our kids ask questions about the costs of their adoption when they’re older? Maybe. When they’re mature enough to process all sides of the story, I don’t intend to withhold anything they want to know about their adoption stories, but for now, they’re children trying to comprehend that the woman who gave birth to them isn’t the woman raising them. That’s hard to grasp when you’re 6.
Every family approaches these things differently, and privacy means different things to different people. But… The next time you openly mention your child’s adoption cost — especially when you do it in front of them — ask yourself what value it adds.
Discussions of cost add nothing, at least not when your children are young.
Before you go, check out our slideshow below: