Friday, July 31, 2009

Our Transforming Family

Our boys, Mikias and Jemberu, love playing with Transformers. They are cool toys that start as one thing, perhaps a car, and with a few twists and turns change into something completely different, like a robot.

Transformers kind of remind me of families. Look through any family’s photo albums and watch a family transform. A couple adds a child and turns into a family. A family of three turns into a family of four. Babies transform into teenagers! Families are the ultimate transformers!

My husband Kurt and I were married in 1983. We made our transformation into a family in 1988 with the birth of our daughter Devyn. We transformed again in 1991 when our daughter Madison was born. We stayed this way, a family of four, for a long time. We were a pretty typical family. You wouldn’t give us a second thought if you passed us on the street. If I were at the supermarket with my daughters, no one would feel compelled to ask us how we became a family.

Our biggest and most obvious transformation came in January of 2006 in the form of a 4 ½ year old Ethiopian boy named Mikias. When Mikias joined our family, we changed from a white family to a transracial family. A family that you wouldn’t think twice about to a family that attracted second looks everywhere we went. A family with teenage girls to a family with a preschool age boy with a loud voice and energy that couldn’t be contained. We transformed into a family that learned how to share about our son, adoption, Ethiopia and how we came to be a family.

We also became a family that learned how to tactfully protect our son’s privacy in the telling of our story. In turning into this family of five, we learned how quickly and deeply we could fall in love with our newest member.

That same year, 2006, we transformed yet again as Devyn graduated from high school and left for college in South Carolina, a long way from our Massachusetts home. It was hard for all of us to adjust to a life that did not include Devyn everyday. It was particularly hard for Mikias, he and Devyn had forged a very close bond and he missed her terribly.

In December of 2007, we transformed into a family of six, with the addition of our 3 ½ year old son, Jemberu, whom we also adopted from Ethiopia. Mikias showed us that he was born to be a big brother. He took his new role seriously and even now over a year and a half later, he continues to be Jemberu’s best friend. Our boys seem meant to be together. It is now impossible to picture one without the other. They are affectionate, play hard, love each other and us deeply. They are ridiculously loud and energetic. They infuse every day with their big giant love.

We are preparing for yet another transition. Madison graduated from high school in May and is heading off to Texas for college in the fall. I will adjust to setting the dinner table for four again. The boys will miss having her around as much as Kurt and I will. I am not looking forward to her leaving, although thanks to having gone through this once already, I know we will be okay.

Kurt and I will transform into a family that will mostly be the boys and us, as for so long it was just the girls and us. We have changed from young parents of girls, who could travel under the radar of notice to older parents of boys of a different race. This now feels normal to us. I am pretty sure we still make heads turn when we are out but I can honestly say that I rarely notice it anymore. Mikias and Jemberu transformed us into a family that is not quite typical, but feels right and complete to the six people in it.

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