Beating the traffic is one of the principals Kurt lives by. So, we left the Patriots football game a little bit early to do just that. Mikias was getting a little tired and slowing down. I grabbed his arm in an attempt to speed him up. Before he could express annoyance, I started to sing to him.
"You are my sunshine, my only sunshine, you make me happy when skies are grey. You'll never know dear, how much I love you. Please don't take my sunshine away."
I thought he was going to laugh or shush me but instead he said, "That's beautiful, where did you learn that?" I told him that my mom used to sing it to me when I was a girl.
"Your adopted mom or your real mom?" Mikias asked
I had never heard him use the word "real" in that way. We use the terms birth mom, first mother or, for the boys, we usually say Ethiopian mom. The only person I ever refer to as my mom is my adoptive mom. So I thought fast as he looked at me for a response.
"My mom, Grammy Dawn, sang that to me. When I say 'my mom' I am always talking about my her." My mom passed away a year after Mikias came home, but he remembers her and we talk about her frequently.
"What happened to your real mom? She die?" This was so weird, we have had this conversation. He knows my adoption story.
"No, she didn't die. Remember, she was very..."
"She abandoned you? That's terrible!"
Real mom? Abandonment? Where was all this coming from? Questions and comments from his friends? I was so glad we were having this conversation. Before I could form my response, we were interrupted by Kurt.
"Let's go! Get in the car!"
Oh yeah, we had traffic to beat. We hopped in the truck, buckled in and before we were out of the parking lot, Mikias was asleep.
Over the next week, I found ways to talk to the boys about adoption. We talked about how adoption made us a real family, why a birth mother might choose adoption for her child. We talked about the losses of their Ethiopian moms. I retold my own adoption story.
A few weeks ago, Mikias was in his bed, eyes already at half-mast, giving me a hug goodnight. In his raspy sleepy voice he said, "Someone told me that Jemby and I are step-brothers, did you know that?"
Just because we talk about adoption, doesn't mean that they completely get it. Mikias's friend wanted to know if he and Jemberu were 'real' brothers. Mikias told him that they were born in different parts of Ethiopia to different moms. His friend informed him that they were step brothers. His friend was curious about Mikias and Jemberu and trying to understand their story. To his understanding that made the boys step brothers. That's wrong but that's okay.
I realized that as the boys get older they are going to have to field more questions from their friends. That makes sense. My boys are adopted kids, with mom who was an adopted kid (who loves to talk about adoption) and they get confused, how much more confusing must it be to their friends?
We'll keep talking. You never know what can trigger a good conversation. It could be as simple as a song.
You are my sunshine...