I’ve been waiting for a while for Zoey to be asked about her adoption. I’ve wondered if I I’d be there when it went down, if I’d have to step in and explain. I’ve wondered where it will happen — the play ground, library, school? I’ve wondered if the things we’ve been telling her about her adoption story and her first mom have made sense. But mostly I’ve wondered if Zoey would come through unscathed.
Today I found out. Twice.
This morning I took Zoey and her friend Tessa to a near by university to participate in a language and learning study. While I navigated the rainy streets I also listened in on the two three year-olds in the back seat. It was better than NPR. There was a discussion about poop, and then, with no clear segway, a discussion about how much Zoey and Tessa love each other. They held hands across their car seats and gushed over and over, “I just love you so much!” Then, just as abruptly, the conversation changed to Tessa’s new baby brother. They went over the facts: he is a boy, he wakes up in the night, he poops in his pajamas, the stuff he eats smells bad, and he is soooooo cute.
There was a pause and Tessa asked, “Zoey, did you come out of your mommy’s tummy?”
Oh geeze oh geeze oh geeze! I thought from the front seat. I glanced in the rear view mirror. Should I pull over? Should I just stop the car right here? Did I need to initiate “a talk?
“Naw,” Zoey said. “I was in another mommy’s tummy. Want a sticker?”
“Sure,” Tessa took the sticker. “But why were you in another mommy?”
“Well,” Zoey started. I could feel her thinkingthinkingthinking, “My first mommy — she loves me a lot but she couldn’t really take care of me. So I got this mommy and daddy from her because she loves me so much.”
“Oh yeah,” Tessa’s blond head nodded wisely in agreement, “That’s so good. Really good. . . . Hey! Wanna sing a song?”
As the girls sang and thunked their rain boots against the back of the car seats, I felt relief. Relief and overwhelming pride. I was so amazed at Zoey’s answers and grateful for Tessa’s kindness.
After I took the girls to the language study, I took them to the library to play for a while. They began to play baby with a five year old African American girl. As I sat on the bench and watched, the girl kept looking at me and then at Tessa and Zoey.
“Is that your mom?” the Girl asked Zoey and nodded towards me.
“Yeah,” said Zoey not looking up from the toys.
“But how?” The girl asked. “How is that your mom?”
“What?” Zoey looked up, confused by the question.
“How do you know that’s your mom?” said the girl. I waited for Zoey to look over to me for help or reassurance. She didn’t.
“Because I just know.” Zoey shrugged her shoulders, “Don’t you know who your mom is?”
“Oh, yeah,” The girl said quickly. “That’s my mom — right there, in the hat.”
And that was that.
Today was a good day. I know other days won’t be so good. Comments and questions can sting and hurt. They can bring up our fears, or worse — things we never even thought of. Other people’s gaze can make us feel small and ruined. But for now, we’ll celebrate having answers and knowing the stories that make us who we are.
Look out, World. Here comes my daughter.