On Telling My Child That She Is Adopted

2013 July - Piper Fenrick-4926.jpg

For weeks now, we have been attempting to prepare our daughters for another little person's entrance into our household through foster care this fall.  None of this has had any effect on Caroline whatsoever, except that she now gets to share a room with her older sister (which she thinks is awesome).

Our four-year-old, though, is full of questions, particularly about how this child is coming to be a temporary or long-term part of our family. 

"Is it going to be a boy or a girl?"


"Is it a baby?"

"How long is she going to be here?"

"Do you have a baby in your tummy, Mommy?"  (Ouch.)

"Was I in your tummy, Mommy?"

Piper knows the answer to the last question, but sometimes I think she asks it simply because she wants to hear the answer again.    

People often wonder if Piper understands that she is adopted or if we plan to tell her that she is.  Though the conversation has gone differently at various ages, we've been telling her every day since she was born.  

During her first year of life, we prayed for Piper's birth mom aloud with Piper before bed and named "Ms. Anna" among the lengthy list of "People Who Love Piper".  When Piper began to talk, I asked her why she is special and taught her to answer, "Because God made me.  And I'm adopted!"  Now, she is at the age of obsession with baby dolls and actual babies, so we discuss whose tummy held which infant for nine months.  Always, we've celebrated "Gotcha Day", the day that she officially took our last name and became a part of our forever family.

I have no idea if we're doing any of this "the right way," but we're telling her because we think it's important that she knows.  If we want her to trust us down the road, we are committed to building trust now - in the big things, the little things, and everything between.

"Don't ever tell her that she's adopted," advised the ten-year-old during one of my afternoon tutoring sessions.  "Kids are mean," he said.  "They'll make fun of her."

Kids are mean.  Adults are mean.  Kids don't learn The Golden Rule early in life, and the adults who have learned it forget.  However, kids are mean about anything.  They're mean about adoption, but they're also mean about wearing glasses, having the wrong haircut, and bringing lunch from home instead of buying a school lunch.  I'm hoping that we can teach Piper to choose friends who will love her for exactly the adopted Piper she is.

People have also recommended that we wait until Piper is older to talk to her about adoption because it is too painful and messy to deal with now.  

It is painful and messy.    

The truth is, in a perfect world, there would be no need for adoptions.  There would be no abortions, infertility, miscarriages, abuse, or poverty.  We are not in a perfect world, though; we are in a broken one, so there are messes everywhere.  Like an open wound, painful situations do not disappear when they are ignored.  They might keep from worsening for a time, but eventually, wounds fester and ooze out even more gunk than there would have been if they were properly treated initially.  

So we will tell her.  Now.  As much as her little mind can handle.  We will tell her until she can tell the story, too, and then we will keep telling her after that.  


We will tell her about how God used years of infertility, tests, and surgeries to mold our hearts and bring her into our family.

We will tell her about a brave 17-year-old who chose life and chose us.  From the Internet.  Because she loved her growing baby more than she loved herself.

We will tell her about the envelopes with money that anonymously appeared on our doorstep or under the windshield wipers to help finance her adoption.

We will tell her about my coworkers bursting into tears in the office when I got the phone call that we had been picked to be her parents.

We will tell her about the many people who walked with us and prayed for her for months before she was born.

We will tell her about the overwhelming love we felt from the moment she appeared in the delivery room.  And the overwhelming hurt we experienced when her biological parents left the hospital the following day, empty-handed.

We will tell her about how every detail of our lives was laid bare before the adoption agency and the judge, and somebody decided that we "passed inspection".

We will tell her about the day that her entire "new" extended family came to court and watched her take our last name.

We will tell her why her middle name is Anna and the significance of the fact that Anna means "Grace," the name she was called on her original birth certificate. 

We will tell her how she got her awesome Mexican hair and her amazing brain that memorizes entire books after reading them only a couple of times.

We will tell her about her biological half-sister, who is Caroline's age and lives with Anna.  

We will tell her about how her adoption has opened doors for us to tell others of the goodness of God, and how her life has made us believe in his goodness again, too.

We will tell her all of these things because they make her who she is.  Because she deserves to know.  And quite frankly, we'll tell her because the story of her adoption is a good, good story to tell.