I want my son Jett to remember the time he met the bubbly and gregarious woman who chose to give him life.
Adoption opens up a complicated set of family and emotional connections. Jett has two mothers. Two women who love him fiercely and want the best for him. The first, he lived with for nine and a half months (in utero), he calls Michelle. The one he's lived with for almost seven years, he calls Mom. He needs us both.
When I was pregnant with Elliott, I wondered if I'd ever be able to love him as much as I loved Graeden. Those were the early days. Back before I knew anything about love. Or children.
I know different now. About how love grows. How like an exercised muscle, the heart and soul enlarge. And they work together to overcome any challenge and come out of it for the better. About the opportunity to make hard choices and not knowing if you chose correctly. About how it seems like when each child enters the family, that they've been a part of it forever. There's always room for more. More love. More children. More family.
We've talked briefly about going to Disneyland a few times over the past several years. It takes a lot of energy to travel with children. We decided that the the trip, with its expense, would be better to take when they were a little older and would remember it. Then we added more children and the reason for not going changed. Now we needed more adults to supervise the fun. So when Jovana came the summer of 2012, our excuses disappeared and it was time to go.
Knowing that Michelle lived in southern California, I sent her a message saying that we'd be in town and asking her if she'd like to meet. Her oldest had expressed concern several months prior that he was sad because Jett was "lost". Michelle explained to him that he wasn't lost. She knew exactly where he was. And she jumped at the opportunity to see us.
At first Jett was nervous and scared to meet them. That wore off quickly and they made fast friends. For me, seeing Michelle again and meeting her children and oldest son's father was like going to a family reunion and meeting cousins for the first time. Nobody knows how exactly they are related. Just that they are. And there's an instant connection.
Jett's always known he's adopted. We've shown him photos of Michelle holding him in the hospital and of meeting his brothers Graeden and Elliott. We've told him that Michelle wasn't ready to be a parent and so together we planned an adoption. Now he can live with a mother and a father.
Jett displayed his intellectual understanding of adoption when he was about three years old. My friend was watching him and her son, in a random kid coversation, mentioned to Jett that he used to be in his mother's tummy. To the surprise of my friend, Jett replied that he had never been in his mother's tummy. He'd been in Michelle's.
We didn't think visiting Michelle would be confusing to Jett. But it was. While in Disneyland the next day, a cast member asked Jett a basic question like "how old are you?" Jett, who must have been trying to process the previous day's experience, misunderstood the question and replied by asking Tymon, "how long have I lived with you, Dad?"
We reassured him over the next few days that we met Michelle before he was born. Together we planned his adoption. We met him just after he was born. We took him home from the hospital. His home is with us. He's not going to live with Michelle. He is in our family.
Jett seems to get it. What I didn't realize during our many conversations with him or after meeting Michelle, is that he's not the only one who may be confused about his status in the family. One afternoon a few months ago I overheard Graeden, Elliott and Jett having a disagreement...or rather a typical bout of brotherly taunting and fighting. Only this time, words were directed at Jett to the effect that he's, "not really a part of this family".
What?! Now it was time for the real teaching to begin. Just because our brothers were born from different women, that doesn't make them any less our brother.
Yes, Jett is a part of our family. We planned it with Michelle. That means we went to an an adoption lawyer. We signed papers. We went to see a judge. The adoption was finalized in family court. We went to the temple. Jett was sealed to our family. We love him. He is a part of us forever.
Jett has an important role in the lives of his siblings, both those by birth and those by adoption. We hope to give him more opportunities to bond with his siblings. And pray that his heart, mind and soul will come together as his intellectual understanding blends with his emotional and spiritual self. That's what being in a family is all about.