On Gotcha Day the main course is storytelling

Our 9-year-old could have picked anything for the menu for his “Gotcha Day,” the anniversary of the day we met. When he chose Chinese food, I wasn’t surprised. Chinese food is what we eat when we celebrate our family.
But the main course was storytelling.
As our sons devoured dumplings and bowls of won ton soup, John and I described the day we met Leo, back when he was a 2-year-old in Changsha, in Hunan Province, China. We talked about the emotions of the day, for us and for him. We described our time in China and our first days together.
Then we talked about the day, almost two years later, we met his little brother.

Later in the evening, we sat reading our boys’ books, the books I made for them so we would have some of their photos and stories in one place. They giggled at the pictures of their younger selves. They asked questions.
We talked about what we know, what we had forgotten we knew, and what we wish we knew. We talked about the people who are so important to the stories, even when we don’t know their names and faces.
Every family has its stories.
Every family tells its stories.
As a family formed through adoption, we tell the same stories of our children’s beginnings again and again. It’s not just because we want to tell the stories. It’s because we need to tell the stories. They are essential to our children’s identities. They are important to our family.
Even if we can’t see the entire picture, even if we don’t know much about the main characters, even when parts are difficult to share, we tell the stories.
They aren’t all rainbows and sunshine and unicorns, but they aren’t all rain clouds and darkness either. They are stories of life, of joy and sorrow, of heartbreak and love, of faith and hope, of pain and healing. They are stories that show how small the world is, how great God is, how loved our children are.
Sometimes our children listen, and sometimes they are distracted. Sometimes they seem completely uninterested. We share their stories with them anyway.
Back in adoptive parent training, I worried that we wouldn’t know how to do it. I remember asking how we would know whether we were talking about our child’s adoption story often enough—or too much.
Just share as if you are dropping pebbles into a stream, the social worker told us. Who knows whether we are doing this right or well. But we will keep the conversation going and have faith that the stories bring greater perspective and understanding. And we will keep these stories close even as we write our own family story together.

Catholic Review

The Catholic Review is the official publication of the Archdiocese of Baltimore.