We’ve discussed the complexities related to:
• Traveling into unknowns
• And those tied to the “right age to travel.”
While there are no doubt countless other complexities, I thought I’d balance the table a bit and talk about the positives of a homeland journey.
For starters, being there is validating. That is, for many adoptees, their very existence is made more “real” through experiences like:
• Seeing their original file or an intake chart,
• Meeting caregivers,
• And visiting people and places significant to the their adoption.
In my mind’s eye, I have such vivid memories of validating moments playing out
throughout the world as we’ve journeyed together. One of my favorite memories involved a 10 year old boy. He had been hospitalized prior to being adopted and our research revealed that the same doctor who had provided his medical care as an infant was still on staff. We asked if the doctor would be willing to meet the boy and his family. The response: A warm YES! On the day we visited the hospital, a very gentle, caring doctor arrived in the examining room, stethoscope in hand. “I must check you over to make sure you are as healthy as when I last saw you,” she said with a smile. She peeked in his ears, tested his reflexes, and listened to his heart, and more importantly seemed to know exactly what his heart needed. “I am very satisfied with what a strong young man you have become,” the doctor said. Both doctor and the boy were smiling from ear to ear. Validating.
Other kids find validation via foster mothers, nannies, and other early caregivers….people who literally held their lives in balance until they arrived at their forever homes. “The best part of visiting my birth country was meeting my foster Mom. She held my hand the whole time and even insisted on feeding me at lunch.”That is a very common report from kids. Even kids who initially do not place so much emphasis on meeting caregivers seem to hold this connection in high regard.
There is something very powerful about first hand, experiential time in ones birth country. Returning from China Ties, Molly McPeak said these words with great conviction, “I knew I was adopted from China, born in Anhui Province, found somewhere in Tongling City, but when you actually get a chance to go back to your roots, everything seems to come together. Going to Anhui Province and seeing Tongling City for the first time brought me WAY back. Even though I can’t remember the years I was there, it felt like the missing part of me was finally found. I found out the reason behind my name and the actual site where I was found. All the missing information was finally right in front of me. I learned who I truly am.”
Yes, meeting birth family is HUGE when it comes to validation, but there are SO many other validating factors, and the reality is that even now, the vast majority of international adoptees are not meeting their birth families. So, understanding and recognizing the other things that provide validation for our children is especially important.
Validation brings a sense of “real” to kids, allowing them to begin to take ownership of their lives. It gives them an opportunity to move from hearing their stories, to being able to tell THEIR stories. Like a black & white TV screen suddenly doing high-def color!
Have you and/or your child had a validating experience while traveling? What have those experience meant to you or your child?
We adopted our daughter from Thailand 4 1/2 years ago as a 6 year old. Before she turned 10 we were able to take a trip back with her. On this journey we opted to expose her to a city other than the one in which she grew up. We wanted her to experience the culture and people of her homeland first. When she is a little bit older, we want to take her to visit the orphanage she was in when we got her. I look forward to that trip!