Meet Valeria - a transracial adoptee.
This darling 8th grader from Southern California will surely be rocking this world with her wisdom and beautiful mind in the coming years. After viewing Closure with her mother at the Refresh Conference, Valeria bravely came right up to me and told me that she imagines that her birth mother is just like me. I asked her why she thought this and we proceeded to have a conversation that was uniquely adult, yet sweetly innocent. I loved her continuing spew of questions and couldn't help but to see my younger self in her words as I listened to every single word she said.
"Do you think I'll ever find my birth mom?" "How can I find her?" "I know that my birth mom gave me to a friend, then my foster parents picked me up from a prison. That's all I know. With this information, how do I find her?"
Valeria and I discussed searching, and some routes towards locating her birth mother, including someday taking a trip to her birth place - Columbia. While I signed a DVD for Valeria, she asked, "Do you think my birth mom has allergies?" I was formulating my answer but Valeria's brain got there before mine, she continued "I don't think she does - I was stung by a bee three times in fifth grade, and it didn't even hurt or get swollen. I'm pretty sure that my birth mom wouldn't be affected by a bee sting either." Her curiosity about her self, deep longing for truth and middle school youth was palpable. I could feel her words hanging in the air. I felt so honored that Valeria felt able to trust me with these questions as she sought to integrate these multiple aspects of her own identity.
I'd fashion that Valeria's resounding beauty comes from the combination of a wisdom one can only gain from allowing strangers to adopt and parent you at an older age, combined with the safety and structure of having a home and a family. I do believe that many adoptees have this same mesmerizing spark that Valeria has, but that this sparkle can be dulled by many things - including well meaning adoptive parents not allowing these curiosities and questions to come forth, unsure if their child can handle it. It seems obvious to me that Valeria's future is bright, as historically some of our world's greatest leaders are people who know how and with whom to ask the tough questions.
I am often asked to weigh in on the "correct age" to introduce conversations about their child's birth mother, or when/if to encourage their child to begin searching for their birth parents...Let's take a cue from Valeria (and her mother, who lovingly stood by allowing Valeria to direct where she wanted the conversation to go). What's the harm in her curiosity? Perhaps there are unforeseen beauties within a child's questioning. Even though our conversation centered around her story, she may never truly know how deeply impactful this conversation was for me. The ripple effects of allowing an adoptee to feel free enough to ask questions could be endless (likely both in some difficult and positive ways).
In the grand scheme of things I know that my conversation with Valeria is just beginning. Thankfully we were able to get in a final hug, but not before she asked me "Do you ever feel mad at your birth mom?"
*** This post was written with the permission of Valeria's mother, who lovingly stated "it was as if you were the only two people in the room. It was beautiful; I saw a spark in her eyes." ***