We have quite a few anniversaries that have taken place this year, almost to the point where we may need to narrow down the celebrations a bit, but just almost. No narrowing just yet, still in full-on celebrate it all mode which is just fine by me. April 9th was one year since we first saw his face, May 5th was one year since his first birthday, May 16th was one year since passing court, June 1st was one year since beginning the trip of a lifetime, June 3rd was one year since first feeling his breath, June 9th we all touched down on NY soil for the first time as a family of 3, and then there's June 16th which is our wedding anniversary. If you're counting (which I apparently am) that's 7 anniversaries to toast to, and next year there will be yet another, March 6th 2008 is the day the adoption was finalized in NY courts. So, 8 anniversaries in a 3 month period and all but 1 (our wedding anniversary) celebrates Ashton and the adoption.
This year he was 2 years old so to him each of these dates meant just another piece of cake and inevitably some bubbly drink in a "don't touch cup" that he wasn't allowed to go anywhere near. But next year he'll be 3 and chances are he'll be much more aware of the fact that these events are celebrating him and a series of events that led to us becoming a family, and the year after that he's going to get it. He might not be able to verbalize it or even interpret splotchy pictures for a shrink in a way that "assures" us that he fully understands, but that makes it all the more important for us to be ready. Ready for questions, ready to listen, and ready to possibly adjust our celebration schedule in a way that doesn't bring too much attention to every stinking nanosecond that Mike and I celebrated while waiting to bring him home. That's right, scaling it back might actually be in Ash's best interest. The question is, how much?
For the sake of argument I'd like to limit this particular discussion to transracial international adoptions because, well, that's what I know. I'm sure there are identity and race and cultural and many other areas that require ongoing attention, education, and concern with domestic adoptions (both same race and mixed race), but what I know (or at least what I'm hoping to best understand) is the adoption of a black child by a white family from a country other than the US. A situation where a child is transplanted from one culture, one race, many smells, looks, feels, and people who they may never encounter again to a land that is completely different from everything familiar. Not at all better, just different and unfamiliar.
So, naturally, we want to celebrate the events that lead us to becoming a family. But, naturally, we would prefer not to bring too much public attention to something that may (aka, probably will) be a point of confusion or anger or distrust or any number of other feelings for Ash. On one hand there's a mother who has received quarterly updates from us about her son and how he's thriving with us as a family, and will continue to receive these updates (which include pictures) until he's 18. She deserves to have us honor the fact that he is her biological child, her country's child. On the other hand being a boy in America can suck, really really bad, even if you're not the black boy with the white parents who is constantly referred to as "the one who should be grateful" by random passers by on the streets. He deserves to be our child, our country's child.
The question then becomes, how do we balance "hers" and "theirs" and "his" and "ours" so that HE can thrive. Thrive as an Ethiopian, thrive as an American, thrive as Black and thrive as Our Son. How much will be too much and at what point do we worry that he's losing his heritage? Oh wait, he already lost that... Now it's our responsibility to make sure that the heritage he's already lost is one for which he has awareness, pride, and passion. Which circles us right back to how much is too much... We don't want to push, but he, she, they, deserve for us to prepare.