The girls have this secret, except its not really a secret, they just wish it was.
Let me explain!
The girls started at a new school 6 weeks after being placed with us. We talked to them about their story and how they might like that to be known in school. They all decided they didn’t want anyone in school to know they were adopted, I don’t think it was because they felt ashamed of their adoption, I think it was more to do with them not really understanding it all and it being too much for them to think about at that time, remember we’d only been a family 6 weeks at this point.
Each new school year and many of the bigger half terms we asked them again if they’d like to share their story. They always said ‘no’. Whilst I thought it would be a positive step for them to be open about their story and have encouraged them to share it, I also respected the fact that it was THEIR story to tell and not mine. I’d like to point out, that outside of school, with friends and family, they have always been very open about their adoption, although admittedly they do, even now, find it difficult to talk about sometimes (one of the reasons we’re having DDP therapy). I don’t think they have the emotional resilience or understanding to feel confident enough when telling ‘their story’ and I think this is why they have chosen not to tell it yet.
Last year, around Easter time, big girl decided to tell a boy in her class that she was adopted. The boy told a girl and the girl told another girl and that’s how it went. We didn’t know anything about any of this until last years Summer holidays. Big girl was having a hard time preparing for the transition to her new class and tantruming A LOT. During one of her outbursts she revealed that she’d told people at school that she was adopted, I cant recall the exact reason why she suddenly decided to tell me, but she did. I’m not entirely sure why she told people in her class but I got the impression from talking to her that she thought they would feel sorry for her and give her lots of attention. I guess she was trying to make friends!? She said they asked her lots of uncomfortable questions, some of which she didn’t know how to answer and had felt quite upset.
Middle girl and Baby girl were very upset to learn that people in school knew their story. They were also understandably angry with Big girl for making that decision without their knowledge. I vividly remember Baby girl saying ‘why would she do that Mommy, why would she tell people without talking to us first, we’re a family we talk about things together, why would she do that mommy’ before bursting in to tears. Middle girl appeared too disgusted to even speak, she was very angry. Anyway, we managed the fall-out and talked to them all about how they might handle questions and comments in the new term, we gave them the narrative they may need, and they made a promise to each other that they would decide things together in future. Things were soon forgotten and smoothed over.
Until recently. A month or so ago Baby girl said to me that a boy in year 5 asked her if she was adopted, she told me she didn’t know what to say so just ran away. She told me about this incident sometime after it happened I gathered. Then last week Middle girl said that some girls in her class had told her that Big girl had told them that she was adopted. Middle girl also didn’t know what to say so walked away and told the teacher. That evening Big girl assured me that she hadn’t mentioned anything since last Easter but it seems the same girls had spoke to Big girl that day telling her that Middle Girl had told them, who of course was adamant she hadn’t, Middle girl even said ‘I hadn’t remembered I was adopted until they told me’. So we all had a little chat again, they still didn’t want to share their story so we devised a ‘shoulder shrugging plan’ should anyone ask them any more questions.
Middle girl came out of school today and told me more people had been asking her questions, she was obviously distressed as she hugged me, properly, and she never does this unless she’s anxious. So our wonderful key worker/teacher came up with a plan and we went home to talk it through. When we got home Big girl also said that yesterday the same girls from before had asked her some questions again.
So the plan, which I’m going to talk to school about in the morning is: On the last day of term, right at the end of the day, Baby girls teacher and Middle girls teacher will tell their classes that they are in fact adopted. They will also tell the children that this is something that they find hard to talk about so don’t want to talk about it or answer anyone’s questions. I guess there will need to be something about questions being directed to the teachers rather than the girls because some children will undoubtedly have questions. The hope is that over the 2 weeks Easter holidays, ‘The Secret’ will have become far less interesting once its no longer ‘The Secret’.
I don’t know if this is the right thing to do, but I don’t know of any other way, I have always tried to respect their right to share ‘their story’ with whoever they do or don’t want to share it with, whilst also showing them how proud I am of OUR story. Because I am!