I was recently asked by two strangers (lovely strangers who inquired about adoption) if I thought Theo took after me or my husband, which took me totally by surprise. No one has ever even asked me that. People tend to be curious about his birthparents: “Are they tall?” ” What nationality are they?” “Does he look like them?”
I think of Theo being uniquely him. Of course, his genetic makeup, that complicated mashup of DNA, came directly from his birthparents but he’s not a carbon copy of either of them in looks or personality. So far nothing has stood out to any of us (including his birthfamily) in an “Oh my, he’s exactly like aunt Frieda or uncle Alex” kind of way.
One of the interesting things about adoption is my expectations of Theo aren’t based on deeply known biological history. So it goes without saying, that Theo won’t inherit any of my neuroses nor the mythology of say great uncle Felix who was a barrister but also a depressive alcoholic. The problem with the great uncle Felix narrative is that all of a sudden, everyone starts looking for signs of depression and locks up the booze.
There is an obvious randomness in adoption whereby a child winds up with a family that wasn’t biologically anticipated. I’ve heard from adoptees who felt they didn’t fit with their family. Similarly, birthmothers worry that the family they chose so quickly might not have been the right family after all. While I feel strongly that we are a good fit with Theo, these sentiments struck a tiny chord inside me, one that says, pay attention to the signs and signals that my son is offering. Don’t try to mould him in my image.
I don’t think parents attempt to mould children in their own images but we all come with a family culture that can be deep and longstanding. Athletic parents may have sports dreams to fulfill through their children; bookish parents may see future PhDs or artists in their children. As an adoptive parent, I try to pay special attention to Theo’s interests and abilities before I make grand plans for his future.
Take child care as an example. Theo’s grandfather (lolo) has taken care of him part-time for two years now. Fostering a bond between my son and his grandfather trumped any interest in structured activities and social benefits of daycare. Now that Theo is almost three, I have a good sense of how much he loves to be with other kids, and how much he likes to participate in group activities. This is his innate temperament, the one he was born with. Mark and I are social people but we did not make him this way. His temperament has led me to enroll him in part-time daycare for September.
He’s very physical, athletic and energetic, which means I spend a lot time at the playground, pool, beach or just running around outside blowing off steam. Of course, I have my own interests namely the arts. Because of this, I enrolled Theo in a theatre and music class, which turned out to be a total bust. The playground would have been a better choice, and a short soccer and basketball camp rather than an arts and crafts camp is on the summer agenda. This does not mean the arts are off the table. I took him to the Children’s Festival, and he was mesmerized by the circus performances and all music so I will continue to offer opportunities to him.
He’s still young. Who knows how his interests will grow? Will we enroll him in French Immersion because I went to French Immersion as a child? Will he go on to post-secondary education? I hope so. But, ultimately, I need to nuture his nature not mine.
How does your child’s temperment affect your decisions as a parent?