Monday, August 13, 2012

brother cousin

One of the things we brought to Ethiopia with us was a family album.  It was one of the most useful things we stuffed into those gigantic suitcases. That, and the millions of diapers.

During the few days we had custody of the kids, but were stuck waiting at the guest house for our Embassy documents and flight back home, Daniel and I poured over that album.  He memorized all his new family members' names, and tried to figure out how everyone was connected. The photo he was most interested in, immediately, was of his cousin M-------.

In most of Africa, there are no "cousins", "uncles" or "aunts".  All your male relatives are fathers or brothers, and all your female relatives are your mothers or sisters.  This has translated to some parts of the U.S. like the South, where it is common to have non-related "aunties", or to called older woman by the title, "Mama" or "Nana".  So it was hard to translate the word "cousin" for Daniel.  But words didn't seem to matter to him.  He felt an immediate kinship with my sister's son and since the moment they met they have been, brothers.

My nephew, M------, is brown, or "mocha" as he likes to describe himself- the son of my (white) sister and his father, who is from Ghana and "dark chocolate" as M----- likes to say.  His beautiful brown skin is unusual in our family, and one of the multiple reasons we choose to adopt from Ethiopia. (I mean, if we were going to have kids who didn't look like us, they may as well look like someone!)

These boys, these brothers, are a year and a 1/2 apart, but were exactly the same size when Daniel first came home. (He has now outstripped his littler cousin by several inches.)  They first met at the airport.  M------ had brought several coins to give to Daniel. They sized each other up. Daniel exclaimed, "Same!" when they measured their heights.  They played with the coins on the floor of the JFK international terminal, and within minutes were lifelong friends.

This summer the boys got to spend a week together in heaven: Grandpa's house at the beach. They were true brothers... eating, sleeping, playing, wrestling, reading, talking, walking, riding bikes- they behaved so much like twins I bought them matching outfits.

Recently there has been a debate/conversation in the Adoption Blogsphere about ethics in International Adoption, particularly in Africa.  International Adoption occupies a very uncomfortable spot at the crossroads of poverty, religion, international politics, race, history and cultural differences between the "First World" and the "Third World".  It is a spot only few visit: those few thousand adoptive families, the adoption agencies, and of course, the first families.  And the spot keeps shifting about due to new regulations, wars, disease and politics.  Safe to say about international adoption: it's complicated.

Although it is true that, as in our case, sometimes children need parents and parents want/need to adopt the children, the equation isn't so simple.  The children might need a parent, but in getting one, they lose all their other fathers, mothers, brothers and sisters.  No wonder my heart broke a little when we left Ethiopia. I knew, although the children didn't at the time, how many people we were leaving behind.

I tried to get a quote from Daniel for this piece. I asked him why he loved his cousin M------ so much. He just looked at me like I was crazy.  What a silly question, mom! He loves his cousin M----- because he is his brother: one to fill the void left when he lost his Ethiopian brothers. And because, he's M-----!

 (He didn't say that, of course, but hey, it's my blog. He can correct me when he's learned to read well enough to edit me.)

This morning a woman working at Daniel's camp exclaimed to him, over and over, "How lucky you are to have such a wonderful mother!"  He rolled his eyes, which I thought an appropriate response to basically being told he's so lucky to have lost his first family/country/be forced to live in America! been adopted. When he's older, maybe he'll learn to say, "Mama, it's complicated!"

1 comment:

  1. wow...and yes...I am tearing up...sometimes we take our siblings for granted.....thank you for reminiding us of the importance of family!!!


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