Mentionable is manageable
As the time fast approaches for us to travel back to the country of our daughters’ birth, emotions are high and varied. The end of the school year is always a time of intense and mixed emotions, and anticipating a summer trip to China is adding to the variety of feelings running through our home this year. As mom and chief trip planner (a role that my husband typically fulfills), I feel mostly ready and fairly calm mingled with periodic moments of stress and wondering. For the most part, my posture is one of curiosity about so many aspects of this trip. It is a journey that I imagine will have ups and downs, joys and sorrows and probably a lot of things that cannot be anticipated at all.
Though the orphanage visit plan is in flux, meeting the needs of our girls to the best of our abilities in the moment is the goal. At least part of our family will visit the places where our daughters spent the earliest months of their lives. Anyone who has visited an orphanage quickly and deeply knows that this is not the best place for children to grow up. These places hold for our girls both a few explicit, actual memories and are probably loaded with more implicit, behavioral, based on sensory experiences type of memories. How these visits may trigger or satisfy them is anyone’s guess. We have all worked hard to be as prepared as possible to walk through those doors, come what may.
There is a great temptation for adoptive parents, actually for all parents, when something traumatic or upsetting happens to our children. We sometimes try to gloss over, rush to reassure and deny the tough stuff of life – a “let sleeping dogs lie” mentality encourages us to keep silent on painful matters. We often believe that if we can pretend like this never happened and just move on, all is well. But lots of psychological research points to the contrary. Denial and suppression of strong emotions aren’t healthy. And our children are not fools – they know the pain and suffering that they have experienced. They need grown ups to imagine their perspective, receive their emotions and begin to help them make some sense out of it all.
Fred Rogers, aka Mr. Rogers, had a great deal of empathy and insight into what is best for children. He wrote, “What is mentionable is manageable.” We can’t travel back to China and pretend that some really earth shattering and life altering things did not happen there – first and foremost for our daughters and then also for us as parents. It will be a delicate dance of mentioning such things out loud, listening intently for what they are comfortable mentioning and being available and prepared to soothe, comfort and help manage as needed. We will remember that “what is mentionable is manageable” and pray for grace filled hearts and ears.
Each of us has done intentional and earnest work to get to the place to make this trip. We desire to have fun and enjoy our days together in the beautiful country where our journey as family began. Our hope is that it helps our girls to more fully make sense of and embrace their own life – one step in their long journey. As a parent and God lover, I desire to lean into whatever comes our way and trust that the God of mystery is at work in ways seen and unseen. We are grateful for family and friends who have encouraged and supported us all along the way. We pray for traveling mercies as we go. I imagine there will be much to write about in days to come.