loves my child. The goal is to help him control his impulses so he can function. And
that is exactly what starts to happen.
Gia teaches not just Tariku but me. I learn
from her that security and routine are key
for him. He needs to know what is coming
and that someone has his back. We write out
elaborate calendars and set timers for every
When I was trying to get pregnant, I feared
I was undeserving and beyond help. It was
so easy to believe those things about myself.
Now I look at my son and see that we are all
children of God. None of us is undeserving
and beyond help.
I had read every book and taken every
class and practically spent our last dollar. I
was beating my head against a wall unable
to figure out how the healing was going to
happen. Now I know you just keep hammering away at it. And then one day things shift
a fraction of a degree and the entire world
Three months later, Scott and I pack up the car with crafting supplies, an Ethiopian feast, decorations and paper goods, and
the all-important PowerPoint presentation.
You do realize they’re five, right? Scott asked
me, when I was hunched over the slides late
into the night. It is our family’s turn to do
“International Day” at St. Stephen’s. I was
unreasonably stressed about organizing the
whole thing, because Ethiopia carries significance for T beyond what other kids feel for,
say, Greece or China or Ireland. He has a real
sense of pride and excitement about it. I want
to do something super fun and engaging for
the kids. I want them to get to know my son.
I sit at the front of the room with Tariku
next to me.
“Ethiopia is a very special country for our
family because Tariku was born there and
that’s where we adopted him.”
Six hands shoot up.
Whoa. I was not expecting that one. I came
with injera bread and pictures of antelope.
Naively, I did not come prepared to explain
what adoption is to a bunch of five-year-olds.
None of these kids’ parents have explained to
them what adoption is? From her perch in
the corner, Miss Gia gives me a look of silent
“Families are formed in lots of different
ways,” I say. “Our family was formed through
adoption. Tariku didn’t grow in my belly. He
grew in his birth mom’s belly and then we
adopted him. So he has two moms, his birth
mom and his forever mom—that’s me!”
Six more hands shoot up. Shit.
What happened to his real mom?
Are you gonna show us pictures of his real
I get the on-the-spot, I-don’t-have-the-an-swer brain freeze, like I’ve been caught in a
lie or have been asked too hard a question on
an oral exam. After a long breath, I realize I
actually do know the answer.
I explain that I am Tariku’s mom. That
he also has a birth mom. That we are both
real moms. Then I tell them these are private questions and it is up to T if and when
I am floored by the progress Tariku
has made. He is still enthusiastic
and dancing every five minutes, of
course. He’s still T. But he can sit still
and keep his hands to himself.
Further Reading Find more personal essays
and expert pieces about special-needs adoption at