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An Adoption Game Show

Conversations about adoption are rarely planned, so parents have to be ready with details at a moment's notice. On a recent evening with my kids, I experienced that times three.

by Danielle Pennel

The other night, I was on a game show. It took place in my daughter's bed, during my children's bedtime. I was the only contestant, and I had to respond to rapid-fire questions from the three hosts. Luckily, there were no wrong answers, as every time I answered a question, one of the hosts (who were also the audience members) cheered, "Yes!"

OK, so it wasn't a show that you'd find on the Game Show Network. That's just what it felt like when a story time with my kids turned into a question-and-answer session, with my explaining the details of each of their adoptions.

Our Family's Stories

I was reading to my three kids (ages three, six, and eight) from one of my favorite adoption books, Tell Me Again About the Night I Was Born, by Jamie Lee Curtis. All of my children entered our family through domestic newborn adoption, so the story closely resembles theirs.

Whenever we read this book, I insert some personal details into the telling. For example, on the page where the couple is on the airplane, flying to meet their baby, I tell my two oldest children that their dad and I went through baby name books and chose their names on the flight. Or, when the baby in the story doesn't care for his first bottle, I tell my youngest that Dad fed him his first bottle.

Knowing all about how your child came into your family is one of the billion responsibilities a parent holds. For most families, there is one story, which involves a pregnancy, a delivery, and a trip home from the hospital. For an adoptive family, there will be two, possibly three, stories. The first story is of the birthmother's pregnancy and her decision to make an adoption plan. The second is the adoptive parents' route to parenthood, which includes meeting the child and bringing him home. And, in some cases, there is a third story, which is the child's alone, about what happened to him after birth until he was adopted. This is a lot to keep straight, especially if you have to recall the stories of multiple children.

Is the Contestant Ready?

Before adopting, I had pictured talking to my children about their adoptions as a sit-down, face-to-face conversation, in a quiet environment. In my mind, it may even have begun with my child asking, "Mom, can you tell me all about my adoption while I sit here quietly for an hour and listen?" Now, I can assure adoptive parents that most adoption conversations with your kids will not be planned, and they will last only a few minutes. Some of our conversations have been sparked by a TV show we watched or a question a stranger asked us. A lot of our conversations come in gasps, between their asking me if we can go to McDonald's or telling me about a video game they played. After years of receiving adoption questions out of the blue, I know I must recall adoption details immediately.

However, I never envisioned a conversation with all three of my kids shouting adoption questions at me, yelling joyfully when I answered with their names, and bouncing on the bed with excitement. "Mom, which one of us had the most hair when we were born?" "Mom, whose birthmother was the tallest?" "Mom, who was in the hospital the longest?" "Mom, who drank the most from their first bottle?" "Mom, which of us did you wait the longest for?" "Mom, whose birthparents did you talk to most recently?"

On our crazy adoption game show, I didn't win any prizes, but I am thrilled to have played. I loved that my children were so comfortable asking me questions about their adoptions. It was cool to see how excited they were to compare their stories and, because they're siblings, try to one-up each other. I'm not sure if a situation like this one is unique to adoptive families, but I was happy that it was mine.

Who knows if my three adorable game show hosts will ask me on their show again. Just in case, I need to study my kids' scrapbooks to get the details in order, so I can get the all-time high score.

Danielle Pennel is the mother of three through domestic adoption. She is the community moderator of adoptivefamiliescircle.com and writes the "My Paperwork Pregnancies" blog on the site.

PHOTO: Writer Danielle Pennel with husband and children

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