Here is a story of one of our adoptive moms and how the rhetoric of this election has affected their family. Our mission is to provide positive choices for women experiencing unplanned pregnancies. However, the well-being of the children we place is paramount so we felt compelled to share this story, despite the political overtones. It is so important to know that the way we talk in our homes affects our children greatly. All children need to feel secure, but especially adopted children who’s feelings of permanency are critical. (The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy of Adoption Advocates, Inc).
My husband, Edmond, and I adopted our son, Eli, in 2010 from Texas. I was a five-year breast cancer survivor and unsure if I was able to have a pregnancy. We waited for a year for the magical call from Rory Hall, the agency’s director, and flew with baited breath to Texas to hopefully become parents. It was the one of the most beautiful moment of our lives, so epic that our best friend calls Eli “G.S.E.T.” for “greatest story every told.” We worked with Adoption Advocates in Austin, Texas, and Eli’s birth and subsequent placement was smooth and we returned home to Northern Virginia to figure out parenting. Two years later I became pregnant with Eli’s brother, Austin, whom we named after the city that helped us become a family.
Fast-forwarding to 2016: our sweet son is six-years-old and in the first grade. He is incredibly athletic, on the swim team, plays golf with his father, is constantly outside, is reveling in his new ability to read, and has a smile that could power up an entire city. He is friendly to everyone he meets and greets each teacher at school by name. He is rough and tumble with his younger brother, but incredibly protective of him at the same time. He loves his grandparents, Pokémon, sushi, and hopes to become a veterinarian when he is an adult (he has had pet snakes, frogs, salamanders, caterpillars, and a praying mantis). Eli also is aware of his ethnicity and his adoption and his family. He understands that he is half Mexican and half German, and that my husband is Egyptian and I have a Russian/Polish background, and his brother is half Egyptian. He understands that my family celebrates Chanukah and Rosh Hashanah and is Jewish and that he celebrates Easter and Christmas with Edmond’s family. Diversity is an open conversation in our house and our son has friends of different backgrounds, ethnicities, and religions.
And then there is today. I brought my two boys to vote today and we talked about elections and voting. Eli had just had an election in his first grade classroom where the class voted to name his pet frog (he was dismayed that “Sparkles” won.) Austin talked about potentially having a “girl” president and we talked about how many more presidents there would be until they could vote themselves. My boys took the process incredibly seriously, and they were silent and said they were serious like “soldiers” while I colored in my circles. They proudly marched out with stickers that said “future voters.” I tucked Eli into bed tonight and he suddenly said:
If Trump wins, I heard that we all have to go back to wherever we came from. People have to go back to where they are from. So I have to go back to Texas? Where I was born? I don’t want to go there. I want to live with you. Will Austin go somewhere? Daddy? Someone at school told me people have to go back to where they were born.
I tried to reassure my scared little boy that he would never be separated from me like that. I reassured him that we were a family and we stick together. I tried to somewhat explain what Donald Trump meant about immigration and people from different countries. I promised that a president can’t break our family apart. Eli listened and then said, “I’m just scared.” He finally went to sleep and I had a good cry. I posted my feelings on Facebook, which I often do, and my post quickly had replies from friends who had children who also had fears, fears that there would be a civil war, fears that Trump would allow people to hit each other, fears that parents of different nationalities would have to go back to their country of birth… just fears and fears and fears.
I am a clinical psychologist who specializes in trauma, and I have witnessed what this election is doing to our communities, to our friends, to our families, to people: women who have been assaulted and are feeling re-traumatized by the words of Trump, parents who worry what will happen to our world and to our children, adult children who are finding rifts with their family members over different political viewpoints, and our children are impacted the most. Multiple surveys, such as one conducted by Teaching Tolerance, are showing that this election is having a profoundly negative impact on our children and in classrooms. Children have higher levels of fear and worries in terms of their own safety and their parents’. There is an increase in bullying of students with different ethnicities and religions. Our educators have to figure out how to teach our children about this election without raising their anxieties. It is devastating to watch and hear.
It has been manageable for me to listen to my patients talk about their stresses related to this election, and help them develop coping strategies to get through this election, or set boundaries, or release stress. It is quite different as a parent, and as an adoptive parent. November is National Adoption Month. Our son is proud of his adoption story, especially that his parents flew on a tiny airplane to Odessa to get him. It broke my heart into the tiniest of pieces tonight to hear his security and identity threatened by what he has heard at school among his peers about this election, specifically Donald Trump. We are raising our children to be better than us – to accept, to unify, to love, to be good people – it is truly the job of a parent. I am unsure how to do that if Donald Trump wins the presidency. I don’t know how to promise my son that everything will be okay when he is terrified that he will be returned to Texas. We owe ourselves and our children better than this overwhelming fear and all the sadness it brings. We owe our children security and kindness and forward steps where we are a country that tries to works as one. I don’t know what will happen on Tuesday. I was proud of my boys watching me vote for a female president. For now, my focus is reassuring my son that his home is where it has always been: with me and his father and his brother.
Written by Amy Ebeid, 2016