Wednesday, September 26, 2012

just call him "albex"

To most people it wouldn't seem like any big deal. Nearly all three year old's can say their own name, right? But to me, it was huge. Huge! The new daycare that my tiny toddler attends sent home a 36 month old developmental assessment for me to complete, so I was sitting on the floor last night asking my little man to zip up his coat, (he can!), hop on two feet, (he can do that too!), hop on one foot, (he cannot and fell right over.) He looked totally puzzled when I asked him to put his shoe on the table and his book under it. After all, I have spent months teaching him that it is the other way around. My little guy drew a line and circle and he pointed to every body part I named.

When I glanced at the test the day my sweet husband brought it home I figured that my son would do well on it. I knew he could do most of the tasks listed. But one caught my attention : ask your child to say his name. I have been doing this for months now, and every time he either ignores me or says "me". He knows his name; he answers when we call him and he recognizes the letter "A" and will point to it and say "my name". But I had never heard him say his name.

Maybe it's just me but as an adoptive parent I have often wondered what it must be like to suddenly have these strange looking people calling you a name you do not recognize. How disorienting that must be. We did keep both of our son's birth country names as their new middle names, and we did call them by these names at first. In fact, we still call our oldest son "Matthew Zhao" so often that his little brother has called him "Zhao" from day one. But still, you worry.

Identity is so important to an internationally adopted child. I am quick to anger. Like my mother and her Italian father. I am musical, like my father. My sister and I have very similar voices- sometimes on the phone it is hard to tell us apart. I have very visible roots. In college most of the music professors knew me first as "James Kirk's daughter" and would often greet me by saying, "Hi Beth, How's your dad?" And I hated it. I was so much more than this amazing music teacher's daughter. Having my identity so tightly wrapped to my father's name bothered me so much that I started college majoring in education, only to change to music education two wasted years later.  And being labeled a "Kirk" was nothing compared to the identity crisis internationally adopted children often face. So I worry, sure.

But last night I sat on the living room floor with my little man and I asked him what his name was. And he said "Albex". I cheered. My big five year old cheered. I made him repeat it over and over again- it was the most beautiful music I had ever heard. My "Albex" is one step closer to his identity, and I am one proud mama!

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