Adopting Children/Adopting Pets

A writer recounts a conversation with preschoolers who only know about adoption as something that happens to pets:
Months ago I went to a preschool moving sale. Everything was for sale. I enjoyed watching several children reminiscing about their time at this school. They were taking turns reading to each other in an unstructured setting they chose.

The preschool director and two little girls were sorting stuffed animals. I sensed that they were consoling the director. When offered a chair, I readily became involved. Among the treasures was a box of hand puppets. We each chose one and pretending to be that animal, we talked together.

After a few minutes the girls asked me if I had children, where they were, and how old they were. I shared photos of them when they were 3 and 5 years old and said my boys were now men and dads to their own children. I told the girls both my sons were adopted. They looked perplexed; I was prompted to ask if they knew what “adopted” meant.

They conferred, one saying, “Adopted, adopted, I heard that word before.” The other one said, “Yeah, me too.” They scratched their heads, they asked their hand puppets, and still a bit unsure, the older girl announced, “I know, I remember now.” She then looked straight at me wide-eyed and quipped, “You adopted your kids from a shelter? Did you go there and look at a bunch of babies to pick them out?”

A little surprised, realizing they associated adoption with pet shelters I tried to satisfy their new curiosity by telling them that adopting children is different from choosing a cute pet. That little interaction gave me pause.