Denney was less than a year old when he went to the orphanage in Russia. He didn’t know much about his history before joining our family; but that was by his own choice. Psychologists had told us to answer his questions honestly, but to give him no more than that. “When he is ready to know, he will ask,” they told us.
The first real questions came when he was about five. “Are my mom and dad from Russia alive?” “No,” his new mother told him. “They both died.” That was all he wanted to know. His only response was “Okay,” as he turned and walked away.
Then he wanted to know who took him to the orphanage. “Your Russian mother took you there, before she died,” his new mother told him. “Oh. Okay.” Again, that was all he wanted. He asked for bits and pieces along the way and we continued to answer his questions. But Denney was given to fits of rage, more so than any of our other children, including those from Russia who were old enough to remember violent abuse at the hand of their own birthmother, before being placed in orphanages.
Thomas Gray said; “Where ignorance is bliss, tis folly to be wise.” While Denney’s erratic fits of anger showed that he was far from bliss, his imagination seemed safer to him than reality. “Mom, did I have a pet elephant in Russia? I think I remember that my Russian mom took me for walks while I was riding my pet elephant.” His new mother sat him on her lap. “No, Sweetheart. You didn’t have a pet elephant. But your dad and I know what happened to your parents in Russia. We will tell you about it whenever you want to know. But that is a choice that you get to make. We won’t tell you until you ask us.” “Oh. Okay… (long pause) I don’t want to know right now.”
My son’s imagination continued in pleasant and horrific directions simultaneously. The questions about pleasant “supposed memories” were always answered honestly, and contrary to what he hoped might have been true. He never approached us with his “Steven King-type” imaginations.
I thought somebody murdered my Russian dad and I thought that
wolves ate Mama Oksana after she took me to the orphanage
Denney was ten when he finally approached his new mother and told her that he wanted to know the truth about his history. She asked him if he wanted it right then, or if he wanted time alone with her and me, when we could answer all of his questions with no one else around. Denney opted for the latter. Denney loves dinosaurs, so we planned a trip with just him, to the “fairly” local Dinosaur National Park. As we sat in our hotel room, my wife, Amy, placed Denney on her lap and told him of the events that led to the suicide of his Russian father. “Then, before you were a year old, ‘Mama Oksana’ took you to the orphanage. Then she went home and killed herself, too.”
I waited for an outburst of emotion that never came. “Oh,” he replied. Then he shrugged. I thought somebody murdered my Russian dad and I thought that wolves ate Mama Oksana after she took me to the orphanage.”
“And the truth shall set you free.” To Denney, multiple suicides were not nearly as difficult to accept as the imaginations that a loving, caring, providing father had been unjustly murdered by bandits and that a virginal princess mother, who took him for walks on his elephant, was savagely shredded by a pack of hungry wolves. Denney now understood that his Russian parents suffered the results of their own bad choices and that he was a victim of those choices. It now made more sense to him why his American parents were so adamant about him learning to control his anger. He could grasp, more than ever, that his own bad choices affected other members of the family, rather than just him. He never wanted to do things that made his family as sad as his Russian parents had made him.
Children are not the only ones who let their imaginations run wild. If only the rest of us would take time to consider all facts rather than freaking out and exaggerating every article that makes it into print. Of course there are fathers of babies that have been murdered by bandits. More often there are those who choose to end their own lives, despite the consequences that will affect the ones they love. There are also mothers who have been shredded by packs of wolves. They pale in comparison to the numbers of those who switch off their lives and even more often, those who beat their offspring senseless and bloody. In the same light, there are babies who have been manipulated away from naïve birthmothers, but that doesn’t mean that is the case with all adopted infants. There should never be a market for stolen babies, but there has been, and there is. Still, Child Catchers do not provide for the majority of adoptions. In traveling the world, with my own eyes I have seen thousands of children who need new families. Most times the reality isn’t the worst that we can imagine. Often there is simply a scared little child, who needs a new mama and papa to help him to deal with his difficult beginnings.
Note: I never share things about my wife’s or children’s histories without their permission. My wife was the daughter of a stalker so notorious, that (according to her mother) he was a suspect in the Ted Bundy murders. She has set an example for my children that by sharing embarrassing parts of their histories, they can help others to overcome their own difficult pasts. In this case, this blog is a gift from my ten-year-old son, Denney, to anyone that it might help. I am so proud of you, Denney.