Tonight we had the family meeting that has been put off for far too long. Breaking the news was originally postponed because it was so far away and I didn't want to be inundated daily with questions until time for departure. With that time quickly approaching, I no longer had a reason to put it off.
Keith has been wanting and ready to tell them at any given moment. Just drop the bomb during casual conversation at the kiddie table. His hints at anything related to moving to the east side of Africa were met with the death stare by me. My concern has mostly been for the eldest child. The one with the best memory of his time in Ethiopia. The child who is a thermostat for his siblings.
The night we celebrated Christmas in Ethiopia, January 7th, the kids were in a story-telling mood. Mostly they recited books they've heard over and over, but Garrison would throw in an "Ethiopia story," as he calls them. Usually they are prefaced with, "I'm going to tell you a story about Ethiopia," but this night he began each one with, "I can tell you a bad story about Ethiopia or a really bad story about Ethiopia." Hmmm. That's a tough decision. When we asked for a good story, he launched into one about snakes. "But Ivan doesn't die," he said. Well, that's good.
I've sat through many a tale of his birth country, and for several reasons I believe they are true reports. He often tells the same stories, and the only difference each time is in the advancement of his vocabulary. For instance, one of his first accounts was of his home being engulfed in flames. Because at the time he didn't know the word for fire, he showed me with his hands and gestures toward the gas stove. And, the people in these episodes have gone from "a boy (or girl) who was taller than me," as he shows me a height with his hands to recognizing their titles or what they were called.
Another reason for postponing this convo? Three times in the last 2 months, we have heard kids say something to him about "adoption" or made a reference to "your real mom in Ethiopia." I was just assuming that all kinds of stuff was going to come out when we informed him of our plans, and many of our answers would be too much for Ivan. Even though only 2 years separate them in age, they are miles apart cognitively.
Thanks to the advice of my dear wise friend Megan, who loves our kids as if they were her own family, we told Garrison first and told him alone. We wanted to make him feel special, as the oldest, be able to answer the slew of questions we knew he'd come up with, and get him "on board" with the decision before his reaction could influence either sibling.
Before Keith got home, I had taken the kids to a nearby grocery store to let them pick out dinner and dessert for Friday Family Fun Night. That's right, butter 'em up. This momma knows the way to her kids' hearts. The stomach and the sweet tooth.
It worked. The news went over remarkably well.
Garrison said he was excited about going because he'd get to finish learning Amharic. Keith gave him a little boost of confidence and responsibility by letting him be the one to share the big news with the other two.
Avery was giddy, smothering us with hugs as if her wildest dreams were coming true. Then, "Our fruit bars!" she screamed, remembering the dessert they picked out.
Ivan followed Avery's lead but quickly questioned their safety with haunting thoughts of big brother's super scary reports of animals running rampant.
Keith explained that we would not be eaten by hyenas and that just like here in Georgia, humans are generally kept safe from the animals. Then I pulled out the fruit bars.
Praise God for preparing their hearts for this and leading us in the conversation. We are also grateful for Simon's new home...and that the kids are excited for him to go live with the Smiths. He and Mr. Chris have a special bond.
Pictured below are what looks to be 1 angel and 2 complete hams.
Giving some credit again to our photographer Ryan Alexander of Alexander Creative. Although he is now on the west coast, his amazing work is still available online.