The story of Ha-neul, Haet-sal, and Iseul’s happy family

You’ve adopted three older children. We are curious about how they came home to your family.

My wife and I had no child for 7 years after we got married. To start with, we planned to adopt children after having ours. Thinking that the order would not matter to us, we decided for adoption without waiting any more. Haet-sal and Iseul were living in the same room of the same institutional shelter after being found in the baby boxes. We adopted both of them as we presumed it would be better to do so as if they had been sisters. My wife who was then working as a school nurse sort of preferred older children to newborns. Adopting Haet-sal and Iseul, we came to know that there were many children who had been under institutional care since they were abandoned or lost and found in baby boxes. It may be the reason why we leaned to the two children particularly and why Ha-neul who is now 14 years old also came to us in Feb., 2018.

They say that it is challenging to adopt an older child rather than a newborn baby. Haven’t you had a hard time of it?

 Many people are afraid that it can be harder to build attachment relationship in the event of adopting older children instead of newborn babies. It is likely enough, of course. The adoption of Haet-sal (born in 2013) was determined in 2015 and that of Iseul (born in 2014) in 2016. After coming home to our family, Haet-sal awoke and cried every two hours at night. Iseul was excessively gluttonous. My heart ached. It was not because we had trouble to take care of the children who came to us successively in a short period, but because we worried if the scars lingering in their hearts had a bad effect or if they were in want of more love. Ha-neul was such a courteous and exemplary child as to be chosen as schoolchild president. However, it looks like he could not have sufficient opportunities for expressing his emotions while he lived in a group home. Initially, he told he had been happy in the shelter. Later on, though, he confessed he had cried from time to time. Hearing someone say that crying could be harder on him, he used to express his emotions by covering himself with a blanket. It was this kind of message, ‘I’m angry. Don’t get on my nerves.’ So, I am trying to talk with him more often. I even say to him jokingly in a bid to share his ideas and emotions, “Ha-neul! Differently from what you think you are, you can get violent.”

 As older children were adopted, they have a good understanding of what they are told compared with newborns and they are pretty good at basic living ways. When we say, “Let’s go out.”, they themselves find their socks, put on their shoes, and wait at the front door though they are only 3 or 4 years old. It is not difficult for them to wash their hands, brush their teeth, and get their hair washed. They do such things by habit as they used to do independently when in a group home. One day Ha-neul came home with a piece of his work which he had completed in the art class of his elementary school. Its subject could be family because ‘Mom and dad, I love you. From me raised with love’ was written on it. And there were two adults drawn on it. At a careful look, though, I could identify two women. I asked him who they were. He replied they were aunties. Auntie was the common name of any female social worker, which was called by the children of the shelter. From their babyhood, they lived a group life, calling the social workers ‘auntie’ and taking them as their family members. As a matter of course, they could not have any clear idea about mother, father, and the structure of family. Each and every word and act of our children made me so sad in the initial stages. I just thought I would have to accept all the words and acts as they were because they had been part of them since their early childhood. In a sense, the habits that our children had acquired through the group life made things sort of convenient under the circumstances that my family got bigger suddenly. I also came to think that rules would be necessary in a family. I feel many sentiments while I raise them.

You strive to let people know the good functioning of adoption and improve their perception of it. How do you think our society think of ‘adoption’?

When hearing that children have been adopted, people say, ‘Oh, what a pity!’ They say to adoptive parents, “It’s a tough world to raise even one’s own child. You’re great and adorable.” Adopted children are not miserable, though. They are happy children. It is not right that only parents get happy through adoption, isn’t it? I presume that adoption is the most active and positive type of family good for children, and good for parents as well. So we post the happy lives of our family on social media more often than not. Comments like ‘After looking Haet-sal’s family, we decided for adoption.’ have been left. Instead of promoting adoption outright by saying ‘Why don’t you adopt children?’, we try to keep people informed of what a good and happy life we live, how well our children grow up, and how come an adoptive family could be happier than a non-adoptive family. I will be happy if, through us, their prejudices against adoption can be changed.

There is another look at adoptive children. Supposition goes as far as ‘children who were born through inappropriate relationship or who should not have been born in an immoral situation’. In this case, many people are reminded of unmarried mothers. When Ha-neul comes to my family, I asked about his birth mother. But he just frowned and shook his head. Although he was a little child, he thought ill of her. As a parent who are already into ‘adoption’, I think that prejudices against unmarried mothers are overly deep-seated in our society. My wife and I tell him that he needs to be grateful to her for giving birth to him instead of giving him up and he could not have become our son otherwise. To help my children not to think of their birth mothers in a negative way, my family members participate in not only the adoptive families’ self-help meetings but also the gatherings which are joined by unmarried mothers. I once asked Ha-neul if he would like to go to see the place where he was found, and he said yes. I try to open and ponder together on the parts which my children are curious about, for example, their birth mothers and the baby boxes and the places where they were found. By thinking over them from the standpoint of my children rather than hiding such things for fear that they should get hurt, I try to figure out ways of satisfying their curiosity. I think my children can only establish their own identities better in future when such parts are unknit naturally from their early childhood.

When it comes to this point, it seems that in our society, there are many prejudices against what is different from mine, not merely against ‘adoption’ and ‘unmarried mothers’. All these prejudices can probably be broken when being different from mine or being special becomes acceptable.

Many people still waver though they are willing to adopt children, don’t they?

It is natural to think it over. The period when they waver despite their intention of adoption is called pregnancy period. It would be good to worry and enjoy themselves to the full during the period. A single day will be enough for all the distresses to disappear once they begin to live together with children looking at them smile. To establish a firmly positive mind-set before adoption will be helpful. When I got in adoption, I was strong-willed to get involved in my children’s lives positively. I did not think they would cut in on my life through adoption. I deem it the goal of my life to put my children first when hardships are imminent or a decision should be made and to set up good environment for them. I once went so far as to think about moving to a rural area, and changing my job as well. I know there are many people who are worried over career breaks. My wife also quit her job after adopting our children. However, I think that raising them well till they grow into adults and figuring out what they want to do are my job and dream. And we all are happy at present though we are not well off.

What do you want your children to become and what type of family do you want to make?

My wife and I chose disclosed adoption proudly when we decided on adoption. Because the past of our children is not the kind of thing that can be deleted if we try to conceal it and they may perceive that adoption is something sorrowful or secret if we falter and get uncomfortable even a bit. We want to help them build up resistance necessary for overcoming difficult conditions on their own by telling them literally about all the prejudices and inflictive situations which they will happen to suffer through life. And we say to them all the time, “The stories as part of you are special, so you have the advantage of being able to arouse someone’s interest and warm feelings. We hope you’ll grow into wonderful persons, making good use of it. We also want you to become ones who return the love given you to many people.”

Our humble wish is that the children would be brought up healthily and courteously. We also want to add more siblings so that they all can play together delightfully. We would like to adopt up to 10 if possible. Guess each of them to grow up and adopt 10. We will hopefully make a prestigious adoptive family of more than 100 members.