Green chair
This is where the ghost sits.

Around Halloween last year, Bini decided there was a ghost in the house. But rather than be afraid of the ghost, he wanted to engage with it. Or rather, he wanted me to engage with it. So, while he hid under a blanket on my lap, I was supposed to talk to it.

“What should I say?” I whispered to the lump on my lap.

“Tell him about me!” Bini hissed back.

The ghost sat in our green chair, across from the sofa in our living room. The ghost wasn’t supposed to know that Bini was there, so I lied about his whereabouts. I told the ghost that Bini was in kindergarten, that he was doing really well, that he played soccer. I told the ghost what Bini’s favorite foods were, who his best friends were, and which TV shows he preferred. If Bini showed himself, I got to tickle him. I know. Weird game. But it went on for a couple of weeks and then, mercifully, went away. I was running out of things to say to the ghost.

Yesterday, I was walking the horde of neighborhood children up to school. Timmy, Bini’s friend, told us that his parents were going to San Francisco for the weekend.

“My mom and dad lived there, for like, 20 or 30 years, or something,” said Bini.

“And you’re adopted,” said Timmy.

“I know that!” Bini snarled.

I’ve read tons of adoption books and articles, I’ve been to the support groups and trawled online forums. I knew this moment was coming, but when it did, I panicked. I said something in a fake bright voice like, “That’s right, he’s adopted!” but by then the horde was busy trying to kick moss off the sidewalk.

Bini hung back a bit and I could tell that he was trying not to cry. I sent the kids on ahead and talked to him for a few minutes. He was mad at Timmy. He was sad. He felt different. So I walked with him, hand in hand, until we got to the roundabout where parents drop off their kids. He told me he was OK from there, and as he ran for the doors, he looked back a few times to wave. When he opened the door, I blew him a kiss, and he blew one back.

That afternoon, when he got home from school, he went to the sofa. “I want to play ghost again.”

It had been awhile, so I had a lot of things to tell the ghost — we’d been to California, to Portland, to Sun Peaks. Bini was reading. Bini had learned to ski. Bini was still playing soccer, but he had leveled up, to the “Skills Institute.” I told the ghost that Bini had gone to a sock hop and that he was doing drama after school on Fridays.

“Tell him I miss my birth mom,” Bini whispered, from under the blanket.

“Bini really misses his birth mom,” I said. “I know he thinks about her every day, all the time, and that he wishes he could see her. And he misses his birth dad, too,” I looked at the empty green chair. “Maybe if you see them, you can tell them that.”

Bini pushed the blanket off his head and turned to face me. “I love you, Mom,” he said, very seriously. He kissed my cheek and hugged me, hard. Bini thinks kissing is gross and shrieks in horror every time I try to plant one. So this was kind of a big deal.

Maybe I knew all along that the ghost was a proxy for Bini’s birth parents. But until yesterday, I didn’t realize what an honor it was that he had chosen me to communicate with them.


  1. PLEASE consider coming to Decatur and doing a 2 or 3 day intensive session with Janice and Barbara at “The Center for Attachment Recources”. You have no idea how it will benefit your precious Bini. You can stay at my house!! We’re 2 blocks from them. I will facilitate as much as possible. I would give anything to have found them sooner (both my girls are adopted from China). I’m friends with Linda and Clayton. Call me anytime. 832 978-8681. Karen

  2. Thanks, Katie and Karen. I feel like Bini’s plenty attached — two therapists have deemed him as such — and this is just part of the normal sorting-out-of-things. I could be wrong — it’s good to have therapeutic options, for sure.

    1. Hey Kristin!!

      My children were attached also, (they don’t just work with attachment disorder). But our children have had such a different experience. It can manifest in so many ways, at different developmental stages. It was my experience that most therapists could not grasp fully the needs of my children, not because they were incompetent, but because they don’t deal with ethnically different
      (in the minority, and different from their parents), and children who have experienced different cultures, even as a baby. For instance, my 16 year old was just diagnosed with “social anxiety disorder”. Janice and Barbara believe ( I concur), that the origins of her disorder began in China. Even though she was only eight months old when I got her. The work they do in that office is nothing short of miraculous. Think of it as an “insurance policy” for any future issues and a downright neat experience. By the way, I think the way he’s working through his issues with the “ghost” is wonderful. He sounds like a smart, intuitive kid!

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