Wondrous Wonder

Tonight as I was tucking B into bed, he asked whether I knew anything about superheroes. “What do you want to know?” I replied. He obviously wanted to know a lot, as he started throwing out questions faster than I could answer, such as:

  • Can Spider-Man shoot webs from his head or just his hands?
  • How does Thor fly up in the sky?
  • What’s so special about Black Widow? Can she walk on the ceiling?
  • Will you buy me rockets so I can fly like Iron Man?

And then he said, “But my wondrous wonder is if Hulk can jump from one forest to another. Do you think he could even jump across the world?”

He looked so intently at me that it was abundantly clear how serious he was about his questions. I remember when I shared his wondrous wonder about so many things. What leads us to lose our passion for learning and discovery? At what point does the pursuit of knowledge become tedious and/or designated as a work- or school-related activity? What can we do to continually foster a playful and adventurous spirit as we develop greater wisdom and expand our understanding of the world around us?


Full Circle

I was 12 when I started my first job. It involved selling popcorn and cokes on a Saturday at the football stadium in Winnipeg. I was excited about the opportunity as I could make some money and also watch the Blue Bombers play.

My job involved carrying around a tray of soft drinks to sell to people watching the game in the stands. When I was almost finished one tray, I asked some of the other kids if I could leave a few of my drinks with them while I got another tray. I only did this because I saw the other young people doing the same thing to maximize their opportunity to make more sales early in the game.

When I came back to get the drinks I’d left, the other kids pretended that they didn’t know what I was talking about so that they could sell these drinks without having to cover any of the costs. When my father picked me up after the game, I had to tell him that I’d made no money as I had to pay the stadium back for the drinks that I’d lost. I’d worked for hours with nothing to show for it. My dad never let me work there again, so my first job only lasted one day.

When I was growing up, I was naïve and overly trusting, but experiences such as the football stadium job helped toughen me up so that I could protect myself from those who might try to take advantage of me in the future. It’s easy to take this toughness too far, though, and become cynical and distrustful of others. Now that I’m in my mid 40s, I’m finding that I need to allow myself to be more vulnerable and trusting of others, as this is a healthier and more fulfilling way to live. Yes, I will be taken advantage of at times and likely hurt by others, but it’s better to assume that people are good and generous than to expect the worse of them.



When I was in Grade One, my best friends lived in the sky. I would see them at recess and at lunch when I went outside to the school playground.

If you look up at the sky and then focus intently, you will notice that there are countless little circles bouncing around. I thought these swirling dots were sentient beings that could hear me when I spoke to them.

In Grade Two, my best friend was named Roberto. He lived in a house down the street from me and once gave me a bloody nose with a quick left jab. I didn’t tell him about the circles and I think it’s been 37 years since I’ve even thought about them. I can still see them (I checked the sky today), but I don’t talk to them—or Roberto—anymore.



In Grade One, I received an assignment which required completing the following sentence: “I was most surprised …” I filled in the blanks by writing, “when my parents told me I was adopted.”

Although I classified it as a surprise, I can’t recall ever not knowing that I was adopted. While we never discussed it much as a family, this fact about my birth was never kept a secret from me.

However, my parents made a point of never telling anyone outside of our immediate family that I was adopted. In fact, I don’t think there are too many people who would even know this about me. My brother, James, was not adopted, but my parents never treated us any differently. I can remember many occasions in which people would say to my parents that I looked so much like my dad. The response from my parents would always be something like, “Thank you” or “He sure does.” But there was never a secret wink or nod from them during these encounters. I think that at the heart of it, my parents adopted me as a nine-week-old baby, told me that I was adopted as soon as I was old enough to understand, and then, for the rest of my life, I was totally and wholly theirs without the need for any type of public disclaimer or asterisk.

I have always recoiled when hearing adults introduce a child as their adopted son or daughter. This is especially true when birth children are included in the mix. “This is our daughter ___. And this is our adopted daughter ___.” If you’ve adopted someone into your family, they are now your son or daughter. Why is it necessary to clarify to the world how they’re different or separate from your other children? I suppose that if it is more obvious physically, then people will likely know that a child is adopted and might ask questions, but my discomfort lies not in whether people could/should know if a child is adopted (it doesn’t need to be kept a secret by any means) but rather with how an adopted child is generally viewed, treated and named by their new family unit.

I acknowledge that I’m a white person who was adopted as a baby into a white family. It is likely that I would view the adoption process quite differently if I was an indigenous child who had been removed from her family of origin (or even community), had joined a family through an international adoption process, or was welcomed into a home as an older child.

I know a number of other adoptees who grew up with a deep longing to know more about their birth family. I did not grow up with this desire. Except for when after-school specials about adoption would come on the TV (I could never watch those), I never much thought about my origins. That is, until I turned 34.

At 34, I became a father to my first son. K’s birth was terrifying; there were serious complications and an emergency C-section was required to keep him alive. But then the chaos ended, and I got to hold him close to my chest and to kiss his beautiful face. At that moment I realized K was the first blood relative I had ever met. He came from me.

In the days that followed, I started to think a lot about my adoption. I didn’t feel any sense of loss or pain about not knowing my birth family. My mind wasn’t focused on my needs at all. What I reflected on, and hadn’t thought of before, is how emotional it must have been for my birth mother to carry me inside of her for nine months, to go through the intense and painful process of childbirth, and then to give me up for adoption. Even if surrendering me was the best decision for her, and done without any sense of loss or regret over the years, she must occasionally wonder about me and how my life has turned out. I don’t see how you can go through pregnancy and childbirth without the experiences having a lasting impact on your life.

Without knowing whether my birth mother wanted any contact with me or not, I decided to reach out to let her know I was alive and well and to say thank you for giving me life. I connected with the appropriate government ministry in Nova Scotia and received some documentation about my birth. As I read through the material, I was completely taken aback by the story that unfolded. Although I didn’t think much about my adoption growing up, I realized then that I’d carefully constructed a personal narrative in my mind that had explained it all neatly. Now I was faced with a real person’s story with factual information and a family history. I also understood that once I reached out, I would not be able to control what, if anything, might happen next or how this could impact my life and those closest to me.

The documentation from the government included instructions on how to write to my birth mother through the ministry’s social worker without giving out any of my personal information, such as my new name and address. A month or two later, I received a second letter from the ministry to see if I needed any help writing the letter to my birth mother. After another few months, I received a third letter asking me if I wanted my file to remain active.

K turned nine a few months ago. He has a brother, B, who just turned six. I’m doing my best to raise them to be kind, compassionate and brave.

I still haven’t written to my birth mother.



“I want to unfold.
Let no place in me hold itself closed,
for where I am closed, I am false.”—Rilke

As an adult, there are certain memories from my childhood that I can remember more clearly and readily than others. These are mostly pivotal moments which have influenced the trajectory of my life and shaped the development of my character, behaviour and personality.

One of my earliest memories is of me sitting at the top of a slide at a playground while singing made-up songs to the sun and the trees and the flowers and the birds. I am six years old and I love to sing outside. It’s at this point that a group of older children approach and start mocking me. I don’t understand what I’ve done wrong, but I quickly learn that something I’m doing is not normal.

“What are you singing about?” “Why are you all alone?” “You’re a weirdo.”

I turn away from them and then run and hide.

The soft blanket that I wrap around myself for comfort hardens to become an impenetrable shield. My simple and honest expressiveness is replaced with something false yet tough and sophisticated. I no longer sing. I am closed.

There are places within me that remain shut.

I want to unfold. To be true. To sing again.