(This is part of an ongoing series chronicling memories of my life growing up as a missionary kid in Vanuatu. For links to previous posts you can go here)
In Vanuatu families share many things amongst each other. There is not so much a feeling of 'this is mine' but rather 'this is ours'. There is also the idea that if someone asks you for something you can not say no, no matter how much you value the item asked for.
This included children. Often if a couple is unable to have children family members will give them one of their children to raise as their own. From what we had seen it was quite accepted - a student had explained it to us as "I have been blessed with so many children, of course I would want to share one with my brother." Our Principal and his wife had three children this way, who knew their aunt was their biological mother and their mother was their biological aunt, but just accepted it as fact.
We had rejoiced and touted this example of sharing to people back in Australia when the Principal and his wife were given a family.
But what if you didn't make the decision about your child? What if the child was requested rather than given?
Mum and I went to visit the new baby born to the family across from us. Her name is Chrissy and she is plump and sweet but the family are down cast. They do not smile, their faces are drawn. They accept our gift and show off Chrissy but something is not quite right.
A few days later we find out that Chrissy's uncle lives in a village not far from Talua. He had come to visit them after Chrissy's birth, obviously waiting to see if the baby had been their 6th girl or their 2nd boy. When it was a girl he said; “You have many girls. My wife and I have no children. When Chrissy is weaned she will come and live with us and be our child.” And they could not say no.
I forgot this news, we watch Chrissy grow up. She is still plump and is all smiles and giggles. I watch her older sisters smother her with love and affection. She is almost walking when we hear wailing coming form their house one night. The next day Chrissy is no where to be seen. Her ‘Mother’ had come to take her ‘home’.
We had seen the wonderful side of adoption in Vanuatu, with families who don't have children are able to have a family when children are given to them. But now we saw for the first time the other side, the family where a much loved child had had to been given up. And we don’t quite know what to think.