Saturday, July 30, 2011

Hanai - "I will give you a child"

I am looking at my small son, Kawaikapuomaui, as I contemplate giving him away.  My throat tightens and I drop my head downward to feel his soft hair on my face.  My arms en-wrap him like a beloved Tapa and I do not want to let him go.......

In the history of my culture there exist the practice of giving a child to another family. Heartless? Cold? Perhaps to some it could seem that way.  In fact, I know to some, it is that way. For, I have an Uncle who was Hanai'd away to a family with the last name Kanai.  Once I made a joke and called him Hanai Kanai!  I thought it was very funny until my sister, Kekula, quickly corrected me, saying, "He is very hurt that he was given away."  It was sad on several levels. (1) He lived his whole life feeling like he was not wanted. (2) Tutu's gesture was misunderstood. (3) This was a testament to the fact that our culture in the truest sense was lost.

The Hawaiian tradition of hanai'ing a child away was a beautiful way of sharing and connecting, which is, in my opinion, one of the greatest expression of love that a family could show.  It is a difficult thing to be in love and to not be able to produce a baby to solidify that union with a little life made of each other.  Heartbreaking? Yes.  In times past, this situation would have presented an opportunity for a family, (husband and wife), to fill the heal the emptiness... I imagine, the love that a hanai'd baby would receive from his adoptive parents and the bond that would exist between the two families... 

Within the Hawaiian community, outside the immediate family, the most potent expression of Aloha was to say..."I will give you a child."  

I feel his breath on my face and contemplate giving him throat tightens....and you might wonder, "Would she do it?" and I say to you....yes.  Not Kawaikapuomaui, 'Hele or Hana...but yes...I would. 

For Kekula....


  1. You read it....I've been waiting:) Silververse...if there is anything I left out...let me know and I will update Hanai