Category Archives: Adoptive parenting

Triad View: Trans-familied feelings of an adoptee

Tessa and I are different in so many ways. I love to read (an introvert)…she loves to interact (extrovert). I can’t stand to have bare feet…she can’t stand to wear shoes. I like tidy and sorted…her room is post-Katrina-esque. She wakes up cheerful and eager…I, well, I don’t.

Earlier this summer, I ran across this notion in an adoptee blog, Joy’s Division. Joy explains the difference between who she was born to be and who she was raised to be. I am reminded of her post every time I notice how different I am from Tessa (more so with her than with Reed).

It was like two Golden Retrievers adopting a daschound, they were busy trying to understand why I wasn’t a Golden Retriever. They did their best to help me be a Golden Retriever, who can blame them? That is what they knew how to be. They didn’t know how to be a short legged long dog. They wanted to help me overcome my short legged long dogness, but were at a loss, and gave up.

Joy’s post is an important one for adoptive parents in understanding how an adopted child might feel. But I’m not sure what to do with this insight. In fact, I believe Joy is not saying I should or shouldn’t do anything as Tessa’s mom. She’s saying that this is simply what happens in adoption, when a child shares the biology of one tribe and the biography of another. Perhaps the best I can do is just to be aware.

So today I’m full of questions and musings. What is it like to have me as a mom? What is it like to be part of our family? Will Tessa one day feel as if she was forced into being something she’s just not? What can I do to prevent her from having lingering feelings of being trans-familied?

Ideas? Thoughts?

Adoption Issue? Parenting Issue? Ego Issue?

In response to my Triangle Tangle, I’m getting a lot of empathy, for which I’m grateful, but not a lot of concrete advice. I believe this is because Open Adoption is still largely uncharted territory. And Crystal and I are like Lewis and Clark.

One person asked me privately if such a situation gives credence to Closed Adoption advocates. Or to anyone who judges one’s parenting decisions from the sidelines. She says:

People have their own agendas, and validation of their beliefs may be one of them. And my children’s behavior may be one of the indicators used in vindicating a cherished doctrine.

At first I thought she was talking about people who say “Told you it was a mistake to have Crystal in your lives,” (which no one has said). But she continues thoughtfully with:

So I wondered if something similar may turn the heat up a little higher on you when these questions begin. And maybe cause you to read more into it than Tessa may have meant; maybe in this case it really WAS about the purse and keys. Maybe it’s about wanting to feel grown-up.

Me, have my own agenda and need validation?! Oh, that damn ego again. No matter what happens, there I am having to deal with me.

So maybe, as my friend says, Tessa really just wants to carry my purse and keys and phone (don’t suggest giving her old ones — we’ve tried that and they must not be “me” enough for her because she still comes after my real ones.)

Maybe lipstick is just lipstick. Reframe the tangle as a parenting issue, not an adoption issue.


Maybe this is a problem with Open Adoption (not that I would throw out the proverbial baby with the bathwater). Tessa has enough information on how her life would otherwise have been to build an idyllic picture in her head about it. She can see the grass on the other side of the fence, but it will never be her yard. Yet her older bio-brother gets to play there all the time.

I am still wondering about a day at Crystal’s or even a sleepover. Would either help to resolve the issue for Tessa, or would it exacerbate it? Would it help her to see that the grass isn’t greener? Or just intensify a longing for that yard?

Someday I will know these answers…I’m thinking in about 16 years. For now I just try to lead with my heart and be aware of my ego’s motives.

Parenting: a Triangle Tangle

The other night our family went out to eat with a good friend, her 10 year old son, and her new boyfriend (whom she was very excited for us to meet).

As always, being together was full of laughs and fun. The boyfriend, a charming, attentive and down-to-earth guy, passed muster.

After dinner, Tessa asked to speak with my friend and me privately. We three went outside the restaurant.

“So,” she said, “what I want to tell you both is that it’s time for you to switch.”

My friend and I looked at each other, knowing what is coming and trying to figure out how to handle it.

“Mom,” Tessa said, “It’s YOUR turn to be my birth mom, and Crystal, I want to come live with you for awhile.”

You’ve figured out that my friend, Crystal, is also Tessa’s first mom.

“Well, honey,” Crystal said, “it doesn’t work that way. I already gave birth to you and no one else can ever do that again. You’re too big!” We all giggled, a bit uncomfortably.

“But I want to live with you, just for awhile,” claimed Tessa, ever the persistent one.

“Why? How do you think life with me would be?” asked Crystal.

“We could play. I could have your purse and your keys and your cell phone and your lip gloss. All day!”

(See, I learned after the first time my keys got lost and I found my cell phone perched precariously over the toilet NOT to allow my children to play with these things. Tessa has always had a HUGE affinity for these accouterments of adulthood. Other people indulge her, but I do not.)

“Oh, Tessa. It’s not like that at my house,” responded Crystal. “I work much of the time, and when I’m home, Tyler and I do a lot of chores.”

Before long, Tessa brought Tyler out of the restaurant and into the conversation (I told you she’s a pitbull), and he vouched for the fact that there’s not a lot of play time in Crystal’s household.

Tessa hung on to Crystal’s keys, purse and cell phone for the rest of the evening. While out of Tessa’s earshot, Crystal offered to have Tessa over for a day just to see what a “typical” day in her house is like. I can see this scenario going so many different ways.

Part of me (a big part) wishes this were just about the purse, etc. But I know it’s really a deeper processing. Both Crystal and I have done some of our grieving and healing from the losses we endured. Now it’s Tessa’s turn. How do we help?

Any comments or suggestions from people not emotionally invested? I really welcome them.

Resulting post: Adoption Issue? Parenting Issue? Ego Issue?