Question: I’m in a support group for adoptive mothers. We have a new member who adopted her son at about 3 months old. The boy is now 5.
This mother strongly believes her son is hers and there is no need to talk about adoption with him. Her husband supports this opinion.
She broke down crying when we talked about how her son already knows and feels the truth. I would like to break into her resistance gently so as not to lose her attendance in our support group. What can we say to make her understand?
If I were in a support group with this woman, I would start by recognizing her pain, her brittleness. I blame the Closed Adoption Era (not her fault), which really did a number on all of us, not least of all adoptive parents.
But when there are, in reality, two sets of parents — one of biology and one of biography — we must then do some mental gymnastics in order to continually contradict what actually happened. We must deny and negate one set of parents in order to legitimize the other.
If, deep down, you know you are not The Only, and if, deep down, you know you have based your reality on only select bits of truth, you are going to be fearful of Truth and fearful about it making itself known in unexpected ways.
No wonder you feel as though you live in a house of cards build on sand. No wonder you want to put your fingers in your ears and sing laaa-laaa-laaa-I-can’t-hear-you.
Of course you know these things and of course you are going to feel the opposite of resilient. This is not a healthy place to parent from, to live from. In fact, it must feel terrifying. This constant fear of Truth makes you brittle.
So I start from a place of compassion for the plight of this mom. And I would let her know this isn’t the only way to view your family ties.
It doesn’t have to be this way. There is an alternative to living in fear of Truth.
What Would it Cost to Give the Greatest Gift?
Next I would try to get her out of her own fragile perspective and see from her son’s. This will be this mother’s saving grace, not to mention her child’s as well.
Yes, your son is yours. From your point of view, perhaps it feels like he is ONLY yours.
But listen to what adoptees say: when you take this ONLY stance because of your own needs and insecurities, you are forcing your child to negate his own DNA, forcing him to ignore and deny parts of his very being.
The evidence of Truth is in every cell in your son’s body. Why not simply accept the truth rather than fight it? You can’t possibly win when you battle Truth. It’s so much bigger than we are.
What would it cost you to expand your perception of who your child is connected to, and accept that another couple has a legitimate connection to him? What if doing this is the greatest gift you can give to the child you love, and what if, in clamping down from your need to feel “real,” you are damaging the child you love?
Surely you can make this sacrifice for your child. Surely you can deal with your own issues so your child doesn’t have to. This is what parents do: put their child’s needs ahead of their own fears.
I’d then suggest this mom tune in to the resources below.
Listen, Watch, Read:
- Podcast: Contact & Openness in Adoption from the University of Sydney Ideas Podcast Series
- Webinar: To Tell or Not to Tell from Pact, an Adoption Alliance
- Article: What if I’m Raising Someone Else’s Children?
About this Open Adoption Advice Column
- I am not trained as a therapist. Please do not rely on words in this space to make your own major or minor decisions.
- Readers are encouraged to weigh in thoughtfully and respectfully. Remember that this is a teaching endeavor rather than a shaming endeavor, and that we aim to bring light rather than heat. It’s my belief that people do the best they can with what they have to work with, and our goal is to give folks more to work with.
- Send in your own open adoption question. I’ll either offer an answer or find someone who can address your issue.
Lori Holden, mom of a teen son and a teen daughter, blogs from Denver. Her book, The Open-Hearted Way to Open Adoption: Helping Your Child Grow Up Whole, is available through your favorite online bookseller and makes a thoughtful anytime gift for the adoptive families in your life.