Children Are Such Open People

We live in such an internet driven, open society and yet I was reminded recently by someone inquiring about recycling wine corks (which we haven’t done for years now) that it is nearly impossible to get information off of google once it is there. Sometimes that is good, other times not so much. I said once it is out there – it’s eternal. This story from a kinship guardian reflects some concerns that many caregivers have.

Kinship here (legal guardianship). Not a “traditional” adoption, but this is regarding my 10 year old niece whom I have custody of. Her parents are not in the picture at all. How do I express my concerns to my 10 year old niece regarding her disclosing information to her peers, without shaming her for it ? My niece is VERY open about the fact that she lives with Aunt instead of with her parents. She even includes the “why’s” behind it. Again, I am NOT trying to silence nor shame her. I, however, have some concerns:

1.) Whatever my niece shares now, cannot be “unshared” in the future… for MANY years to come. Children live in the moment. Many of us have made public “mistakes” as young kids, that we now look back and cringe at — whether it’s a bad haircut, odd fashion styles, or an obsession with pink glitter Barbies everything. But those are temporary. Information is permanent. What if my niece changes her mind in the future, and decides that she doesn’t want people knowing who/what/where/when/why??? It’s too late… people already know.

2.) As my niece gets older, she will feel differently about her parents. My niece sees her parents in a positive light now, and seemingly has “no issues” with her kinship placement. However, things change as people get older, and they begin to realize that life isn’t all about rainbows and unicorns. There are things that she’ll need to process down the road.

3.) Other people’s responses. I can’t control nor protect my niece from people who respond in a cruel manner. I worry that my niece isn’t emotionally mature enough to handle various different types of responses — both good AND bad. She is a sensitive child. Also, some people assume very very terrible things about kids who do not live with their parents.

Adoptees were quick to point out – It is her story and she should be able to share it as she chooses. Even if she is 10. Even if she may grow into a more nuanced understanding. There is nothing shameful about a child talking about her life and she should feel that nothing is too much to ask the world to handle with her.

An adoptive parent shared – I struggle with this too. My daughter is not quite 5 and so we are just getting into the stage of other kids asking questions, some of which she has never asked herself because to her it’s just normal to have two moms and two dads. I have to remind myself to trust her to make her own choices, since like one adoptee said, it’s her story. But I also worry about the fact that you can’t “unshare” things you have told people. Her class is working on a project right now about babies and her mom has been helping with some of it, and I was wondering if this is going to lead to more questions and whether or not I ought to be managing that more explicitly… but I think we are going to just keep on keeping on, showing what’s normal for our family.

Though there is this practical consideration – it’s totally reasonable to have periodic, age appropriate talks about boundaries and privacy, but at the end of the day, she needs to lead. She will figure out where she missteps, and what she wants to censor/disclose as she matures.

One adoptee shared her real life experience – I wouldn’t say anything. Just show support if something happens and someone is mean. I think the period of me telling my peers was the most important when it came to how I choose to disclose my adoption. I was able to learn and make the decisions based on other people’s reactions. At no point did I ever feel like information was chasing me or out of control.

Realistically – help her with handling cruel responses. It is not your job to protect her from the real world. It is your job to prepare her and help her handle it. She is going to experience the cruel world one way or the other, let it not be a surprise after a sheltered life,

Siblings Bill of Rights Act

Change may come slowly but it does come. In New Jersey there is now a Siblings Bill of Rights Act. This includes –

  • Have access to phone calls and virtual visits between face-to-face visits with their sibling;
  • Be placed in the closest proximity possible to other siblings who are not in out-of-home placement or if placement together is not possible, when it is in the best interests of the child;
  • Have the recommendations and wishes of the child and of each sibling who participates in the permanency planning decision documented in the DCF case record and provided to the court;
  • Know, or be made aware by DCF, of expectations for continued contact with the child’s siblings after an adoption or transfer of custody, subject to the approval of the adoptive parents or caregiver;
  • Be promptly informed about changes in sibling placements or permanency planning goals;
  • Be actively involved in the lives of the child’s siblings, e.g., birthdays, holidays, and other milestones;
  • Not be denied sibling visits as a result of behavioral consequences when residing in a resource family home or congregate care setting; and
  • Be provided updated contact information for all siblings at least annually, including a current telephone number, address, and email address, unless not in the best interests of one or more siblings. 

Recently signed by Governor Phil Murphy, the law recognizes that children placed outside their home have several rights related to maintaining sibling relationships, including the right to remain actively involved in the lives of their siblings and to have their voice heard in the permanency planning process for their siblings. “In what could very well be the most difficult time of their young lives, it is our hope that this bill will allow siblings in the child welfare system to maintain some measure of stability and continuity,” Murphy said.

“One of this Administration’s goals has been to make sure the children and families in this state’s welfare systems are treated with compassion and empathy,” said Murphy. “I was deeply moved, as I’m sure my counterparts in the Legislature were, by the compelling recommendations of the Youth Council who shared their lived experiences of their time during the child welfare process.” The Council consisted of 24 members ages 14-23 who are or were previously involved with one of DCF’s programs such as Child Protection & Permanency or the Children’s System of Care. Youth Council members stressed that sibling relationships were crucial for maintaining stability and ensuring future success. 

DCF Commissioner Christine Norbut Beyer said the new law “represents the power of shared leadership and the importance of having individuals with lived experiences in a meaningful role at the table.”

“Ensuring children can maintain relationships with their siblings, arguably the people who best understand what they are going through, we can provide them with more stability and the possibility of invaluable, life-long family connections.” Assemblywomen Gabriela Mosquera (D-Gloucester), Carol Murphy (D-Burlington), and Lisa Swain (D-Begen) said in a joint statement.

“New Jersey has taken a stance on sibling rights — that they matter, they exist, and this is now the law,” Jack Auzinger, a member of the DCF Youth Council, said. 

~ story courtesy of Steve Lenox of Tap Into Patterson News – LINK

Turning 18

I have sons that are 18 and 21. The 21 year old is more of an adult now than the 18 year old but maturity is making changes in the younger boy’s perspectives. My daughter grew up away from me. At 3 years old, she ended up with her dad and a step-mother because I simply could not earn enough to support the 2 of us with child care necessary to even to to work – added to that rent, food, pediatrician bills, clothes, etc. During her childhood, communication was always difficult. I didn’t live in the same town and felt the disapproval of her parenting adults when I tried to visit. I even gave her a prepaid calling card so she call me when it was the least disruptive in her family life. I do remember seriously looking forward to when she was mature and no longer lived with them. Thankfully, we do have a good relationship – maybe not perfect and I blame myself for the feelings of abandonment she has experienced.

Anyway, I do understand the perspectives in this birth mother’s story.

My younger child’s 18th birthday is coming up this month. We haven’t had any contact since last year, when his adoptive mother got upset that I had posted something about 17 years gone, one to go. Somehow she assumed that this meant that I wanted the kid to come live with me when they turned 18, but I just meant that the control freak adoptive mother would have less power over him then.

Meanwhile, a friend of mine who adopted kids from Russia with his ex-wife has been completely alienated from them, and posted that he regrets ever adopting them in the first place. I guess his ex won whatever game she was playing. (This blogger’s note – a lot of people who adopted from Russia experienced huge challenges with those children.)

I’ve been tempted to just post publicly that the adoptive mother wins, that I regret ever having kids at all. When I saw “Everything, Everywhere, All at Once,” I thought about how there is no universe where I would have chosen to have kids and have her adopt them. Even if I’d been dying of cancer, I would have picked someone else to raise my kids. She’s been horrible to me so many times over the last 18 1/2 years, and still every few years, she’ll initiate contact with me and just pretend like all the past awfulness didn’t happen, or maybe that we’re equally at fault. She’s never apologized for anything, I don’t think she understands the concept. She’s said that she wants me to respect her as a “mother”, but I can’t even pretend to.

If on their 18th birthday, I posted that I regret that I had kids, would that make the adoptive mother happy? Is that what she wants? If I was really a horrible mother, then wouldn’t it make sense that I regret attempting to raise children? What does she want from me in order to at least not guilt trip them about any attempt to contact me? If I groveled before the Queen (the adoptive mother) and apologized for trying to raise my kids instead of being a docile handmaid, would that improve my chances of ever having a relationship with either child as adults? How am I supposed to feel? I guess if neither kid wants anything to do with me, they wouldn’t be checking my Facebook to see what I post.

This blogger’s perspective – There are no win situations in life and we simply can only do the best we can do.

Which Would You Prefer ?

A question in my all things adoption group –

We were asked would we consider being a kinship placement for our great-niece. She is 9 years old, and lives 12 hours away. We may be the only stable kinship placement for her.

[1] Would you prefer to be closer to home with strangers and the possibility to see grandparents who you know well more often?

[2] Be with family that loves you but don’t know you as well, and not see grandparents as often?

Response from an adoptee – I’d want to go with kinship who’s committed to (and follows through) with maintaining my distant relationships with friends and grandparents. I’d want to know I’d have a voice in when I’d get to see them (not just when it’s convenient for my guardians), and that it’d be on a regular basis (preferably quarterly). However, this is SUPER personal, and my answer comes from my history of not having a single genetic relative in my childhood

Response from a birth mother (the mother in question has NOT had her parental rights terminated and the child has been in the state’s care for 2 months) –  if I was already feeling defeated in this situation my child moving 10 hours from me would make me less motivated. And it would affect visitation. If rights are terminated or they opt to close the case with a temporary relative guardianship, then I would step in. Or as a former foster care youth – if more than 2 years passed I’d crave stability and wouldn’t care anymore about how close I was to a mom who wasn’t trying to see me anyways. But at only 2 months in care, it’s too short of a time to know how things will play out.

And this – I wouldn’t trust adoptive parents/strangers to keep up the kinship relationship, even if they were local. I doubt they’d have much incentive to continue to allow her to see her grandparents regularly, and there’s little recourse if the legal rights are cut off. From this experience – I was adopted by my great-uncle as an infant, but didn’t know about the kinship relationship until adulthood – and if my adoptive parents wouldn’t even tell me about my kinship relationship, how likely is it that strangers would maintain relationships? I’m grateful that I had/still have the kinship relationships (despite them not telling me), and I wouldn’t have had that, if I didn’t happen to grow up with them.

I Am Right Here

On my maternal side – I was able to visit the graves of both of my maternal grandparents, one half-aunt and one set of great grandparents too (but I did not talk to the “greats” at their grave – still have some very difficult feelings towards my great-grandfather for being unwilling to take my grandmother and mother back in when my grandmother was pregnant and her husband had returned to Arkansas. Believe me, I have done my best to come up with all kinds of kinder theories about why but still . . . I will always feel in my heart that he was the cause of my mom being adopted . . . I am certain of those feelings about him.)

I Am Right Here

Looking into the darkness, I call out “where are you?”
The darkness does not call back.
Instead I hear nothing so I wait, knowing that when my words reach you there may be a reply “I am right here”
I keep walking not able to see in front of me.
Again I call out “are you there?” but nothing comes back to me.
So I continue with hands outstretched in front of me walking in darkness and feeling my way through space.
Black empty space that feels every part of my vision.
Waving my hand in front of my face I cannot see what is in front of me.
So I continue walking through the darkness.
“Is someone out there?” I say.
I can hear faint words now, it sounds like someone screaming “come this way?”
I keep walking straight ahead toward the sound.
It gets louder and I start hearing footsteps coming closer.
“Is it you?” I call loudly
“Is it Who?” I hear back
“You?” I say to the voice
I continue walking toward the sounds and keep talking to it.
“I have been lost without you,” I say.
“Who has been lost without me?” the voice asks.
“Me, I have, but where are you, I can’t see you?”
“Just keep moving forward,” it says.
“I am trying to but I keep getting lost,” I say sadly.
No more footsteps are heard.
Suddenly light begins to invade the space and standing in front of me is the one I have been looking for my whole life.
They reach their hand out to mine,
“I am right here and have been the whole time.”
~ Brandy Ford

Not Under The Tree !!

Adoptee Under The Tree

I will share some excerpts from this link where you can read Ashley Rhodes-Courter‘s essay about something that actually happened – Babies Don’t Belong Under The Christmas Tree: AN Open Letter From An Adult Adoptee. My image here comes from a feature in People magazine about the same story – Sisters Overcome with Joy After Finding New Adopted Baby Brother Under Christmas Tree. The date line is actually from 2015 but no doubt some adoptive parents will think this is a very cute idea that will also make them famous at least momentarily.

An adoptee’s perspective – In what they described as “one of the most magical experiences,” a Texas family posted a video on social media of their three daughters seeing their new baby brother for the first time. Captions accompanying the viral announcement included: “Sisters find newly-adopted baby brother under the tree,” “Parents hide new son under the Christmas tree for daughters,” and “Sisters’ adoption surprise!”

The children and family seem thrilled, but as an adult adoptee, adoptive mother, and social worker, I cringed and wished this family had been given better counsel. Not wanting to be hasty or “overly sensitive,” I asked professional peers and child advocates for their opinion. Most agreed that this video sends a variety of disturbing message to those not familiar with the intricacies of adoption. It was also the general consensus that surprising family members with a human being is not advised under any circumstance.

Even if adoption had been discussed in the family prior, it was made clear that the older children in the family were told nothing about this baby, and they had no idea they were about to welcome a child into their lives. The adoptive mother writes, “We met them at the door and told them that we had been out Christmas shopping and got them a gift to share…and it was under the tree!” Without knowing the context of the clip, a viewer might assume the little girls’ moment of delight, laughter, and tears was being expressed for a puppy, vacation, or desired toy. Adults understand the metaphor that children are “gifts,” however young children see the world more literally. The idea that the parents went shopping and came home with a baby reduces the complicated adoption process to a mere credit card transaction, likening the young boy as nothing more than a commodity.

While we are not told where this baby came from—or his price tag—it is likely these parents paid tens of thousands of dollars in legal and other fees for the privilege of adopting an infant. People enthralled by this “enchanting” scene would be better served to learn that there are currently over 120,000 foster children of all ages, abilities, and races available for adoption in America. People who believe it costs a great deal of money to adopt, would be interested to know that adopting children from their state’s dependency system has little to no costs, and many children come with subsidies to help pay for their medical care, education, and other expenses.

Adoptive parents strive to teach their adopted kids, family, and community that children are not possessions or accessories. These are little people whose needs are immense and whose love is infinite. Mothers and fathers adopt children because they want to be parents— not to be presents for their existing children. Children are not playthings to be ignored or dismissed when they cry, disobey, or getting boring; they are humans requiring years of care and nurturing. When I was still in foster care, a family who was interested in adopting me, stated: “We gave our kids the choice of getting a dog or a new sibling. They chose a sibling.” Fortunately for me, those screening the family realized this was completely inappropriate and explained this to the family.

Adoption already suffers from many skewed preconceptions. To some, adoption is a way “rich” people “steal” babies from “poor” people. Others believe they are rescuing children and should be praised for their sacrifice. Even worse, sometimes parents believe they are taking children on a trial basis and can return them if they are defective or don’t fit into their family. As a child, I knew many who were adopted—and later returned when they proved “unsatisfactory.” Adoption was a terrifying prospect for me because I knew that if I messed up, I could end up like one of those boomerang kids. As an adopted person, I must object when I see a baby depicted as an object. Parents never “own” their children and no child should be brought into a family—by adoption or birth—to fix a relationship, entertain, amuse or belong to someone else. The family is the resource for the child—not the other way around. For those of us seeking homes for waiting children, we want to find “A family for every child” and not a child for every family.

I cannot help wonder how the adopted boy will perceive his arrival. At some point in their lives, most adoptees struggle with wondering why they were rejected by their birth mothers or families or origin in the first place. He may wonder if he did something wrong, if he wasn’t loved, if this family simply had more money or resources than his birth family. Many adoptees already feel different than birth, or previously adopted children. Because the posted arrival pictures and video clip don’t allow for any nuance or explanations, all he (and the world) will see is that he was presented as “surprise” for the other members of the family, instead of being innately a member himself. The celebration should have been about him, not how others react to him. It would have been more appropriate and equally compelling to have the parents tell the children that the family had been matched with a baby; or, as one family did, surprise their foster children with adoption papers.

She has more to say, which you can read at the link for Ashley Rhodes-Courter.

Life Can Be Difficult

Keanu Reeves

Keanu Reeves and his sister Kim were born to Patricia Taylor, a costume designer and showgirl, and Samuel Reeves, a geologist in Beirut, Lebanon. The actor was only three years old when his father abandoned his family, leaving Patricia Taylor alone to raise the two children all by herself. Throughout his younger years, Keanu Reeves and his sister would move around with their mother quite a bit and have lived in Hawaii, Australia, and even New York. Finally, Patricia Taylor settled down in Canada with her children.

Although Samuel Reeves was barely around in his childhood, his actions were still able to fill Keanu Reeves with pain. The last time he spoke to his father was around the age of 13. Years after being abandoned by his father, when the actor became a world-famous star, his father was arrested for the possession of cocaine and heroin in the 1990s. Samuel Reeves was given a sentence of 10 years behind bars.

“The story with me and my dad’s pretty heavy. It’s full of pain and woe and f***ing loss and all that s**t,” Reeves said.

Samuel Reeves has opened up about his estranged relationship with Keanu Reeves and blamed himself for the broken, practically non-existent relationship they share. The last memory that he has of his now-famous son is one where Keanu Reeves is still a little boy and they’re in Hawaii’s Big Island, splashing around in the water.

The father admits that his addiction to drugs and his shifty lifestyle stopped him from having a proper relationship with Kim and Keanu Reeves. From afar, Samuel Reeves has seen his son go through tragic moments, which include the actor losing his daughter after she was stillborn and losing the mother of his child, Jennifer Syme, whom he once loved.

Guardianship is a Better Plan

In my all things adoption group which includes foster care issues, the preference is for guardianship rather than adoption to preserve the identity and original family details for the child involved. In some states, it is an uphill battle to have such a situation considered a permanent forever home because it is still a relatively new perspective for reforming adoption.

Today’s story –

In trying to explain to the post-Termination of Parental Rights child we are foster care givers for, that we want to give him the security of a “forever home” without the identity fracture that adoption can bring, we are failing. Though he is not at the age of consent, he is plenty old enough to have several friends who have been adopted as older children from foster care, and he really wants to be “adopted.” Having been through so many foster placements and told so many times that people “didn’t want to adopt him”, the fact that we do (or did until we discovered this better way) has been a big thing for him. We can’t seem to find a way to communicate that we want him to have everything he thinks adoption is, without changing his birth certificate, etc. He is protesting that we can adopt him but not change his name at all (which was always the plan – and, yes, that is true). I’m really stressed about doing this right, and honestly every therapist we have spoken to can’t seem to understand why adoption might not be best.

The Dept of Health and Human Services seems to be willing to work with us either way (adoption or legal guardianship) but the caseworker is also having a hard time understanding how this is better for him- and I worry she is thinking we are having second thoughts in terms of our commitment to him – which is NOT the case.

I admit, I’m scared of losing him back to the system, if we mess too much with the permanency agenda. He was in some truly horrible homes and my heart breaks thinking about him ever being vulnerable to that again. Extended family doesn’t want to get involved right, now though we are determined to keep the communication open, and want to go the legal guardianship route, in case they ever are ready to be more active.

How do we communicate all of this, in a way that doesn’t hurt, because so far it’s clear we are hurting him and he doesn’t understand because of my failure to communicate it! Another thing that is bothering him is that he considers our biological children to be his siblings and he wants them to be his “real siblings” , and he thinks we need to adopt him to make that real. He is so beautifully clear that we are NOT mom and dad – he has those already – but I think because our biological children are so much younger and he’s seen them from birth and onward, so that he really has a sense of being their big brother.

Some thoughts about this situation –

Everyone’s experience is different. My husband is a Former Foster Care Youth who aged out of the system. He always wanted to be adopted because that was his validation that he was *wanted*. The family he mainly grew up with finally adopted him at age 25 but he still keeps his original name. His birth certificate hasn’t changed. Maybe that can be an option? He is adopted but keeps his name and if his biological family comes forward, he can still have a relationship with them as well.

Also this – There’s nothing stopping you from letting him have a relationship even if he is “adopted”. You also need to explain to him what adoption means to you. Family is not a piece of paper, it is the people that take care of you, and his siblings are his siblings now. Maybe explain that he already is family and in your mind he is adopted ?

You can do other things to make him feel like he has a permanent placement with you, as you work through the pros and cons of the adoption conversation.

The child is in the 8-10 age range and so, these ideas were suggested –

1) have a sit down in which you express to him how much he means to you and how your meaning of family won’t be impacted by legality or adoption. A written letter or something to that extent would be nice, and having your biological children (if they feel similar to you, which I hope they do) also write letters to express to him that he’s their brother !

2) Give him a goal age for adoption, so like if he still wants to be adopted at age 16 or whatever feels right.

3) look up legal benefits to waiting to adopt (like for where I live, if you wait until after age 14 you get all sorts of government assistance with schooling etc, that you don’t get if you’re adopted before age 14, even if you’re in the system for years like I was) to let him know the pros and cons of that

4) do things that FEEL permanent for him (if you haven’t already). Let him paint his bedroom walls whatever color he wants. Pick out some furniture. Make things “his”. That will greatly help his sense of agency in this situation. Talk about the future a lot, in specific detail. This is what middle school you’ll go to. When you’re x age your bedtime goes to x time. Next summer we should do x activities. Etc. Just make him feel heard and like you’re not ignoring what he wants entirely, you’re just wanting to make sure it’s the best thing for HIM, since it’s such a permanent decision

From a Former Foster Care Youth – I was a teen in foster care and adoption never even occurred to me BUT I aged out and was all alone. It was really scary and I would have given anything to have had someone who was ‘mine’ to go back to when I needed it. Instead I got into a lot of unhealthy relationships looking for a parent figure. Please sit down and explain adoption to him. The permanency of it and that you will forever belong to him but it means that his past will be erased. And that the birth certificate will look as though he was born to you, even if not true. And that it will legally sever the relationship with his siblings and biological family. Then explain guardianship and the pros and cons of it. Please be candid and honest about all of it. Ask him what he wants. But honestly… only do this if you actually will be ‘his’… even when he goes through the toughest part of his teens and tries hard to push you away in any and all ways possible. Because he will. As a much older adult now, I’m glad that I still have some connections to my family. It’s complicated but… it’s mine.

Plus this sad story – I stopped wanting to be adopted at around 6ish. The thought of losing my “real’ family” was not an option for me, even that young. Even if I did not really know them. Instead I went thru 75 placements in 20 years. As a former foster care youth, I wish I had been more open to being adopted. I aged out and had to deal with the reality of life on my own. I wish I had someone to fall back on and made some really bad choices, including some that ultimately cost me several of my own children.

And here is a downside to guardianship – Your biological children are your next of kin, and with permanent guardianship he is not. They have automatic inheritance rights and he would not. If you and your husband die, your children will go to family or whomever you have dictated, but guardianship ends upon death, so he would go back into the same foster system he was in previously. Some of these issues can be addressed through estate planning but some can’t so long as he is a minor.

Regarding the above perspective – here’s experience

I am a former foster care youth (that was kinship adopted) and I am also an adoptive parent. I try to tread lightly, so my adoptive parent voice does not out run my former foster care youth experience. I was 9 years old when my grandparents became my sole caretaker and 10 before they got guardianship. They both battled health issues, and it became abundantly clear that there needed to be a “permanent legal bond” or things could go terribly wrong, which would put me back in foster care. I was legally adopted at age 11, after requesting it. I would have been devastated, if they refused. It would have been yet another rejection.

Curiosity

From an adoptee – My son recently asked to talk to my birth mother and I’m not sure how I feel about this. I don’t plan on ever having them meet, but we’ve been talking a lot about how I didn’t grow in Grammys belly and that I grew in somebody else’s belly, and I think he’s curious. I’m not sure why he wants to talk to her. I think part of me doesn’t want to hurt my adoptive parent’s feelings, and part of it is that I don’t want him to be made to feel the way I feel or felt (abandonment issues).

NPR has an article about whether curiosity is a positive or negative feeling. Curiosity is a complex emotion. Is it a painful reminder of what we don’t (yet) know ? The object of curiosity’s desire is information. Surprisingly, one of the factors that affects the balance of negative and positive is time. Curiosity arises when a person notices a gap in her knowledge. The gap induces a feeling of deficiency, which in turn motivates her to fill the gap. Curiosity comes in two flavors: deprivation — a strong but unsatisfied need to know — and interest — information-seeking that’s motivated by anticipated pleasure. When our curiosity will not be satisfied anytime soon, we focus on not knowing, on the information gap itself, and this is largely negative.

One commenter to the original post told this story of her experience. My children, 6 and 8, met my birth father’s family this summer. Long story, but they didn’t know about me and we connected via Ancestry after my birth father passed away. I met him many years ago, but he didn’t want a relationship and kept me a secret from his family. I had to explain a lot of very complicated things to my children in an age-appropriate way when we all met, but I felt strongly that they needed to know their family and learn about their grandpa they never got to meet. It was heartbreaking at times, honestly – “we had a grandpa that we never got to meet? Why didn’t he want to meet us?”

Learning about my parents origins (both were adopted) was like this for me. My grandparents were all deceased, so I will never get to know them. In my case, I was heartened however to learn that for 3 out of 4 of my grandparents, they were aware of my parents existence. Of course, their mother were but they also told their own families as did one grandfather. My parents were not secrets in these lives. However, one of my grandfathers never knew about my dad’s existence. I’ve been a bit of a surprise to his Danish and immigrant extended families as they didn’t know he ever had any children. From what I know, my dad was so much like him, they would have been marvelous fishing buddies – the pity of it all. For me, it has been interesting to know that my biological grandparents were people with lives that were taking place, while our lives were completely unknown to them or for that matter, their lives were never known to us either.

I appreciated this suggestion regarding how this woman might talk to her son about the mother’s biological mother – “I grew in her belly and not Grammy’s belly. That is a little confusing, not just for you but also for me, too. You’ve said you want to talk to her, but that feels confusing to me because I love Grammy very much and love you very much. Can you explain why you would like to talk to her? What would you like to say? Would you like to ask her questions? Could we write a letter to her with everything you want to say, and we can save it for later?” Including an interesting theory – if he’s as young as I’m imagining, his questions are likely a reflection of worries or concerns or interest for himself, not you. So he might be wondering why HE didn’t get to grow in someone else’s belly, like you did, and why he doesn’t have a biological mom. He might feel left out because you’re mom, so you’re normal for him, and not being adopted is abnormal in his little world.

I also totally get the truth of this comment (as the child of adoptee parents) – No one should pretend the adoption only affects the adoptee and not her/his children.

There is a complication – the original poster has a minimal relationship with her biological mother on Facebook. She does have major abandonment issues and her biological mother saying once – that she couldn’t wait to have grandchildren but then she said, “not your kids, your sisters.” She goes on to say, I’m certain she was just trying to protect her heart and possibly prevent losing me because of my adoptive parents. Such situations are so very complex and it isn’t always clear what the motivation for some casual remark was.

Her son said that he just wants to tell her that he likes peanut butter and jelly. One practical and realistic suggestion was – send her a one-sentence text or FB messenger message saying, “[Son who is 6 yrs old] asked about you and wanted to tell you that he likes peanut butter and jelly.” Maybe don’t tell him you’re doing this. See if/how she responds. See how you feel about her response or lack of response. And then decide what to do from there.

One woman shared her own complicated adoption situation and then suggested – I think you should be honest with your son (in an age-appropriate way) about what you’re doing and why you’re doing it, in part so he knows he’s not wrong for having natural curiosity about or wanting a relationship with his biological grandparents.

Another story from experience – My daughter (12 years old at the time) decided to do a DNA test to find the “rest of her heritage.” I already knew of my biological mom and didn’t like her, but I allowed it. I thought she’d get some pie chart about her cultural background. Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine she’d find my biological dad. I’m glad she did because it filled in a lot of gaps. But at the same time, I now have a lot more issues due to secondary rejection. Even so, I don’t regret it. It’s her history just as much as mine. It just sucks how badly it affects me. I’ll be fine though as I’m learning how to cope through therapy.