Can We Just Pretend ?

What to do for this little boy ?

Ok here is my question – I adopted our kiddo when he was 4. He has always known he’s adopted, he’s always been excited and proud of it. He introduces himself as adopted. He has a long story but basically he came to us with the termination of parental rights and two failed adoptions. Lots of trauma and 17 placements.

He’s now almost 7 and in 1st grade. So here’s what’s up…all of a sudden he wants us to pretend he’s not adopted. To not talk about it and let him pretend he came from us. He wants us to make up a birth story. We don’t have biological kiddos, so it’s not like he’s hearing other birth stories here. The kids all vocalize adoption and biological families. His mother is deceased and his biological family hasn’t been open to any contact.

He’s super smart but isn’t able to articulate what created this idea. He just wants it. My question is how to approach this…do we give him this? Do we allow it for however long it lasts, while initially reminding him that he can always take it back? Or do we just apologize that his story is his and he doesn’t have to ever share it with anyone he doesn’t want to but that we can’t just pretend?

I’m at a loss. I want to do what’s right by him and honor his experience but I also don’t want to play along, if it’s harmful down the road. I feel like I will make the wrong decision no matter what I choose.

Someone offered this explanation that makes sense – We had a friend that didn’t want people knowing she was adopted. Said she hated when people would say “oh, she’s adopted”. She just wanted to be like her friends and be a part of the family. Maybe that’s how he is feeling.

Then there was this sad reality (kids really can be cruel) – When I was in high school I had someone make fun of me for being adopted and refer to me as a “dumpster baby” multiple times. I was 15 and shut it down and moved on.  IF that had happened to me when I was 7, I imagine it would have been incredibly damaging and embarrassing for me.

Someone else suggested –  I work with young kids, and I think pretending/role playing is their way of reflecting. In order to understand, “What does it mean to be adopted?” he has to first ask, “Well, what would it be like if I wasn’t adopted? In what ways is it different?” Completely normal child behavior; I’d let it happen.

To which another affirmed –  That’s a great way of thinking about it. Children do think about hypotheticals a lot and that’s discouraged more and more as we age. I think that makes a lot of sense given that he’s 7.

An adoptee suggests –  I would personally ask him if there is a reason he wants to – if someone said something or why ? – and just go with it. I would not tell him he can’t pretend. It may just be his way of coping right now because obviously something is going on in his mind that’s causing him to want this. So I would just ask questions to make sure he’s okay and listen to him and go with it.

And I really, really like this suggestion –  “Sometimes I think of “if” you had been born to me but then, I remember you wouldn’t be the same you, if you had. Your mom, DNA and genetics have made you – you – and I would never want to miss you. You wouldn’t be the same you, if you were born to me.”

Now that is beautifully honest.

Secrets

Even in this day and age, some prospective adoptive couples believe they can have a closed adoption and that their adoptee child will never know that truth.  However, secrets have a way of outing themselves eventually.  These adoptive parents could probably convince themselves that this child is 100% theirs and has no ties to other living human beings but that would be self-delusion.

A couple wrote, after 3 years of marriage it is clear that the husband is incapable of procreating a child of his own. This is the second marriage for the woman and she has a daughter that is 10 years old. It is said that it is this little girl that is motivating a quest to adopt a baby because she wants to be a big sister. Since it has become evident that the husband is incapable of causing a conception, they feel like a piece is missing from their family. They don’t want the adopted child to know that truth.  Therefore, they want a closed adoption.

The 10 year old isn’t going to know this sibling is adopted and can keep the whole thing a secret ?  I don’t think so.  Yet, this couple is so deluded that they are advertising their search on the internet ?  Like, don’t they know, stuff on the net is there eternally ?  Do they really believe these circumstances can be kept private ?

An adoption on this basis is set up on lies.

One adoptive parent admits – How many of us embarked on this journey not knowing much and blossomed and opened our mind to new things after having mentors and people who really cared about helping us learn. In fact many of us yearned for an open adoption and then life had different plans that didn’t allow that to happen? I see a lot of people passing judgement. I do think this couple will have a rude awakening, no secret big or small remains that way for a lifetime, however I hope that they can find the right people to educate them on their journey.

An adoptee shares – It’s hard enough growing up when you know you were adopted! Closed adoption is never, ever the answer, and closed *secret* adoption should be effing illegal. Well, all of it should be illegal but let’s start somewhere!

If there is going to be an adoption at all, then I am all for open adoption and keeping the birth family involved. To me you are not just adopting a child, you are adopting a family. Whether you have a closed adoption or an open one, that child will always have another family. You simply cannot erase that reality and what about DNA testing that is so prevalent now ?  That is how some adoptees that were lied to find out the truth.

Correcting that thought about “adopting a family” – that isn’t accurate and is impossible, even under the most charitable of situations.  The reason those impacted are turning against adoption is that bottom line – it is taking a child away from the family they were born into.

Once again – can’t we just support families ?  Financially, physically, emotionally and mentally.  Whatever they need to stay intact ?  Why is that so hard for society to come to terms with ?

 

Oversharing

I have been reticent until recent years to share some things that I consider privacy sensitive.  Our perspectives on where the boundaries are can change over time.

It is a topic in adoption related groups that the balance is difficult to determine.  There are adoptive parents who upon meeting you will immediately share with you that their children are adopted and have trauma histories.  Realize you only just met and they don’t really know you or you them.  That is considered in poor taste now within our modern society.

An enlightened adoptive parent may wish to be aware of not owning their adopted child.  The adoptive parent may take care not to ignore the original family.  At the same time, the adoptive parent may be concerned that they don’t stigmatize their child by making an issue of the child’s adoption.

One balance can be to remain open to discussing adoption while not initiating the conversation.  The context in which it comes up matters.

It appears that oversharing is often related to wanting to be acknowledged for doing a “good deed”.  Saving a child’s life – is often NOT the truth – no matter how much the adoptive parent would like to believe that.  Adoptive parents have often not accepted their role in separating a mother and child.

Adoptive Parents in some groups want to be quick to point out that the behavior they’re asking for help managing is NOT A RESULT OF THEIR PARENTING.  Some Pro-Life adoptive parents overshare to burnish their credentials – I saved this child from abortion by convincing her mother to give her up to me instead.  You get the idea . . .

Before you overshare, ask yourself – Why does anyone need to know ?  There may be times.  Just be selective and consider whether sharing will eventually cause some kind of problem in the future.

There Can Be No Denying

Becoming adopted will never be a natural circumstance.  There is a loss of security and certainty in having been adopted that cannot be prevented.  For whatever reason, an adoptee has been torn away from those who gave themselves to that life.

There cannot be other than a sense of abandonment and rejection.  And not knowing the reasons and causes only makes it worse.  That is why closed adoptions are not good and yet, there are fears attached to open adoptions as well.  A fear of intrusion and difficult people making difficult demands and confusion as to who holds the authority over one’s life.

Life is a hard school.  There’s no denying that.  Adoptees have to contend with some harsh realities, no matter how much those people who do care about them try to minimize the effects.

Some will crumble under the reality and some will find within their own self a strength that requires no one else.  Some will find the way to make the most of a bad situation and some will fight and struggle against what is all the days of their life.

While every person born faces challenges, those faced by adoptees are an added layer of complication that only they can meet and must meet in their own personal efforts to somehow rise above.

Never True

Social workers believed that to save children they had to deny them information about their past. To help them, they unintentionally hurt them.

Some social workers believed that keeping adoptees’ identities secret allowed the adoptee to make a clean break with their past.  Secrecy protected adoptive parents from intrusion by birth relatives.  It protected the privacy of single mothers.

In the early 1950s, social workers believed that closed adoption worked. A social worker’s effectiveness was measured by how many unmarried mothers she could persuade to surrender their children – with a goal to persuade all of them.

Social workers believed that after surrender, the mother would simply go on with her childless life as though nothing had happened.

It was believed that “normal, healthy” adoptees would have NO curiosity about their roots.

All these things that social workers once believed turned out to be not true.

Motherhood Rights

What about women who do NOT want to know the children they gave up for adoption, do they have the right to not have their identities revealed ?

No, you have a child, you owe them an identity, you owe them at least this – their place in the chain of life.

Does such a mother have a right to be free of the trauma of confrontation ?

I don’t believe a confrontation would be traumatic.

No right to that privacy.  Once you are a mother, you are a mother – even if you don’t raise that child.  The issue in reform is when the rights of the original mother infringe on the rights of an adoptee.

Links in the Chain of Life

What about women who do NOT want to know the children they gave up for adoption, do they have the right to not have their identities revealed ?

I’ve not met one yet who would not want to know what became of their child, though everything that can be thought of does exist.  I would also wonder if it is a denial of pain long suppressed.  I do know I have felt a bit “unwanted” by one genetic relative when I turned up.  “Oh yes, I do remember hearing she had a daughter . . . ” an inconvenient truth, I suppose.

When a woman has a child, even if for whatever reason she gave that child up for adoption, it is my belief that child is still owed an identity, you owe them at least this.

Each of us wants to understand our place in the chain of life.  Closed adoptions with sealed records are like the lock up there in the middle of the links of a chain.

Does such a mother have a right to be free of the trauma of confrontation ? How about the denial of joy in knowing where they come from for the child ?

In most cases, I do not believe a confrontation with one’s now grown child would be traumatic, unless the outcome of that child is one that causes a deep regret and sense of responsibility in the original mother.

I don’t believe that anyone who conceives a child has any right to privacy from that reality.  A woman who insists on such a “right” is at the same time infringing upon the right of an adoptee.