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Adoption Blog: My Paperwork Pregnancies

“You’re Not My ‘Real’ Parents!”

When looking into adoption, it's easy to think about what could go wrong. "What if no expectant mother ever selects me?" "What if our potential adoption falls through?" "What if someday our child says to us, ‘I wish I was never adopted!'?" All of these questions have gone through the minds of many, if not all, prospective adoptive parents.

Now, as an adoptive mom to three children, I'm currently in the phase of parenting when the last of those questions is being addressed. My oldest is 12 years old and he is having those oh-so-lovely bursts of preteen anger. His anger can bubble up because someone ate the last slice of pizza or because his little brother teases him about a girl he likes. It's unpredictable, except when it comes to how easily he can get angry at my husband and I.

We knew as parents that, during our children's years of puberty, we can become the enemies. Only an evil person would ask their son to clean out the cat's litter box or carry groceries in from the car. To a pubescent boy, these requests sound the same as, "You are a puny little thing whom we can control 24/7! Bwah ha ha!"

So it's no surprise when we have our normally sweet, caring, and polite boy stomp away, mutter things under his breath, and slam his bedroom door. Usually he calms down in about 10 minutes and then emerges as if nothing had ever happened. It's weird and we are adjusting to this rollercoaster ride of puberty.

However, the first time we heard, "You can't tell me what to do 'cause you aren't even my real parents!" I admit, we were taken aback. My husband calmly said something like, "Sorry, but we are your parents and we can tell you what to do." My husband and I exchanged looks, raised our eyebrows, and mouthed, "Wow!" to each other.

Many years ago, I had spoken with adoptive parents and listened to others speak on adoption panels. When the topic of their child using the "You're not my real parents" card came up, the parents usually rolled their eyes and said something along the lines of, "Kids that age will find anything to push your buttons. If it's not ‘adoption,' then it'd be something else." At the time, I admit that I thought these parents were not in tune with their child's adoption needs. They should understand that their child's saying this could be a cry for help, I remember thinking.

I was wrong. Kids this age will find anything to push their parents' buttons. In our house, adoption is freely discussed. It has come up a lot recently with my oldest, as he's working to figure out his identity with the onset of puberty. I had expressed my frustration with him about how I didn't have answers to all of his adoption questions. I wanted to answer his questions about what his birth parents looked like at his age or from what areas of Mexico his ancestors originated.

My son knew that he could get under my skin by reminding me that we are not biologically related and, therefore, I don't have all the answers for him. Or I'm giving him too much credit and he was just trying to say I'm not important enough to make rules for him to follow.
No matter what his motive was, I know that, by saying I'm not his "real" mom, he is testing his limits. That's what kids his age do. It's not an "adoption" thing. It's just a preteen thing. It shouldn't ruffle my feathers nor cause me to stay up at night.

If anything, when I hear this, it should remind me how lucky I am to have a child who is pushing his boundaries with those who he loves most. This is a normal step all children do in order to become independent. Helping our child to be an independent person is a goal for every parent—"real" or not.

So my advice is for prospective adoptive parents not to worry about what your preteen may spout about adoption in moments of anger. Accept that this will happen and know that they will say it to you because they know you love them unconditionally, no matter how annoying they are. Trust me, you will remind yourself of this on an almost daily basis.

From my experience, the age you really have to worry about is when your child is three years old. I have zero advice for that stage of life. If you can make it past that, then the preteen years will be a breeze!

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I am weeks from adopting my teen at age 13. Had her off and on since age 9. I have already heard, “you are not my mom-never will be my real mom.” I responded yes you do have two moms. I said her name and said mine. There was a pause and the day went on.

By SunflowerMom on Wednesday, September 11, 2019 at 7:38 pm.

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Danielle Pennel

Danielle Pennel


I have recently adopted or am adopting from...
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