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Adoption Blog: Our Family Grows With Love

“Do You See Your Son?”



As an adoptee and an adoptive mom, I have heard my fair share of adoption related questions over the years. By now, most of them don't surprise me and I have standard responses ready. But, from time to time, I am still asked an adoption related question that I could never had anticipated.

Recently, when my family and I were attending a social function, an acquaintance called my name and motioned me aside so she could ask me a question. My son and I were engaged in an activity, but I stepped to the side to determine what this person wanted. I should have known I was in trouble when the conversation started with "I don't mean to offend you, but…." Based on historic evidence, the likelihood of my being offended was rather high at this point. She continued, "When you look at Max, do you see him as your son, or is it always in the back of your mind that he is adopted?" I assured her that, when I look at Max, I see my son. The way he joined our family doesn't linger in the back of my mind. I quickly wrapped up the conversation and excused myself to return to my son. A fair amount of time has passed since this conversation took place, and the question still stings as if it were just asked.

My response to her was the truth. When my husband and I look at our son, we see our son. In my opinion, questioning whether we think about adoption every time we look at our son is questioning the validity of our relationship to him. It is as if you're suggesting our connection is "less than" the one experienced by those who delivered their children. Our connection to our son is real; our son's connection to us is real.

Every day, when I pick my son up from preschool, I am greeted with a squeal of "MOMMY!" as he rushes over to wrap himself around my legs so tightly I couldn't move, even if I wanted to. But all I want to do is stay right there, cemented to that very spot, and soak him up. Soak up his little arms wrapped around my legs, soak up the way it feels to have him melt into me, soak up his little boy smell of Goldfish crackers and juice. I want to soak up the feel of his hair as I rub his little head, and the feel of my arms encircling him in a giant bear hug. I want to soak up the way his eyes shine as he looks up at me, and his toothy grin that stretches from ear to ear.

The scene repeats when my husband arrives home from work each night. He is barely in the door when Max goes running to him shouting, "DADDY!" He instantly has a list of things he wants his daddy to play with him, but not before hugs and kisses are exchanged. Within five minutes of my husband's arriving home you will find him and Max laying on the floor of our front room playing together. My husband soaks up the imaginative story Max has created about the legos they are playing with, he soaks up the weight of our son's body, as he scoots in as close as possible for a discussion of superheroes and bad guys. He soaks up the giggles that erupt from his little body, as the "tickle monster" gets his belly.

Every week when my husband and I take Max to his gymnastics class, the gymnasium walls echo with the sound of his voice shouting, "Mommy, Daddy watch this!" as he shows off the latest skill he has acquired. Our little man is so proud of himself, as he tightly tucks in his long, lean legs and does a forward roll. He can barely finish, he is so anxious to pop his head up, to make sure we didn't miss a second of his accomplishment. And we haven't, Baby. We are both right here watching you. We are beaming with pride. We soak up this moment. We soak up the sound of your voice, the way it raises with your excitement. We soak up the way your forward roll has improved -- it is ever so slightly less wobbly than the forward roll you proudly showed us last week. We soak up the sense of accomplishment and pride you feel with your success.

Every night we take turns tucking our son in to bed. My husband talks with Max about the day, and what tomorrow will bring. He soaks up the sound of his voice, and the way he snuggles in close. He soaks up the way Max reminds him to turn on his alarm clock, so "the time can wake him up in the morning."

I soak up the way he sings "our songs" with me, his voice quiet and little with sleepiness. I soak up the way he twists and turns until he finds a comfortable spot on my lap, refusing to outgrow it, regardless of his size. I soak up his "sleep tight, Mommy."

So, when I look at my son, do I see my son, or do I think about the fact that he was adopted? I see my son, and I soak him up.


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8 Comments

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again.  People are SO crazy stupid.  My story is completely different than yours.  I have two adopted as a toddler sibling group, and a surprise bio baby girl.  The ages they came into my life are all different, and the challenges I face with them are all different.  My bio baby was very colicky, and is still very demanding and often fussy.  My adopted children both have ADHD, and it manifests in completely different forms in each of them.  Bonding with my baby was and is easy.  It began in the normal natural things you do with a newborn.  Bonding with my other two was and is hard, and requires different strategies for each of them.  Even with all these differences, when I look at them, I do not see “adopted” or “bio” stamped on their foreheads.  When I talk to them as a group, I think and say “you three”, not “you two I adopted and the one I birthed.”  And when it’s time to meet my older two at the bus stop after school, I tell my now toddler little girl that its time to go get her bubba and sissy, and she runs with glee ahead of me (barely tolerating me putting her shoes on) to greet my older daughter and my son.

By housefrau on Monday, February 04, 2013 at 6:55 pm.

P.S.  I just recently began reading your blog.  I have read some of your older posts as well.  I especially treasure reading your experiences as an adoptee.  My daughter was removed from her birth parents at two, and we adopted her at three.  She also has a history of abuse and drugs in her birth family.  Your words give me insight to her sweet, sensitive, sometimes troubled little heart that I otherwise would have difficulty understanding.  Thank you for sharing.

By housefrau on Monday, February 04, 2013 at 7:48 pm.

Thank you for your feedback!

I have, on occassion, replied with someting along the lines of do you see your first born as the one you delivered naturally and you second as the one you delivered c-section every time you look at them? Of course not, so I don’t see the way my son joined our family every time I look at him either.

I am so glad my blog has offered you insight, that truly touches my heart.  This blog has been very therapeutic for me, giving me a way to sort through different feelings and emotions. To know that is has been helpful to another person and their family makes it even more worthwile!  Thank you so much for your kind words.

By Maximilian's Mommy on Tuesday, February 05, 2013 at 12:57 pm.

I always wonder what is the motivation behind that kind of question?  It brings up the old Dear Abby (or was it Ann Landers?) response of “why would you ask that?” 

Now that my oldest is in preschool our circle of friends is widening to people who don’t always know we are an adoptive family.  I try to answer these questions with grace and humor, and treat them as educational opportunities, but I think I might have lost it on that one!  Good for you that you kept your cool and walked away.

By jszmom on Friday, February 08, 2013 at 2:01 pm.

I have an experience that relates to this, but it doesn’t involve adoption.  It is about my dog.  As a puppy she lost one of her rear legs due to injury.  Whenever I look at her I see a dog.  One that I love and annoys me on an interval basis, but I just see a dog.

So it always surprises me when we are out and about to see other people’s reactions to her because I forget that she has a ‘handicap’.  I get ask the questions of how it happened, etc, etc.  Then I usually get, “Well it doesn’t slow her down much.”  It just brings into focus for me on a regular basis how much people limit themselves based on pre-conceived notions, and how I need to avoid doing that to myself.

My mother-in-law said something to me recently that warmed my heart, but gives an example of how that kind of thinking can trap one into a particular role.  She said that my husband’s grandmother had once told her, ” ‘I am glad that you didn’t adopt because I couldn’t see loving that child as much as the others.’  I think that is ridiculous.  I love him as much as I love any of my other grandchildren.”

By justaminion on Wednesday, February 13, 2013 at 6:15 pm.

OK, I totally get what you were saying and I appreciated your “soak him up” message, however I have to say that I really think this is more about our feelings as adoptive parents, then of someone being stupid or even insensitive.
I believe this woman was genuinely curious because it was something she thought about. At times I have thought about this beautiful boy that we are so lucky to have in our lives and all the hard work that went into getting him home when looking at my own son. My husband has a habit of bringing it up and thanking me (sometimes in front of our children), for helping to get our son home to complete our family. He also has a habit of looking at our biological daughter (now 13) and saying “Do you remember when she was a baby”? This would often bother me because I felt that our son might feel left out or different if he heard, even though we often discuss his “birth story” (a modified version, of course).
As part of the “birth story” we say that he “grew in Rosa’s tummy. I have also been very sensitive to the term “Tummy Mommy.” I realize that this is a very popular preferred term by many adoptive families and theoretically I have no problem.  For some reason it just triggers a negative reaction in me.  These are some of MY issues and I own them.
I often find that people struggle and stumble when trying to ask me a question about adoption. Clearly, they do not wish to offend. I have done it myself. Just last week I met a couple with 2 girls who I knew were adopted (not just by sight, but I was told). My son was playing with the girls and I whispered to him that the girls were adopted and maybe he wanted to tell them that he was adopted as well. He went right up to the mom and stated, “I was adopted from Guatemala.”  I was very curious where the girls were from and since she didn’t immediately offer this information I wondered if she would be offended if I asked.  I nervously weighed my words and asked. This actually broke the ice and we shared together a bit. I welcomed her to the adoption community and we parted (we are in a very small city, so it is not good-bye).
Which brings me back to my point. You stated that you had an immediate reaction when this woman started with “I don’t mean to offend” and that you expected she would. You then stated that “the question still stings”. You also added “Our connection to our son is real” in colored type. I absolutely do not wish to offend, as I believe is true about most people, however I really believe that most people are just awkward in the wording of these questions AND that we each get triggered my different things. Why would it be that her question continues to bother you?
Lastly, I would like to share that my connection to each of my children is incredibly deep, and different.  I would love to believe that it is different because they are of different genders, and it is different because they are 6 years apart, and a variety of other more benign reasons, however the reality is that it is also different because 1 is biological (another term I do not really like, by the way—any alternative suggestions?), and 1 is adopted.
I am infinitely lucky that I have the 2 most wonderful children in the world. One who gave me the experience of pregnancy which I truely loved, and one who forever connected our family to another Country (where we continue to contribute). The gifts that my children give me are endless, ever growing, and ever changing. I do not feel less of a mother because my daughter was delivered through C-section and I do not feel less of a mother because my son was matched to our family in infancy. There is nothing anyone could ever say to me to change any of that and when I get triggered by something someone says I make a conscious effort to realize that the motive was probably honest. My reaction is MINE.

By slidedog on Friday, February 22, 2013 at 9:34 pm.

I totally 100% agree with slidedog.
Did you always know you we’re going to adopt? I did not. I clearly remember being concerned that I wouldn’t love my second child as much as my first (bio) kid. I DID think I’d look at my second child as “not mine”.
Why is it so hard to put yourself on others’ shoes?

That is one of the reasons I don’t read the message boards on here any more—I get upset that so many people assume the worst and answer in flippant, sarcastic ways. (See c-section remark above).

Do you really not remember life and feelings and questions before adoption? Or have you always truly known all the answers and expect others too as well?

By Cabber on Saturday, February 23, 2013 at 6:10 am.

Slidedog,

Thank you very much for your response. I always appreciate feedback.

I agree with you, that this blog post was about my feelings. I believe the majority of what I wrote was about the connection I feel to my son. I don’t believe the individual who asked this question is stupid, or insensitive. To be honest, I have no reason why the question was asked, and in the end it really doesn’t matter. Though I do not believe the intent of the question was to be offensive, it still felt offensive to me. As you said, those are my feelings. I am certain I have said something to others without the intent to of being offensive, but may still have offend them unintentionally. 

Thank you for taking the time to reply, and sharing your thoughts on this topic. It sounds like you have a very lovely family.

Cabber,

I would like to thank you as well, for your feedback. For my husband and I, yes, we always knew we were going to adopt. I don’t find it difficult to put myself in another person’s shoes. While I can understand where the question came from; that understanding does not disallow me from having an emotional reaction to the question.

I am sorry that you don’t find the message boards helpful, however many people do. People find the support they need in many different ways, and I am hopeful you have found a support system of your own that works well for you. My response regarding the c-section was no spoken in a flippant way. Rather I took a conversation in changed the context so the person I was speaking with could relate. They had not adopted, but did delivery a child via c-section.

I didn’t have questions about adoption, I am an adoptee myself, adoption is very familiar to me. I certainly do not expect people to know all the answers. And while I do not believe that most people ask questions to be offensive, sometimes that is the end result. Just as they are allowed to feel curious, I am allowed to feel offended regardless of intent.

Again, thank you for your feedback. I do truly appreciate you taking the time to comment.

By Maximilian's Mommy on Saturday, February 23, 2013 at 2:53 pm.

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