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Adoption Blog: Melting Pot Family
Would You Tell Another Adoptive Parent She Should Start Talking with Her Child About Adoption?
I met a young woman recently. She works in the service industry and we got to chatting while she applied her craft. My adopted seven-year-old was nearby, and the woman shared that she adopted her now five-year-old son when she was 17. I asked how that came to be, as that is not a common path. She explained a bit of the background, which includes many complicating factors that are her story to share.
I asked if her son knew he was adopted. She said, “No. He only knows I am his mom and he is happy.”
My daughter has known she was adopted and has another set of parents since she was a baby. I knew I was pushing this conversation beyond normal boundaries. But I thought this was too important to not say anything.
I took a deep breath, then gently shared my thoughts about why I believe each adopted child should know his or her story from the beginning. I heard all the fear and doubt that come with embracing this type of vulnerability in her questions back to me.
“How do I tell him? He won’t understand; won’t it just be too confusing for him?”
I told her there are books she could use to start the conversation and explain this different way of building a family, or that she could talk to any folks she knows who were adopted. I told her she could practice by herself first and that children are pretty forgiving if you don’t find just the right words. "Kids generally take cues from your tone and reaction," I said, "So, if you present it as something you are comfortable talking about, he will likely follow your lead."
“What if he doesn’t want to call me Mom anymore? I love him so much; that would break my heart. I have sacrificed so much for him—he is my world.”
My heart ached for her as I listened. But I replied, “Clearly, you love your son and he loves you. Telling him his story won’t change that. If he hears about his truth from someone else, though, that will likely cause more of a break in trust.”
I also shared that my daughter is comfortable with having two moms, her Ethiopian mom and me, whom she calls Mama. And how much she appreciates that we can talk about her story.
“What if he wants to see his Mom? She is not in a good place and isn’t likely to be a good influence.”
I told her what I fully believe, “You are his mom and need to figure what is right for him at each age. You can and likely should get help from professionals. You don’t have to open that door immediately just because you told him about her.”
She hugged me tightly as I left and thanked me profusely. “I didn’t even know how to start to think about something so huge,” she said, “And I have been struggling with what was the right thing to do.”
I directed her to this community and all it has to offer for these types of complex decisions. I hope she and her son find the answers and support they both deserve.
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