We brought home our 3 year old son from India in October 2009. My sister has a 13 month old girl, and it seems pretty clear that the two grandchildren are treated differently. They babysit her at least twice a week, but when I ask them to babysit they say no. Sometimes when I ask them if we can come over they say no or make up an excuse. One time they said they were on vacation at home and they didn’t want anyone to come over. The next day I called them and my sister was there with her daughter and husband! Whenever we’re at their home and they have company come over, they seem to always point out that our son was adopted and that he is the only adopted child in the family.
Within the first few weeks after we arrived home they told us we should only speak to him in English and not use the few Malayalam words we learned because “He’s an American now and needs to learn English.” When we explained that we would be teaching our son about his heritage and incorporating some Indian traditions into our family they became angry and said that we were wrong. They further stated that we should wait until our son is a teenager before teaching him about India and that he should learn about America first.
My wife’s parents are great. They’ve outright said that it doesn’t matter if our son came to us through adoption and that he is their grandson, period. They don’t have a problem with us teaching our son about his Indian heritage and they babysit at least every other week and offer to babysit often.
Does anyone have any advice or suggestions on how I can deal with this?
This is similar to a recent thread, also in this forum, titled “when in laws are mean to your child and reject him or her.” I posted a pretty long response there so I’ll try to keep this post short and with hopefully different information. It irks me to no end, however, to hear these stories so I feel I have to respond.
If you can, please take comfort knowing that your family is not unique in its experience. Some people can be very limited in their views and what they will openly accept. While you and I know that your child is simply a child in need of love and a good home, others, unfortunately some very close to you, see something else. But that something else has nothing to do with your child, it has to do with an issue inside of your parents.
Your situation is difficult to assess what the issues are within your family. Is it the fact of adoption, nationality, skin color, or gender - you never know what is going to trigger craziness by family members.
Because your situation is so new, just coming home in October (congratulations!) maybe your family just needs time for this to become a reality. Adoption is hard for family members to relate to because they don’t see the pregnancy like they did with your sibling, and they just don’t connect to the adoption process despite the fact that the emotional ups and downs are just as great as with a pregnancy - sometimes more so because in adoption you have absolutely no control.
I have multiple friends with babies of different race or nationality who now, seven or more years after the adoption, are accepted and loved much better than they were initially. Still not the same maybe as biological children in the extended family, but still much better than initially. As for my family - well it’s only been 15 months, but with the grandparents that have these types of issue, at least touched our youngest child this year. It’s better than last year.
I don’t know what we will do if the difference in treatment remains obvious as all of the children get old enough to recognize it. It will be an ongoing evaluation. But I will do my best, as I’m sure you will, to make sure my children know that their value as individuals is not related to how much grandma or grandpa love them.
Thanks for sharing on the forum so that we can all learn from each other.
After over a month without seeing my parents, we traveled to see them last weekend. While I’m still convinced they don’t “get it” I think there is hope for the future. There have been at least 2 negative statements made about people of color by my family recently, so I know they’re still a “work in progress.” It will probably take time, but I pray things will work out.
I’m so sorry that you are having to deal with this. I hope in time your parents will see how they are acting. Surround yourself with people who are supportive and loving to your little one and keep praying for your parents hearts to soften.
I understand the frustration. In our case our parents are all great and brag about her as much if not more than all the other grand kids. My husbands grandparents on his mother’s side are not the most warm, inviting people I have ever met to begin with but when they refer to my daughter who is adopted from Russia as “the emigrant” instead of their great grand daughter was the last straw. She has been home for 2 years now and I have no patience for people like that family or not in our lives. If they want to apologize then we can move forward but we feel we have lots of family support in our lives that we don’t need our children to be exposed to that as my oldest son at 8 years old is very aware of how they treat people differently.
Although never outwardly negative, I was surprised at the less-than-enthusiastic response from some family members to my adoption plan. We are a well educated, liberal family in a diverse city. But what I came to realize is that they too have a genetic stake in my offspring, and you can’t deny that powerful, biological, hard-to-explain emotional motivation. For me this was manifest when, after my father died, my sister seemed intent on my switching my adoption plan (I’m single) to using a sperm donor. And her idea that having lost our beloved father, I had a chance to continue my father’s legacy - maybe having a son I could name after him, a boy that might even look like him - was very compelling. Until my father’s death, the biological connection seemed so unimportant to me. But ultimately, I stuck with my adoption plan.
I suspect one aspect of the situation with Chuck’s parents is that as fair as it is to give adoptive parents room to grieve the loss of their chance for a biological child, so too may grandparents feel the lost opportunity for their biological grandchildren. Which can hit older people facing the end of their life’s journey harder than younger people starting out.
Unfortunately, it seems his parents are quite insensitive to their son and daughter-in-law’s feelings and can’t seem to hide their rejection of this child very well. If they had multiple biological grandchildren, maybe they’d be more welcoming. And also, for some people from an older generation, a transracial adoption is hard to deal with - and I don’t mean from a racist standpoint, it’s just something they’ve never had any experience with, something they never imagined would touch their lives. As adoptive parents, we’ve spent an enormous amount of time, energy (not to mention money) preparing and yet we get our child and thrust him into the arms of everyone and assume they’re going to be completely comfortable with everything.
As Rhonda says, I am pretty sure they will adjust and adapt. And perhaps it would be helpful for them if Chuck and his wife allowed them to express their discomfort openly and honestly. If it can be done in careful manner, without defensiveness and accusations, maybe it can be helpful. They might be able to say that they just can’t get over how dark his skin color is - and saying that out in the open rather then having them shut the blinds and pretend they’re not home is a healthier alternative in the long run.
We are just starting our adoption path. We are excited. I am hesitant to say we are still grieving the loss of the idea of biological children but we are focusing on moving forward. I know my in laws are grieving. Their dissapointment and sadness is clear but alligned with the dissapointment we felt. My parents however seem less supportive. They have never been enthusiastic about the idea of us having kids at all but with a pregnancy they wouldn’t have talked us out of it. Now with planning and decisions to be made they seem to find many opportunities to suggest that maybe we just shouldn’t have kids. They seem to suggest that life with out kids is freeing. I am begining to wonder if they regret having me. I am very submissive to my parents and have a hard time confronting them. My husband and I want a family and are excited about adoption but their negativity seems to send us back a few steps rather then forward. I want to clearly state to them that this is our plan and they can either get on board 100% or jump ship but they can not hang on and drag us down, but I am afraid to have this conversation. Any suggestions or literature on how to have this conversation?
I really sympathize with seamemories05, but I would caution you against any kind of ultimatum to your reluctant parents to get on board or bail. You might want their support RIGHT NOW, but they just might not be able to do it. But at the same time, you want to leave room for them to evolve into it. I would suggest trying to remove them from any part of the equation that you can remove them. They really don’t have too much to do with it after all… they have their own lives and you have yours.
I remember when my sister-in-law was just expecting her mother to help with her kid when she went back to work and was so shocked and offended when her mother refused to help in anyway. Meanwhile, my sister-in-law’s mother confided in me that she had no interest whatsoever in being a nanny, part time or otherwise. She had raised her kids and was DONE with it - and that SHE was actually offended as well that her daughter just assumed she’d make herself available. She wasn’t much of a kid person, especially babies. Now, years later, her grandchildren are older and she is more interested and involved in their lives as the kids actually bring more to her. But, I don’t blame her at all for her earlier decision. It’s her life. Maybe you need to ask yourself how much are you expecting your parents to be involved with your child that they might be reluctant to do. Or do they maybe just worry that you are going to expect to much. I had one grandmother that was the classic grey haired bundle of love, and the other who didn’t have the time of day for anyone who couldn’t hold up their end of an intellectual conversation, which left us kids pretty much out until we got older. Either way, it was all good. It just was what it was.
Elpe thank you for your comment. It was very accurate. My parents are older and intellectual. They are happy to be finally free of animals, children, sick older parents and responsibilities and therefore struggle to relate to wanting kids. After talking to them they expressed some of he things Said here. They hadn’t been included in our research and discussions until we had decided to adopt. This was a point I could understand. The felt we were rushing into a decision and making emotional not rational choices. However the conversation also focused on the fact that they believe their duty as protective parents is to question every decision we make. They demanded that we can not expect them to blindly support with out questions. This left me uneasy. While I see their perspective I am decidedly unenthusiStic about having every step questioned with judgment. I feel I have earned the right by my good choices and age to not have to justify our decisions to anyone even them. Do I even want them on my boat after all?
Funny you should say “boat” - you guys have a marine thing going I see! I think of it as a bus and I’m the bus driver. Some people get on your bus early in life and they get seats, family mostly. Other people get on and off as life goes on. (And some people you have to kick off the bus, either because they do contribute to your trip, or to make room for others). But I would say that without a doubt, you do want your parents on your bus. They’ve got permanent seats anyway and even if they might be making a big mistake now, that doesn’t mean it’s a done deal, they will evolve and change. Kicking them off the bus would be a severe reaction and it’s hard to undo. You don’t have to justify anything to them, but you seem to need their approval and since they don’t want to give it, you want to punish them. I resented my sister for not blindly supporting my decision, but she has every right to express her real concerns and as much as I was angry at her, she’s a smart cookie and knows me well, and I have to admit, has brought up some legitimate issues. I’m not ignoring those issues, but I’m not letting them affect my decision. And am I mad at her because she’s the messenger of my own insecurities? I’m sticking with my adoption plan, but I’d be lying if I said I never had worries or doubts about it. It did hurt my feelings a lot for her to be so questioning, but I love her and she loves me and you can’t always get what you want.
So, to switch back to your metaphor, don’t toss your parents overboard, just stow them away below deck for a while. You say you don’t want every step questioned, but why even open that door and get them involved in the steps to begin with? Make it between you and your spouse. My mother is very supportive but I don’t tell her too much, it’s not her gig! Don’t include them on the journey until you have to, and then it’ll be too late for them to seriously object - you’re just asking for tension by fishing for approval along the way. And don’t forget, they aren’t going to be around forever. Coming from someone who’s father died recently, trust me, you don’t want any regrets down the road for you, or your family, or your child. Good luck.
Have you read the book The Energy Bus by Jon Gordon? We just did and it sounds a lot like your comments. I read them and really appreciated them. They made me feel better and I agree with your ideas. This morning my husband and I took a walk to talk about the conversation we had with my parents yesterday and I referred that book.
I have to hope that this will be the most difficult part of adoption because then I would have an easy road ahead of me I guess. I think the good thing is (like my husband said) we have made the first step of communication. Hopefully we will continue to communicate and they will become less like confrontations and more like conversations.
During “the talk” that I have been talking with there was a biting hurtful comment made. It is sticking with me more then other comments. My parents were struggling with what seemed to them to be an immediate leap from infertility diagnosis to adoption. I suggested that things like infertility are handed to us to make us stronger and that we are not given things we can not handle. My mother suggested that instead it was a sign that we shouldn’t or were not meant to have children. I know with all my heart that I want to love my own child and that I will be a good mother. I know I want to parent a child in my heart. I know this comment is wrong, beyond any shadow of a doubt. How can I forgive and forget? How can I show her how wrong she was?
I was shocked when a good friend, one of my oldest (early on the bus), said the same thing when my first road to adoption failed (I spent 2 years pursuing Nepal, only to have it shut down.) I couldn’t believe she said, “well, maybe this is a sign it’s not meant to be…” Sheesh. Way to be supportive. As a result, I’ve kept her a bit at a distance since. We’re still friends, always will be, and she’ll meet my child (when I get one eventually) and all will be well, but I don’t share any adoption details with her anymore. I think she’s happier about that too, clearly it makes her uncomfortable. Forget about showing your mom how wrong the comment was, ain’t going to happen, give it up. You just have to deal with the fact that they aren’t going to be too supportive. Be the water, not the rock. And it seems like you’ve got some pent up energy to vent and this is a direction you want to vent it in…. find another direction, this is a dead end…. but only for now, maybe!
As always, I cringe when I hear about adoptive parents or prospective adoptive parents who are so quick to be willing to throw the parent/child relationship to the wind over nothing more than a difference of opinion. Someday, the adopted child will be old enough to have a difference of opinion with you. You may even find that he or she is not completely thrilled with adoption. Will he then become an ‘energy vampire’ and an expendable part of your life? These people are your parents. Show them the same respect and consideration you hope your child will show you. Do you want your adopted child to throw you off his bus at the fist sign of a disagreement? Is that the example you want to set for him?
As a former adolescent adoptee and the mother of two grown men, I promise you that you will have far more serious disagreements than this with your own child in the future. Now is a wonderful time to practice strengthening the parent/child relationship by learning to separate the people from the problem.
Well we followed that talk with another talk. There were many more mean things said many more tears. I will take time to heal and follow everyones advice. I will not continue to try to comply with my parents request to be more involved in discussions and decisions and hope that they will meet me half way by being less judgmental. Thanks for all your support. I appreciate that you are on my side and helping me navigate this difficult sitation.