Adult Adoptee Perspective

The Impact of Divorce on an Adoptee

The impact of divorce on an adopteeI’ve been sitting all week with a question I received from a reader, I’m going to call her Leilani. She was asking for my opinion as a woman, and as an adoptive mom. I’ve been mulling it over and I’ve decided I have a more valuable perspective to offer Leilani – that of an adoptee.

Her story is not mine to tell, so you’ll have to excuse the vague-blogging.

Leilani has been married for over 5 years and has no biological children. Sometime ago, she and her husband made the decision to pursue adoption and are now very close to having a child placed with them. In the time since they began this journey, Leilani and her husband have realized they don’t want to be married anymore. They are, however, still committed to the adoption process, and have discussed and agreed upon plans for co-parenting. While Leilani is confident that their current plan is for the best of all concerned, she isn’t sure how much of their plans they should share with their agency. She isn’t comfortable with the idea of withholding information, but worries that full disclosure will lead to unnecessary delays in a process that has already been painfully slow and drawn-out.

Well, Leilani, you aren’t going to like my answer. I don’t think full disclosure to your agency is enough. Until your relationship situation has been comfortably settled, it is irresponsible and callous for you to bring a child into the uncertainty.

When I was in the 8th grade, I came home from a junior high football game to learn that my mom had asked my dad to move out. If I close my eyes, I can still relive the way my world lurched when I heard this. They didn’t actually separate. Dad spent a few nights in his van in the driveway, and Mom eventually let him come home. But my sense of security, which had never been terribly strong to begin with, has never recovered from that moment.

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#AdoptionTalk: What is “Correct” Adoption Language?

I’ve always called him my biological father. My mom called him The Sperm Donor. His mother – my biological paternal grandmother, who everyone called “Nana” – called him my dad.

Of course, Nana also persisted in referring to my sister, as my half-sister, even after I corrected her. And she called my daddy my stepdad, even though she knew he had adopted me.

I never liked that my mom called him The Sperm Donor, but I never bothered to correct her. That would have been disloyal – after all, he was the enemy. He had walked out on us – abandoned us

Throughout my life, I’ve allowed others to control the descriptors – some have called him my birth dad, my real dad, “that lying bastard that walked out on you and your mom….” The only one I’ve ever corrected is “real” dad, even though my preference is biological father.

#AdoptionTalk What is "appropriate" adoption language? Who decides?

Recently, we had to have an adoptive family assessment before we could get the final approvals to finalize Lil Bit’s adoption. She asked how we planned to talk about adoption in the family and I explained that we’ve already started discussing it – we read books about adoption, the boys have all seen pictures of their first moms, and the twins keep asking when we’ll go see the judge so he can give Lil Bit our last name….

She approved of everything except our use of first mom. Her professional opinion is that first mom might be confusing and we should use birth mom instead….

That makes exactly ZeRO sense to me. I can’t fathom how first mom is more confusing than birth mom, but whatever. She’s the professional (and her blessing is required to keep my youngest son forever), so I smiled and agreed to give her thoughts serious consideration.

But that combined with my own experience, got me thinking – who determines what is appropriate, or acceptable, or correct, adoption language?

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#AdoptionTalk: Imaginary siblings

Every fiber of my being - my very soul - covets a close, enduring relationship with EACH of my siblings.Are they real brothers? You know, *REAL* brothers?

Yeah, but is she your REAL sister?

Do you have any REAL brothers or sisters?

Oh, how I detest this question. As an adoptive parent or as an adoptee, the “REAL” question makes me want to scream.

Yes, my boys are real brothers – I left all the imaginary kids at home… They love, fight, play and get into stuff just like every other set of brothers you’ve ever met. Yes, they’re real brothers.

But that doesn’t make their biological siblings any less “real”. You know, the ones that don’t live with us. The ones they’ve never met. The ones they don’t know exist. Those siblings aren’t imaginary either. And those siblings are not less important.

I think this question is pretty universally despised in the adoption community. I’m sure it seems innocent enough to the person asking, but it just lands so squarely on so many insecurities – it’s not a harmless conversation-starter.

Yes, I am their real mother. Yes, the 1st mom is their real mother. Same with siblings. None are imaginary.

I take that back about it being the same with siblings. With siblings it’s even more important. I know this as an adoptive parent, but I live it as an adoptee.

Maybe I should back up. See, apparently a lot of people don’t know that I’m adopted. The technical term, I believe, is step-parent adoption. The short version is that my biological father walked out when I was less than 3 months old. My mom eventually met and married my dad, and he adopted me just before I turned 6. I have a mom, a dad, and a biological father. I also have 2 brothers and 2 sisters. I have an older brother from my dad’s 1st marriage, a younger sister from my mom and dad, and a younger sister and brother from my biological father’s subsequent marriage. (more…)