My son, TT, was adopted via the foster care system. He joined our family at birth. His situation is rather unique. He suffered no abuse or neglect. He wasn’t subjected to hurtful substances in utero. Rather, his biological parents made something of an adoption plan. I was told that they had planned on delivering TT at home and then they were going to take advantage of the Safe Haven laws in Iowa. However, after delivering in the hospital, they met with a social worker that explained to them that it would be better for TT if they formally relinquished their rights. As foster parents, we got a call the next day, and TT came home with us from the hospital.
Adoption is always built on loss. TT may not have suffered abuse or neglect, but he did suffer the loss of his first family. He struggles significantly with anxiety as a result. Our family continuing to do foster care compounded many of these anxious feelings. Still, TT has been an amazing foster brother and I’m very proud of him.
The first question I asked TT about adoption was, “When do you think about adoption?”
When I’m watching the news and hear things about kids running away, I think about adoption. Foster care stories make me think about it. Also, I think about adoption any time someone tells me I look like my brother.
TT is not biologically related to anyone in our house. He has a brother only 14.5 months younger than him. People (friends, neighbors and even strangers) want so much to see a resemblance in families. TT hears regularly that he looks like his brother – even though it’s not exactly true. TT is acutely aware of the differences.
I think about my mom a lot. And when I see pictures of the foster kids that used to live with us it makes me think of her. I wonder what she looks like.When do you think about your dad?
I don’t really. I think of moms as someone you go to first. But I do wonder what he looks like.
We don’t have an open adoption with TT’s first family. I was too young and naive to ask for one when TT was placed with us. I have personally tried to find both parents online. I located his mom on FB. I have shown TT pictures. But really, I think that whole “appearance thing” haunts most adoptees all the time. After all, TT is regularly being told that he looks like us and he’s scientific enough to know that anything anyone is seeing is just a coincidence.
I asked TT if he had any advice for adoptive parents. Immediately he blurted out, “Don’t lie.” He recommends that you talk about adoption a lot with your kids. He admits that he thinks about it a lot and it’s better knowing that he can talk about it. TT says it’s hard to talk about adoption most of the time. And then he said it again, “Don’t lie. Tell your kid why they are adopted and don’t lie.”
TT is eleven years old. He doesn’t want to be the face of adoption. I couldn’t get him to say much as I asked him questions. Coming up with answers to share with the world was very difficult for him. In fact, I can guarantee you that I triggered a sense of loss and abandonment just asking TT questions. He doesn’t think being adopted is special. In fact, most of the time he’ll say “it sucks”. I’m OK with him saying that. I simply can’t expect him to be thrilled to death with losing his entire first family. There’s a quote going ‘round the web that says,
“Adoption Loss is the only trauma in the world where the victims are expected by the whole of society to be grateful" - The Reverend Keith C. Griffith, MBE.
And that about sums things up. I just read this piece to TT. (I assured him when I asked him the questions that he would have the final say in anything I write like this.) As I read that quote he responded, “That’s cool. That’s really cool.” And then he took off to go ride his rollerblades outside.
I don’t dwell on the topic of adoption at our house all the time. But I think it’s important to make sure TT knows that he really can talk about it. Adoption is a conversation that must be had with TT because he has a lot of things in his life that are affected by the fact that he’s adopted. I tell him that any feelings he has about being adopted are normal and OK. He loves all of us and he misses his first family in a profound way. I think that’s the reality for many adopted individuals. TT isn’t angry. TT isn’t grateful. TT is just TT. Adoption is part of who he is but it certainly isn’t his entire identity. And as his mom I’m just try to help him handle his feelings, all of them, around this delicate subject.
Cherub Mamma is a forever mamma to three amazing boys ages 17, 11 and 9. While working from home she juggles all the needs of the members of the house while drinking copious amounts of caffeine and trying to not eat too much chocolate. Along the parenting journey she and her husband have had the privilege of parenting foster children as well. She blogs about foster care and adoption at Cherub Mamma. She also spends entirely too much time on Facebook.