ADOPTION IS… GROWING TOGETHER
Written by Stephanie LeGrand. She is a Colorado mom of three kids — one by adoption, one by IVF, and one the old fashioned way. You can learn more about how she parents on her blog at Raise A Rich Kid.
“I wish I’d never been adopted!!!”
That was what my twelve-year-old daughter spat out at me a few nights ago. She was in a fit of tween rage triggered by my asking her to clean up her room.
In that moment, her comment pierced my heart, cut me to the quick and crushed my soul more than I want to admit.
I heard, “I wish you weren’t my mom.”
I felt complete and utter rejection.
And let’s suffice to say I responded with far less parental grace than I’d like to admit. (Imagine something along the lines of, “So you’d rather live in an orphanage? Be my guest!”)
To give some context, my daughter, who we adopted internationally when she was just over a year old, has been telling me she feels sad lately. When asked why she responds with a shrug and a subject change… Welcome to adolescence!
Back to the “I wish I’d never been adopted” moment…you know, the one that every adoptive parent dreads.
I’ve been replaying the scene in my head non-stop.
What could she have meant and what was she feeling? And what the heck was with my knee-jerk, tone-deaf response?
I realized that her comment wasn’t about me at all. It was about the loss of her birth family.
And why shouldn’t she wish to be with their birth family? Isn’t that a fundamental desire for all human beings?
Now that she is growing up, I struggle to talk about adoption with her. Her questions are harder to answer now that she is thinking about the deeper complexities of life and relationships.
She knows her story, as we have told it to her since the day we brought her home. But as she’s entered adolescence, she doesn’t want to talk about it.
When I try, she shuts me down and avoids all mention of adoption like the plague. I sense that, despite her self-centered tween glory, a part of her is worried about hurting my feelings if she expresses her grief and feelings of loss.
In reflecting on her comment, I need to acknowledge that I also wish with all my heart that she wasn’t adopted and that she lived with her birth family.
Even more, I wish with all my heart that I was her birth mom and that WE were her birth family – so that she could feel her belonging with us as deeply and profoundly as we feel it for her.
So what does all this have to do with “growing together”?
I think it means that the adoption journey doesn’t end at the courthouse when you have the adoption decree in hand. It keeps on going as your child grows up and as you grow as a parent with them. It is embracing and dwelling on the hard emotional work that reveals itself in daily life and in the many, many years after the adoption is complete.
At this point, I can only hope that my daughter will let me grow with her.
As far as handling the comment, “I wish I’d never been adopted,” I believe, after much reflection, I’ll be able to respond with more empathy and an open heart next time.
And we all KNOW there will be a next time because since when do kids ever press our emotional buttons just once?
My plan is to say something more along the lines of, “I hear and feel you. Let’s keep talking so we can work through this together.”
And, hopefully, she and I will walk a few more steps together in this process of “growing together.”