Adoption Denial?

As everyone knows, our family was brought together through open adoption.  While every adoption is different, so is every open adoption.  For us, this means that we know our son’s birth mother and we hope to foster a life long relationship between them.  For us this means we were in the hospital when he was born and we met him a few minutes after he arrived.  And, we now keep in touch with his birth mom.  We have no legal arrangement requiring communication, but we have a desire to maintain the relationship.  As we live in different counties we don’t see each other often, other then through pictures.  But we do hope to visit when the time is right (i.e. Little MPB has his Canadian citizenship and the thought of crossing the USA border isn’t so worrisome given our atypical family situation).

This also means we are open about his adoption.  In fact, we talk about it with friends and families when it’s appropriate.  By appropriate I mean we don’t answer certain questions that we have deemed to be part of his private life story.  And, appropriate also means that adoption isn’t part of every single conversation.  It comes up from time to time, but we don’t meet new people and state Little MPB is adopted as our first sentence.  But we  do embrace adoption as how our family came together.  For us, how our family came together is not a dark secrete, in fact, it’s something we cherish and believe it should be celebrated (as should the arrival of any child, in any circumstance).

But, we’ve started to notice that one particular set of grandparents will not speak about adoption, it’s almost like they are in denial that our family came together through adoption. It’s weird and kind of hard to explain.

We’ve told them multiple times, before Little MPB arrived and since he arrived, that if they ever have questions about adoption they are welcome to ask, and we’ll answer them if we feel it’s appropriate.  Instead, it’s radio silence.  They do not ask anything about his birth family (where as all our other family and friends from time to time ask how his birth mother is).  If we bring up anything related to adoption in the course of a conversation, they change the subject.  In fact, they wont even stay involved in a conversation with we talk about when we were in the USA when Little MPB was born.  Truthfully, it’s become almost awkward how much they seem to be working to avoid any conversation related to adoption.

This has lead Mr. MPB and I to speculate that they are just pretending he isn’t adopted.  We wonder if they are choosing to take a different approach to how we had our son.  An approach that is much more in line with past generations – adoption isn’t something you speak about, it’s swept away and hidden.  We don’t know for sure what’s going on and unfortunately because they wont have any adoption related conversations this isn’t a question we can ask and expect to get a truthful answer.

Early on we tried to educate them about open adoption but even then they refused to really talk about it or ask any questions.  And now they refuse to talk about it, so we aren’t really sure how we can effectively help educate them on modern open adoption.

However, our inability to help them understand open adoption and their apparent refusal to discuss it, does cause us some worry for Little MPB as he grows up.  We are told that almost every single child who was adopted at some age (usually between 3 and 6ish) likes to talk about it.  My worry is, how will they respond to him if he’s talking about adoption?  Will they use language and words that imply secrecy or shame or denial, which simply isn’t language we are okay with.

I know I’m worrying about something that may never happen, but I think like all parents (adoption or not), that’s what we do sometimes.  And, I think when it comes to adoption, I can be overly sensitive and we are very aware of how seemingly simple language can convey a hurtful message to a child.  Like all parents, I just want to protect our children from possible hurt.

But, how do we do that when the possible hurt may come from within our family, even if those family members wont be trying to be hurtful, but their actions/words very likely will be hurtful?  I want to be proactive on this, but we’ve tried that and it hasn’t worked.  So,  we feel like we are at the point where we just have to wait and see.  And if anything inappropriate is said, then we just have to correct it and depending on the circumstance then we have to re-evaluate our approach.

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16 Comments on “Adoption Denial?

  1. It’s always so much more awkward and potential harmful when it’s family… I hope they come around, especially if Little MPB wants to talk openly with them about it one day. Perhaps Little MPB will be the catalyst to change their views- if he can show them one day that he is comfortable and confident with the fact that he was adopted, maybe then they’ll see how silly it is for fully grown adults to be uncomfortable with it. And they hopefully would know better than to say something hurtful to his face. Good luck on that front.

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  2. You limit contact with people who are not healthy influences on your kid–that’s what you do. Listen MPB, these people are assh*les (I believe they are the same ones that always give you grief, yes?) and they are not going to change because they don’t WANT to. They obviously think adoption is the second-class way to build a family and their sh*tty attitude WILL affect your kid the same way it affects you, only worse because he won’t be able to understand or rationalize their behavior the way you do. You can tell them to cut the sh*t (set healthy boundaries about how they should approach the subject of adoption with your family) or you can limit contact and make them a non-entity. XOXO

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  3. I have received a lot of suggestions as to how to deal with the adoption of my daughter as she grows up. We intend to tell her about her adoption and we have pictures of the social worker and the adoption day and she visits the adoption agency a few times a year so the staff can see how she is growing etc. Our adoption was a closed adoption since the mother’s rights were terminated due to abuse and neglect so it wasn’t considered in the best interest of the child to still have contact with the biological family.

    Basically the adoption is a fact and part of our daughter’s history, but we are not going to bring it up everyday. Some people have all sorts of mini celebrations to celebrate the milestones and really talk about the adoption a lot, but I doubt that we will bring up the adoption on a regular basis especially since it is a closed adoption. In your case since you communicate with the biological mother it might be more natural for you guys to refer to the adoption more often.

    Our parents don’t talk about the adoption. My mom thinks that if we keep bringing it up then our daughter will get the impression that she has “real parents” out there and want to find them. My husband’s parents don’t talk about the adoption because they think that we are the parents and she is their granddaughter and they aren’t interested in the biological parents or her history. They see our daughter as part of the family. They don’t deny that she was adopted. Since she is a different race then us everyone can guess that an adoption happened but they don’t dwell on the adoption at all. Hopefully that makes sense.

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  4. Best guess is pretending is their way of coping with the lack of continuation of the genetic line. It’s something they are mourning, I still mourn the lack of continuation of the genetic line for mom and dad, the world lost because generations upon generations on dad’s line proved a continual line of amazingly good-hearted, strong-willed, hard working people.

    Having said the above – my grandpa would fall into the same category (mind you he was born in 1877 so there’s that) but reading his letters as the genealogist of the family, I discovered that he didn’t see us the same, we were borrowed children, not his grandchildren. It stung when I read that a few years ago, what also was true though, he treated us well, he treated us as his grandchildren. I was little when he passed, but I remember him and those memories are warm and loving.

    So, what I’m trying to say long-form – just like any grief, it’s valid, it also doesn’t mean they’ll act differently to your child, and really, that’s what counts. Wait till you have something to worry about, then if needed, address it, just remember grief isn’t always rational seeing as it is a feeling.

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  5. Clearly I have no practical experience about this situation, but it is interesting you have written about this today because I was literally just talking about generational differences and family situations to Aviana’s grandfather. We don’t get to choose our family like we choose our friends and that makes situations like this tricky! I think you have to ask them outright why they don’t want to face the facts and that you are concerned that little MPB might pick up on their attitude towards adoption. So tough! I’m going to have to have a similar confrontational conversation with family who are about to meet Aviana for the first time because they have posted things in Facebook that suggest they don’t support IVF 🙄 which is ok if that’s their view but not ok if it effects Aviana!

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  6. I’m a single foster/adoptive parent. I adopted my oldest in December of 2015. He is now 17. I have two younger foster children, ages 6 and 2. The younger two are biological siblings. The little guy (he’s now 2, almost 3) has lived with me since he left the hospital at 3 days old. His sister (now 6) moved in a few months after that, but she had been with us many times for several months as her previous foster family struggled with her and her sister. TPR finally happened for the little ones yesterday, but reunification has been off the table for well over a year now.

    I give you this background information to understand the story I’m about to share. My parents were not there when I adopted my son. My mom had a scheduled medical procedure that she couldn’t reschedule because it would mean paying out her deductible again. I have never heard my parents call my son their grandson and, in fact, just this past summer at a picnic at my parent’s house, my mom lamented her lack of grandchildren. I’m the oldest of three and the only one interested in having a family, both my brother and my sister are disinterested in parenting. When my mom stated she had no grandchildren, I called her out on it. I told her she could not say that and, if my dad hadn’t diffused the situation, I would have gathered up the children and left. Just recently my mom cried to me that no one comes around to visit them. I bit my tongue because I didn’t want to start a fight, but the reason we don’t come around much is because she has made it very clear that she does not view my adopted child (soon to be children) as her grandchild(ren). My kids have been through enough in their lives; they don’t need to be treated as second class because they are not biological. My mom had been very attached to a previous foster placement and has not been able to get over him returning to his biological mother. It is so painful to know my mom would treat a biological child drastically different than my beautiful children. I always envisioned my children having the close bonded relationship with my parents that I had with my own grandparents, but it doesn’t seem like they want that. I’m coming to terms with it, but it isn’t easy. I hope that you are able to converse with the grandparents who seem to be trying to brush your son’s reality under the rug. If not, very painful decisions will need to be made in order to protect your son. I wish you the very best!

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    • I’m sorry about your mom’s attitude. You are right: your kids have been through enough in their lives and don’t need to be treated as second class because they are not biologically related to you or your mother. Good for you for standing up for them!

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  7. I know you are doing the best you can for Baby MPB and protecting him from any possible hurt is a part of that…it’s so hard…especially when you see there might be issues in the future. All in all, you and Mr. MPB are going to have the most impact on Baby MPB…everyone else is white noise in my book…stick to your guns and he will be proud of his parents for raising him the way you all are choosing…xoxo

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  8. I am going to provide another potential view. Maybe they just don’t see it as a big factor to them and don’t really think about it much. Perhaps they will be able to smoothly include it and embrace it when the time calls for it. I think it is smart to prepare and plan for scenarios but also mentally healthy to occasionally assume the best in someone’s intentions. Not necessarily because they have good intentions but because you avoid the mental and emotional anguish of assuming it is bad. All that being said– I think you and Mr. MPB have an amazing handle on taking care of your boy’s needs and will be well equipped to handle any potential issues if they arise. One more thought- have you thought about asking them how they feel about the adoption?just point blank saying ‘we notice you don’t bring it up ever and want to make sure you fully embrace and feel comfortable with the situation’. Just a thought..

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  9. I know it must be frustrating to have one side of the family more reserved when talking about things. This has always baffled me with Oliver as you think people would follow your lead….I think you guys have done a good job at reaching out and doing your best to make them feel comfortable and I do hope one day they will be more open to discussion and questions.

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  10. You may be right in thinking they don’t talk about it because they are older, raised in a time where adoption was a taboo topic. I do like Mamajo’s POV too though…if it were me I’d probably just ask them point-blank. Or maybe you and Mr could sit down and write a letter to them, explaining that it makes you uncomfortable that they avoid the subject, and that it concerns you what they may say to him in the future. Make it clear your feelings on it, and what isn’t acceptable to be said to him. I’m not sure if that would work, but just a thought. I’m sorry that you’re having to deal with this from family. Whatever happens, I hope things get easier with it.

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  11. I had a section of family that was from the “don’t talk about it” era, too. I spent a lot of time trying to explain why those days were over (and that strategy didn’t work all that well) and that we were doing things in an above-board manner. We wanted our children to be able to talk with us about ANYTHING, and that meant we had to be able to do the same.

    It sounds like you are doing everything in your power to do — 1) working with your relatives on understanding your view, and 2) cultivating strong relationships with your kids that are based on truth and connection.I guess that’s when you let go and trust that you’re doing all you can to prepare and protect.

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  12. I’ve been gone from the blogoverse for a while, and am just catching up with you. Can’t believe the little guy is already at preschool and bringing home pictures … Wow! Anyway… When I read this it brought to mind a memory that I thought I should share. Maybe it will reassure you.

    I was an unmarried mother the whole of my daughter’s life. I had never been married, and definitely had no desire to marry her father, and in fact I dumped him shortly after I realized I was pregnant. Not that he was a bad guy, but … just not a long-term prospect. My parents found this whole situation *very* difficult to handle, and while my Mom was able to come to a place of acceptance and love, my father couldn’t even stand being referred to as a grandfather. It’s not that he wasn’t kind; he just didn’t want to accept. Then, when my daughter was around a year old, starting to talk, life got complicated and we had to move in with my parents for a few months.

    Well, one day I realized that she thought women and girls had names, but males were all called “John”. My brother’s name is Jon, my sister was dating a guy called John, and there happened to be one or two other Johns in our lives. When I heard her calling my father “John” I realized it was time to deal with the elephant in the room. I told him he needed to have some sort of name that she could use, specific to their relationship. No, not “Ken” – she’s a child, you’re an adult, she can’t call you by your first name. No, not “Uncle Ken” – you’re not her uncle, that would be confusing. NO, absolutely NOT “Dad”! ICK! (I have no idea why he thought that would be okay, but I suspect part of his issue was that being called Granddad made him feel old.)

    Eventually he said, “FINE. You choose something, then!” So I said, “Okay, lots of kids have cute nicknames for their grandparents. In The Hobbit (which I was reading at the time), the oldest male in the village is called The Gaffer. So she’ll call you Gaffer.” I figured that would be close enough to Grandfather that neither she nor anyone else would pick up on his attitude … at least for a few more years.

    Ha ha ha … nope. Half an hour later I heard him down the passage, giving her something to bring to me. “Here, Lara,” he said. “Give this to Mommy. Tell her it’s from Grandad.”

    My point, dear MPB, is that these things have a way of working themselves out. You don’t have to discuss everything – sometimes that just creates wounds. I’m guessing these grandparents are good and loving people who are struggling with some incomprehensible issue over adoption … but when the time comes that you have to tell them, “Hey, we need to figure this out because otherwise the little guy will get hurt!” they’ll be only too happy to work with you to find a solution.

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  13. Oh boy. I can tell you from experience with similar grandparents (the ‘we don’t talk about things we don’t want to talk about’ and ‘ignore ignore ignore’ types) that this likely won’t change. We have topics far less sensitive that my in-laws refuse to discuss and they make the kids feel ignored when they try to talk about those things with their grandparents. It’s uncomfortable and so hurtful to the kids that we don’t see this in-laws much anymore. It just happened last weekend and Brian told me he’s done putting the kids in that situation. That generation is just so…. ?????

    I send you support and much hope that I am entirely wrong here. ❤️

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    • Thank you for sharing Courtney – I always appreciate your insight and perspective.
      I truly do believe a lot of this is generational. But, I also don’t think generational differences make it okay to be hurtful of others feels. That just doesn’t make it okay.
      And I tend to agree with your husband, at some point it does become a situation that we are no longer putting our child in. And when/if it comes to it, we will do the same.

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      • Yes, I don’t let generational differences define what is and is not ok in how you treat people. Good luck… I hope it changes.

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