#22 – When to tell?

July 3, 2011 at 12:56 pm | Posted in Adoptive parenting do's | Leave a comment
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Yesterday I spoke with an adoptive father who wanted advice on how to tell his 11 year old daughter that she was adopted.  He and his wife are planning a small trip over the 4th of July and have decided to tell their only child this week-end that she is adopted.

I was very surprised to hear his story because I thought that these days virtually all adoptive parents told their children from the very beginning, in most cases long before a child can comprehend just what adoption is.  This man said his wife had been afraid all along to discuss it with their daughter, but now they are afraid she will hear it from family or friends, all of whom know.

We’ve all heard many stories of people who’ve heard they were adopted at very advanced ages, one woman I heard about was 65 and applying for Social Security when she discovered she had been adopted.

There are no easy answers or situations, but years of experience have proven that the earlier the better when it comes to this.  I hope for the best for this family, but their  daughter will learn that her parents have been keeping a secret from her for 11 years.  The trust factor may come into this and their relationship may change.

In our family since we had a biological child first and adopted children after that, I couldn’t make one more special than the other.  I started telling a bedtime story to our children while our first adopted son was still in his crib.  I told our “family story” after baths at night while they were in their pajamas and the house was quiet.  Tim heard the word adoption in a loving environment and in a loving tone of voice long before he even understood what the story was about.

There are two episodes that come from my storytelling.  One night our 5 year old daughter (biological) left Tim’s room during the story.  I finished the story, tucked Tim into his crib and went into our daughter’s room.  She was crying and when I asked her what the trouble was, she said, “That poor lady who had to give away her baby.”  My heart sank.  I never talked about giving away a baby.  I said Tim grew in another lady’s tummy, but Tim was our baby.  Our daughter had heard this story many times, but at the age of 5, she comprehended the reality, no matter how glossy I tried to make the story.

The second episode came one time when we were out for dinner and a father of five asked me if I thought Tim really understood what adoption was.  I was curious after that, so I asked Tim.  After several “I dunno’s”, I told him he’d heard our family story many times and must have some idea of what it was.  He said, “I think it means love.” That time my heart swelled.  He really didn’t know the mechanics or particulars of adoption, but he knew whatever it was, it involved love.  As he matured he did have some adoption issues we all had to deal with, but the underlying seed planted when he was still a baby and a toddler was adoption did indeed, have something to do with love.

I hope for the best this week-end for the family that waited 11 years.  Generally, this is very discouraged in adoption circles.  I think all adoptive parents wish it never had to be discussed at all, for it isn’t an issue with parents.  However, it can be with many adopted children while growing up, and even during their adult years.  But, it is what it is.

Honesty and openness are always best. Issues that are out in the open can be discussed and handled.   Keeping secrets can lead to problems.

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