People take me aside and want to know how to adopt older children. “Do they miss their real mom?” I’m asked.
“I’m their real mom,” I always smile and respond, “But yes they miss their birth parents.” Why wouldn’t they?
When we adopt it is a well-intentioned way of adding to our families, of sharing our love and resources, hoping to make life better for someone else.
For older adopted children we are unintentionally closing the door shut on their last hope of parental reunification. My 27 year old daughter just explained that to me this week. A very simple fact that I’d not yet grasped.
“Y’all were so happy the day we came to Georgia,” she explained to me, “but you didn’t realize that meant we’d never see our original family again. We weren’t happy, we were sad and terrified.”
I did know that, I knew she was grief stricken and fearful, but back then I didn’t realize she still pined for the mother who’d not really parented her in eleven years. It was the idea to her, that maybe someday her mother would get off drugs, stop drinking and partying, and be a parent. Being adopted by a new parent slammed that door.
Oddly, 15 years later when the birth family found her wanting to reunite, to deny the past, this daughter of mine was furious with them for trying to upset the life she felt she’d built for herself here in Georgia.
That first week she was with us, all those years ago, I wondered if she had a sense of humor as she cried hard and often, had imaginary ailments and was basically a shell-shocked survivor of unbelievable trauma. A world-weary, elderly child protectively holding her two brother’s hands and trying to breathe in our sultry air after all her life lived in the West Texas desert air, poised for flight yet sort of wanting to believe that they’d now be safe.
Within the next ten years she grew very close to me as did her brothers, the second decade brought about phenomenal emotional and academic growth, now I’m the real grandmother to some darling grandchildren.
No, now they don’t miss their birth parents, now they’re confident and secure in allowing me to be their real parent, the one who remained present and committed.
Photo Credit Cindy Bodie