March 7th, 2008
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Categories: Adoptive Families

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

5 Responses to “What Adoptive Parents Don’t Understand”

  1. It is so crazy that I found this post tonight, after having a very deep heart to heart with our teen daughter. She is the eldest of a sib group, that she spent most of her childhood separated from. She shared, through many tears, that she felt being adopted with them was her last hope. She knew if she had remained in care she would age out and follow in the footsteps of her highly dysfunctional birthfamily. She knew her only shot at “anything better” was to come here, to a state far away. She confesses that she does not want to be adopted, and does not want to “close the door on her birth family,” but felt she must scam us into believing she did want to. The pressure of the scam is coming home, as she just does not feel able to keep living the lie, but is in terror that we will send her away. Her frustration is coming out in constant anger and aggression. (Her adoption is not yet final due to complications.) What would you say in this situation? Her younger sibs seem to have far less misgivings. She clearly articulates that she feels safe with us, likes us and desires a relationship, and believes we will help her achieve her goals. But she is very unsure about finalizing the adoption. As far as the law is concerned, she must give her consent at her age, but I think fear would compel her to fail to speak her mind. And I fear that the powers that be would not like to hear this one bit, and would try and bully her into doing something, just to clear their caseload. I know beyond a doubt that I could bully her into choosing to finalize, but am really unsettled about pushing her that way.

  2. Cindy Bodie says:

    Is she in therapy? My first gut reaction to your post is that she’s pushing you away while hoping you’ll pull closer to her? The kind of backward logic that my children often use on me. Do you think that’s the case?

  3. Yes, in some ways I think this is true. She definitely wants a relationship, but is unsure what she wants it to be. She is still clinging to hope that her birthmom will get it together and come back for her. She feels she is betraying her by calling us her family, or making it final.

    Don’t even get me going on therapy. We have been jumping through hoops for so long, that I can barely remember when we got started. Although additional testing, services, and therapy have been ordered, we are on a waiting list. I was told this past week we will have a minimum wait of about four more months to get any help.

    If we had known how near impossible it was to obtain services in our area, we would have never gone this route. But we were led to believe they would be available when we were receiving training. We had no idea the lengths we would have to go to, to actually get them.

    But now the deed is done, and it’s not like we can just pack ‘em up and send ‘em back. So we muddle along doing the best we can. Our cw believes they are doing well and making real progress, but agrees that it is because we have been willing to sweat blood to get them there. He further agrees that we cannot continue this indefinitely.

    The long and short of it is, that we assured her we would never send her back for telling us how she really felt, and that we would continue to help her achieve her goals, and care for her. She has stopped calling me Mom, and has another sweet pet name for me. I am allowing this as she is far less surly when she says it. One question she asked was, “What if I changed my mind some day, and wanted to be adopted?” We told her that you can be adopted at any time in your life, even after you became an adult. This seemed to comfort her.

  4. Cindy Bodie says:

    I adopted one of my children when she was a married mother in her 20s. She’d lived with us as a teen as an emergency foster care situation, her birth mom lives 50 miles from here and has recently tried to make amends.

  5. This is very encouraging to me. She has been much happier since we had this talk, and I think we might be on a better road right now. Honesty is always the best policy. Then, if we know what we are dealing with, we can be open about it. Plus I got great news today that we are bumped up one month closer to therapy. Three months seems like such a long time, but after all the time we’ve waited so far, not so much. Thanks for your input.

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