I don’t think it’s either/or

10 Mar

Two posts I’ve read recently that may be good to discuss, mull on, agree or disagree.  And a third post I go back to time after time, it seems to give good advice for many situations in adoption.

Don’t Blame Adoption: Sometimes People Are Just Sad

“I’ve learned over the years that there are two basic kinds of people when it comes to those who are touched by adoption. There are the ones who don’t dwell on the adoption and the ones who do. There are very few people who fall in between.”

I’d posit that most adoptees fall in between, not either/or, and who wants to further division between us.

I’m not sure why she chose this either/or example to highlight adoptees instead of a both/and.  Few things in life are black and white, and being adopted certainly isn’t an either/or, it has far too much complexity and fluctuating feelings to ever be either/or across a lifetime.  And heaven forbid someone dwells on something for a time in their life, maybe even seems downtrodden at times.  Sometimes life sucks, whatever that person is dealing with, or processing.  It’s harmful to paint people processing challenges in this way.

She speaks about her thinking on being adopted sporadically, but being too busy living life to dwell on being adopted.  That is how most adoptees live their lives until an event happens to them that sparks interest in delving into being adopted, it’s not an either/or, nor does spending a season focusing on being adopted mean you won’t return to thinking about being adopted every now and again like before.

Like the author and most other adoptees, I’d think about being adopted, for me, it was every six months or so.  Once the internet happened, I’d spend the weekend searching for clues, and then, I’d pack being adopted away again until I thought about it again  That was before I got sick.  Now I find the subject compelling, both current and historical adoption, same with genealogical research.  With both, it’s something familiar enough that what I learn sticks.  With adoption, it has also provided me with a community and friendships I wouldn’t have otherwise, and I value that highly, you are all such a gift.  I’m the anomaly though, because I didn’t get to have my life back after I got sick, so I’m even more thankful to have something that interests me, that I can turn to when I have the energy, and most importantly, engage with people who get where I’m coming from or challenge me to reconsider my views and become a better person.

“You’re Not My Real Mom Anyway!”

This post, specifically her response made me pause.  I don’t remember how mom or dad responded, but the response seemed wrong to say to an adopted child, because the underlying truth is that there is another mother too, and she’s also real, even if not part of the child’s life.  Feel free to tell me I’m wrong, but I don’t think this is an either/or subject either, it’s both/and.

Here’s a post that talks about real in adoption and the either/or and both/and that speaks to me as the better way to answer that question for a little one who says it, and I loved how Torrejon turned the real upside down.

“Real” in Adoption and how it Splits our Babies

Stay safe and well…



Posted by on March 10, 2018 in Adoption


Tags: , , , , , , ,

20 responses to “I don’t think it’s either/or

  1. pj

    March 11, 2018 at 3:19 pm

    I believe saying there are very few adoptees who fall “in between” is like saying we all don’t have our own unique journey.
    ” We encourage them to claim all pieces of themselves, those from biology and those from biography. ” Love this ! Wise woman, and a yogi at that 🙂

    Liked by 4 people

  2. Lori Lavender Luz

    March 11, 2018 at 3:22 pm

    I’ve found in my own experience that the companion thought to “you’re not my real mom” can be “I’m not your real son/daughter.” Sometimes, adoptive parents need to attune to deeper layers and address them, to validate the very real connections in the family — without negating birth family.

    Clearly everyone is real, and we don’t need to negate one side to legitimize the other. That’s at the foundation of Both/And.

    (I recall several years ago when my daughter said my son wasn’t her real brother. This was our conversation:


    • TAO

      March 11, 2018 at 3:23 pm

      Thanks Lori…


    • Dannie

      March 12, 2018 at 3:56 pm

      thanks for the Link Lori, I just dealt with the same “step” thing not too long ago. It was a concept I hadn’t even thought about and seemed “bizarre” to me. I had to think quick and pause. seems like this age 8/9 is a good one for seeing the brains working in action.


  3. Dannie

    March 12, 2018 at 3:51 pm

    There’s a wrong way to react and then theres shades of gray based on the dynamics of what is happening in a family. Personally reading the middle blog, I feel parent was trying to relate based on her son’s personality as well as special needs. Sometimes the interactions will not be and cannot be to the same level as a child without any academic/intellectual/social emotional disabilities.

    I get the “I wish you weren’t my mom” bit when there is anger or frustration at not having a specific way, and I just affirm that she’s frustrated and mad, and that she can always express her feeling, however, in homes there are rules and boundaries that must be followed and will be enforced even if it causes frustration. Up to now it does the trick….although who knows, I have to explain how both kids have different personalities so my tactics may be different and that’s ok, it doesn’t mean i love one more than the other. We get the comparison game too.


    • TAO

      March 12, 2018 at 4:11 pm

      Good point Dannie.


  4. Brooke

    March 13, 2018 at 5:53 pm

    I wrote about my own experience with the “real parents” thing, check it out here, let me know what you think.


    • TAO

      March 13, 2018 at 6:49 pm

      Thanks Brooke, will check it out.


  5. Lori Lavender Luz

    March 13, 2018 at 6:30 pm

    I just became aware of this post by an adopted person:


    • TAO

      March 13, 2018 at 6:49 pm

      Brooke just commented about it too.


  6. Dannie

    March 14, 2018 at 3:04 pm

    Ages eight and nine or in our case third grade seems to be the pivotal point. Yesterday a classmate asked E if she was adopted, did that make me like a stepmom and E didn’t know how to answer so we had a talk about families, definitions, legal assertions, parental and educational rights and how it differs between biological, adoptive, and step parents etc etc and that families look different at times and it’s ok. So who knows if I got too technical but I wanted to make sure she had a lot of options to answer questions if she so chooses to answer. 🙂


    • TAO

      March 14, 2018 at 10:13 pm

      At her age, she’s old enough to get that. Well done.


  7. Sally Bacchetta

    March 15, 2018 at 11:57 pm

    I love this post and the discussion in the comments. Everyone loses with either/or. 😦


    • TAO

      March 16, 2018 at 1:42 pm

      Of course I agree…


  8. Tiffany

    March 16, 2018 at 7:03 pm

    I’ve thought so long before replying because I hate just commenting without adding anything relevant to the conversation. And a lot of my “relevant” shares too much of my daughter’s feelings, which aren’t mine to overshare. It’s a fine line to walk.

    I don’t think there is a right or wrong, and it depends so much on the kid. For my daughter, I stay quite firmly in the lane of “whatever you are feeling is ok.” Feelings are feelings. They aren’t wrong or right, only our responses to them. When a child who is adopted lashes out with “you aren’t my real mom!” it’s because they are feeling something very real. When they are hurt because another kids asks them “do you know who your real parents are?” it’s painful because they are feeling something.

    I can never know what that something feels like because I am not adopted.

    So I reply with “it’s ok that you feel that way” and “I love you and I always will” and “no one else can decide your relationships for you— not me, not a friend at school, not even your other parents. that is your decision and yours alone.” I’m ok with not being the “real mom.” And I’m ok with being the “real mom.” I’m ok with her other mom being the “real mom.” And I’m ok with her other mom not being the “real mom.” For a young kid, especially, I think the emphasis needs to be on whatever the title, whatever you call me or your other mom, we love you. This is hard, this isn’t fair, and this is really, really hard for you to understand why your adoption happened. We will love you through it. I tell this to both my daughters, actually, that they can hate me, they can call me names, they can do awful thing, they can be absolutely furious with me, but my love for them will never change or alter. I tell them it’s “mama magic.” 😉 They are in my heart, and that is where they will stay. Kids need assurances that no matter how much they screw up or what they feel (because kids do sometimes feel like they hate their parents), parents are different in that we never stop loving them. I sometimes think this is magnified for adoptees. I sense a lot of abandonment issues in my daughter, and she just needs to be shown and told again and again that despite her other parents not being able to keep her, I am not going anywhere and my love is not changing.

    “Real” is just a word and we don’t have to give it so much power (speaking of how adoptive parents react to it). Instead, we can focus on love being the force that we use to express to our children what our relationship with them truly is about.


    • TAO

      March 16, 2018 at 10:10 pm

      I think you missed your calling Tiffany, you’re an adoptee whisperer and should teach others how to whisper too. “Mama Magic”…


      • Tiffany

        March 17, 2018 at 12:08 am

        I feel like I don’t know what I am doing more than half the time! I just now finished dealing with an emotional meltdown over her feeling different than us because we are not the same race.

        What is there to do besides acknowledge her feelings? Sometimes, most of the time, I feel like that is all I can do. I don’t want to offer platitudes like “it doesn’t matter to me that you are different” because what matters is that it matters to her. Or “I love you anyway” because she knows that and it minimizes her pain and that “anyway” is so damning. Or “everyone is different in some way” because most people aren’t different within their own immediate family and other differences don’t really compare. All there really is to do is acknowledge her feelings and hug her through the tears. It can be SO hard to not try to fix it, but there isn’t a fix, so I bite my tongue when the platitudes want to spill out.

        I don’t know if I am doing it right at all, but I guess someday we will find out. I relate so much to that song from Dear Evan Hansen: “Does anybody have a map, anybody maybe happen to know how the hell to do this? I don’t know if you can tell but this is me just pretending to know. So where’s the map? I need a clue cause the scary truth is I’m flying blind and I’m making this up as I go.”


        • TAO

          March 17, 2018 at 1:30 pm

          Tiffany – platitudes get very old quickly so I think you are right just to sit in solidarity so she knows it is safe to tell you how she feels.


        • drayn

          July 18, 2018 at 5:10 am

          I love both tiffany’s comments, I completely agree, but I don’t always succede at doing it right in real life. 8 is a hard age, lots of realizations.


          • beth62

            July 18, 2018 at 5:06 pm

            Beware of the parent that claims they know the absolute right way. We’re all flying blind, there is no real map, the bravest are the ones that can admit it. It’s as scary as admitting we are all on a spinning rock that could suddenly at any moment shoot across the universe like a golf ball.
            I think (but hey, what do I know!) all we can do is never give up. And share our journey to help others not to step in the same puddles, and point out the good climbing trees. And then admit some puddles may be good sometimes for some, and climbing even the best tree could be an awful idea for others 🙂



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