First Mother Forum posted about the latest adoption letter to the Ethicist at the New York Times here. I read both the letter from the adoptive mom and the response to her letter by the Ethicist, but what I really want to talk about is this…
The agreement stipulated that we would send pictures and updates once a year and be open to answering any letters his birth mother sent to the agency. Other rules stated that our son could search for his birth parents with our permission after he was 18; after 25, he could search without our permission. We all agreed that he would be the driver of any search and that the adults involved would not supersede his wishes. (bolding mine) (source)
It is unclear anywhere in the letter if the adoptee knew of the agreement, or if it was a pact between the birth parents and adoptive parents and he wasn’t to know. If he was told, imagine how that would feel, to know that as an adult he was supposed to seek permission from his mom and dad to search for his birth parents? That’s not how you build on a loving secure relationship.
When I read the ‘agreement’ my first thoughts were words that I won’t share with you. Words triggered by both reading and conversing with many in the world of adoption about how they think adoptees should act and feel. The role they expect adoptees to play, who they feel the adoptee owes loyalty to, regardless of the feelings of the one adopted or the road they’ve travelled down. For those who feel this way, the need to control the narrative to make them feel like the ‘real’ parents to their child, regardless of how damaging that could be for a child living under that level of pressure to be everything the parent needs them to be. A mindset which is the opposite of what they should be striving for which is an authentic parent / child relationship that changes as the child becomes an adult. A mindset many families achieve by working through their insecurities and finding a way forward based solely on love and shared history.
Further on in the letter – she blames the birth mother for breaking this agreement for reaching out to her son from an ‘adoption search site’ which may also show that her son had initiated her reaching out by registering his search on that site…
If our permission had been sought, we would have agreed, of course; we always supported our son’s finding out more about his birth family. (All through his life, we mentioned adoption, spoke about his birth parents, were open to any questions he had, which weren’t many — we’ve learned that’s not unusual for boys.)
Hmmm…so your issue is you didn’t get to control what your adult son did? Nor would it a mystery why an adoptee (based on the mother’s letter here) may have felt their parent’s insecurity in this area and wasn’t eager to talk about his birth parents growing up, without his input, no one knows why. And those who think otherwise, it’s all in how the parents frame how they talk about adoption and being adopted to the child, as the child, you just know what they need you to say or feel about your other parents.
That was a few years ago, and we’re still in a standoff of sorts. She has not reached out to us (most likely she feels we should have opened the adoption and agreed to her wishes), but more important — and potentially more harmful — she placed our son in the middle of a difficult situation. We are glad they have met (she has flown him out to California a few times) and have spent time together, but this is not the connected, united family situation we were hoping we could offer our son.
She’s writing this letter a couple of years later because she’s still upset because their (adoptee/birth mother) relationship doesn’t include them (adoptive parents). I take that as her need to control the narrative and relationship based on her letter. If I’m correct, you have to feel sorry that several decades later she is still so insecure in her role as his mom. It’s to bad when parents feel this way and don’t seek out understanding about the adoptee experience, and how her child may feel, how complicated an adoptees feelings can be, and then, to work on their fears.
As this letter is written by the adoptive mother and without facts from those involved, all we have is the “agreement”, that, to me, was an ill-conceived attempt to claim ownership by stating before he was even born, that he wasn’t allowed to make his own choices in regards to knowing his birth mother as a young adult. To me, that in itself is a recipe for disaster, throw in the adoptive mom’s apparent ongoing insecurity, angst, and inability to accept his choices have created any divide that might exist. A divide, that if it exists, could have been foreseen by any adoptee they could have reached out to throughout the years.
I would not want to be this adoptee. Mom and dad disagreed with some of my life choices, they also gave me their advice and left it to me to take (or not). Sometimes that advice turned out right, sometimes not, but whatever I chose to do, they were there for me however it turned out, they always had my back. And on this very personal adoption subject – they faced it head-on, and if they worried, they took that fear to God and left it in His hands and supported me doing whatever I needed them to do. They also believed adoptees had every right to know who they were born to be, have our own relationships. I told the following story in an earlier post: I’ll never forget the day one of mom’s friend (also an adoptive mom) was sitting at the kitchen table telling us that she was cutting her son out of her will. She said she was doing it because he’d made contact with his family by birth and was spending time with them. Mom didn’t raise her voice, but she told her bluntly what she was doing wrong. She defended her friend’s son, tried every which way she could think of to get her friend to understand why her son needed to reconnect, how it didn’t have anything to do with her or her husband and their relationship with him. That what she was doing was wrong and that everyone would be irrevocably harmed, that one day she’d be sorry. I don’t think mom words made a difference to her friends attitude that day.
If an adoptive parent starts out being insecure, it’s their job to work on their own challenges and resolve them as much as they can. It’s not the responsibility of one adopted to cater to them at the adoptee’s expense their entire life.