The Open Adoption Roundtable is a series of occasional writing prompts about open adoption. It’s designed to showcase of the diversity of thought and experience in the open adoption community. You don’t need to be listed at Open Adoption Bloggers to participate or even be in a traditional open adoption. If you’re thinking about openness in adoption, you have a place at the table. The prompts are meant to be starting points–please feel free to adapt or expand on them.
Write a response at your blog–linking back here so your readers can browse other participating blogs–and link to your post in the comments here. Using a previously published post is fine; I’d appreciate it if you’d add a link back to the roundtable. If you don’t blog, you can always leave your thoughts directly in the comments or at the Open Adoption Bloggers Facebook page.
Open adoption blogger Susiebook suggested we write about how to talk about siblings in open adoption. I thought it was a great idea: a chance to share some practical information with each other from our different experiences and perspectives. It may be that birth parents are parenting older or younger siblings, or that siblings were placed in different adoptive families. What words do we use to talk about that? How do we frame it? What questions or issues have come up?
How do/would you talk with children about siblings in open adoption? How do you approach this as a (first or adoptive) parent, or how was it handled in your family if you grew up with siblings who didn’t live with you? For prospective adoptive parents or first parents without other children, has this been something you’ve thought about how you would approach?
The responses so far:
Lavender Luz (adoptive mom) @ Write Mind Open Heart: “‘You know, Mom,’ [my daughter] said as I peeled carrots for that night’s dinner, ‘Reed’s not my REAL brother. He’s just a step.'”
Kelly L (adoptive mom) @ Surprised By Hope: “So how does one pick out a card for a birth brother, just turning 13, who’s moved across the country and hasn’t seen Sasha in 1 1/2 years. I want something to show him we still care, we want him to know Sasha, and hope they will have a relationship as she grows. So how can you sum that up and get a Big Brother card? One without phrases like…I love all the memories we create, pillow fights, baseball games, etc.”
Debbie (first mom) @ Complications of a Mastermind: “I think that will be important — letting my children know that I do love B and have always. They will know of him as their sibling still. I hope they do get to meet him and love him as I do. They will also know that their father WAS the right person, that I was prepared this time and that I will NEVER leave them (abandon, whichever fear they might be feeling).”
Lia (first mom) @ Lia–Not Juno: “I’d want my squinches to grow up thinking about Damian the way I thought about the Beatles – you know, ‘they’re just some guys we know, of course we listen to their music – wait, you’ve heard of them too? No way! I didn’t know other people knew them!’ As a child I took the Beatles for granted, and never knew they were a big deal until, probably, middle school. I want that to be how Damian is to any squinches I raise – ‘yeah, I have a brother (or half-brother), his name is Damian, he lives with Paul and Linda and – what? That’s weird? I had no idea… don’t you have a brother that lives somewhere else?'”
Susiebook (first mom) @ Endure for a Night: “My understanding of the best interests of the adopted child (not thought up on my own, but heard from vaguely remembered experts) is that children own all of their stories, and that it is the parents’ obligation to give them all of their information—in age-appropriate ways, of course, and gently—but all of it. I’m not parenting Cricket, and I honestly don’t want to tell him anything. I want to send him to his moms if he has questions, dodging any awkward conversations until he’s taller than I am. But I want and need to tell Joey what happened, and why, and that it won’t happen to him and that I wish it had never happened at all. I am going to tell him all of that—I just want not to hurt anyone. That may be impossible.”
Tammy (adoptive mom) @ You Just Never Know Where Hope Might Take Ya: “All that said, I also do say to both of them from time to time, ‘you know what? That is a great question, and I know you want an answer. But would you be able to trust me with the answer until Daddy and I believe you are ready to handle it?’ And most of the time, for the very hard things, they do trust us. And for that I am thankful. And I have written their questions down in a journal so I don’t forget to answer them when they are ready. I check it every six months or so to see if there is a conversation we need to have. And I carry the burden of the ‘keeper of the story’ with seriousness. And hope and pray with each conversation that we say what our child should hear.”
Racilous (first mom) @ Adoption in the City: “So when I think that all out, I realize the issues all start when I relate my love of J with my placement of him. I love J more than anything. I also felt I didn’t have any good options so I chose the best of the worst options, which was to place him. My circumstances led me to place. But the fact I placed him has no impact on the place J has in my heart. Similarly, because I placed J, I realized I never wanted myself, or any of my future children, to go through something like that again. So I have made a promise to myself that I would never put myself in that situation again.”
Jay (adoptive mom) @ Two Women Blogging: “When Eve was eight, she put Mark’s school picture on her bulletin board with a note saying ‘MY BROTHER’ and a big pink heart. She started asking more often – not to see Laura, but to meet Mark. We were stuck with the same response because we couldn’t get past our own fear and anxiety about opening the adoption for real. We stalled. We equivocated. We kept saying ‘Someday’. Finally, when she’d just turned ten, Eve looked at me and said ‘Mommy, you always say that you’re going to do it, but you never do. I want to see my brother’.”
My name is Andy (adult adoptee, adoptive mom) @ Today’s the Day!: “Liam has not asked the “difficult” question yet – Why did “K” keep “C” and “J” and not me? I think that it may be due in part to the fact that we talk openly and frequently about his family, the circumstances of his birth and adoption and how things change. I also think that having always talked about his siblings has made them just a part of his reality. There was never a sudden let’s-sit-down-and-talk moment of them being revealed to him.”
DrSpouse (prospective adoptive parent) @ What am I?: “Contact with birth siblings is actually far more common in the UK than is contact with birth parents. It would be very rare here for adoptive parents not to have information about birth siblings, either older or younger, and adoptive parents here would understand that more (and do express frustration with the adopters of their child’s siblings, who won’t keep contact).”
Meghann (adoptive mom) @ Everyday Miracle: “Let me back up a bit, for those who don’t know our story: Our children are biological siblings, and they also have biological siblings who are being parented by their mother. Which means the sibling issue is a little more complicated for us, in many ways, than for your typical family-by-adoption—and in some ways, it’s also a bit less complicated.”
Robyn @ The Chittister Family: “Jack is very proud of having siblings. He often laments that his brothers and sister don’t live with us. He finally sort of asked why that is – why S parents them and we parent him. I paraphrased a comment that I got on my Open Adoption Roundtable post from October 2010: S knew that adoption was the best choice. But it was very hard to let you go. It made her very sad. When she had Baby A and CJ, she just didn’t want to be that sad again.”
Maureen (adoptive mom) @ Twenty Birds: “Ian’s brother is like our shadow-child. He is with us all the time, almost-visible, an almost-tangible boy who disappears when we think too much about him. A lost child we might never find. I want him one day to take on all the weight of corporeality in our lives, to become a flesh-and-blood presence. So Ian can play with him and talk with him and fight with him, like brothers do.”
Mama C (adoptive mom) @ Mama C and the Boys: “It wasn’t until he was developmentally ready to get that those beautiful brown kids who were her beautiful brown kids, were also his siblings. I remember the first time it came up, when he was newly five. It was accidental and semi perfect. He was looking at their picture, and asked me whose kids they were. I asked him who he thought they were, and before we knew it, Sam has big brothers and a sister. To him it was the jack pot. He asked over and over if it was true, and was he really their brother too?”