Strained Relations

Strained Relations: Help for Struggling Parents of Troubled Teens

“I didn’t ask to be adopted” or “You’re not my real mom!”

Posted by Marcia on March 5, 2010

Words that strike parents in ways few other words can do.

Certainly, biological kids have their own words that hurt, but this is very different.
Some adoptive parents have open homes, open hearts to kids of all ages and conditions and have a mix of biological, foster and adopted children. Others are like me, people who lived through miscarriages and years of infertility treatments.

For me, adoption wasn’t the last thing I had thought about for creating a family. In fact, since I was young, I saw it as a great way to build a family. Adopted children were special and not “second best.”

We adopted a baby at birth, taking care of him as any parent would take care of his/her child. One day, when he was around 7, he said he didn’t have to do what I asked as I was not his “real” mom.

Not his real mom? I felt faint, angry, resentful, incredibly wounded, like it was an arrow through my heart. Not his real mom?

Here’s what I said, and this is almost verbatim: “Who do you think raised you so far? Who was changing your diapers, getting you food, taking you to the park and reading to you at night? Who plays games with you, makes sure you bathe and brush your teeth? Do you see any other mom here? No. I am your mom and that is that. Now go to your room and think about what I said.”

He never said anything like that to me again, but I wonder if he harbored those thoughts of anger or resentment and just kept them to himself.

I relayed this once to another adoptive mom, and she had been told by a defiant your daughter, “I didn’t ask to be adopted.” This from a child who didn’t want to clean her room, throwing out every excuse until she got to this one that might sidetrack her mother. The mom retained her calm demeanor and said, “You are not to talk back. Go to your room and whatever is not picked up off the floor and put away nicely on your shelves in 5 minutes will be thrown out.” She meant it. The mother took those few minutes to calm down and think about how she wanted to address this with her child.

She waited for another day and took her daughter for a walk, exploring feelings on both sides. What does it feel like to be adopted, and what does it feel like to adopt? Why did you adopt me? Why didn’t my birthmother keep me? There were a lot of questions addressed, and they returned to this topic several times over the years as the daughter matured.

If you’re a stepparent, you may have experienced “You’re not my real mom/dad, and ….”

Have you experienced this? What did you say or do? Do you have advice for others?

4 Responses to ““I didn’t ask to be adopted” or “You’re not my real mom!””

  1. Christina said

    My adoptive mother told me on more than one occasion that she “wished she could send me back”..the hurt works both ways.

    I have a feeling that your child probably did harbor anger and resentment..but chose not to voice those concerns out loud. Perhaps he was just testing you to see what your response would be..maybe he wanted validation that he did have another mother out there somewhere that cared about him too…

    ::shrug:: You should probably ask him for his thoughts.

  2. Marcia said

    Thank you for taking the time to read this post and send a thoughtful comment. I am so sorry your mom said this hurtful phrase to you. Sometimes people say things in the moment they’re upset and hurting, and those comments can last a lifetime.

    I agree that my son probably does harbor anger and resentment and it is insightful of you to say this.

    I approached him at different times and in different ways over the years about this, but he shut me down each time. It’s really a shame as I feel this is like a roadblock for him and it would help him to discuss this.

    I wrote about this issue as other parents have heard the same thing or a variation thereof. Biological parents might hear: “I didn’t ask to be born” or “I hate you!” People do say these things, as harsh as they are and as hard as they are to hear.

    You have an interesting blog and I will read it instead of skimming through it after work. If you have additional thoughts, please come back and share.

  3. Cricket said

    I know that it’s difficult for adoptive parents to understand what goes on in the minds of young adoptees…and vice versa, of course. My only other comment on your post is that I, and many of my adoptee friends, consider both my adoptive parents (such as they are/were) and my first parents my “real” parents. That doesn’t negate the love that our aparents have for us, or us for them..but to try and take that feeling away from us is just hard to bear.

    Thanks so much for taking the time to reply in such a thoughtful manner. I’m glad that you want to read my blog..and while I know that some (okay, so maybe a lot) of it will be difficult to read, I do try to make people think about things in new ways.

    In peace,

    • Marcia said

      Thank you for your additional comment. It’s impossible to know how another person really feels, and it’s also impossible to know if another person will be okay with adoption or feel a little lost or angry.

      I feel the heart expands with love, and there’s plenty of room for my son to love his biological family if that’s what he’d like to do.

      What I do not want is to be dismissed as a parent because I didn’t give birth to my son, and I especially did not want to go down that road from childhood on.

      Adoption is much more difficult and complex than many people believe, and you can’t predict how things will turn out. And by the way, that’s the same with biological children!

      Best wishes.

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