DEAR ABBY: Four years ago, during my freshman year in college, I gave birth
to a beautiful little boy. His father and I made the joint decision to place him
for adoption. Thankfully, his adopted family keeps me involved with his life by
sending me pictures and frequent updates. I have no regrets about my decision.
I am soon to be married to the most wonderful man on Earth. Recently,
during our premarital counseling, the question came up concerning how we would
tell our children about the son I had. After discussing this issue further, my
fiance and I agreed that we would like our children to know about their
half-brother from their earliest memory. Our problem is, we don't know how to
tell them in a way that will not upset them, confuse them or scare them. Any
suggestions? -- JESSICA IN SOUTH CAROLINA
DEAR JESSICA: I do not agree that your children should be told "from
their earliest memory" that they have a half-brother who was adopted by another
family. It will be easier for them to understand when they are older, and you
are talking with them about the facts of life and the consequences of
unprotected sex. They need to be able to engage in a dialogue with you about it
at a time when they can fully comprehend your honest answers. Please consider
what I have said.
Whaaaa? Did she just tell this woman that her son, her firstborn child, is a consequence??? Like a time out or getting grounded? Losing use of the car or no TV? I mean, here is a woman who made an adoption plan with the support of the baby's first father, who is in contact with her son, and stated right out that she has no regrets, looking for a little direction on how to maintain her integrity with her future children and ABBY TELLS HER THAT HER PRECIOUS CHILD IS A CONSEQUENCE? Is anyone else as annoyed as hell at this one? And that condescending "Please consider what I have said" at the end? Sheesh!
Boy, is this Abby woman out of touch. Should these future children never be told of relatives who live far away and may never meet them? Out of sight, out of mind?
A simple, "You're my second baby, but the first one to whom I'm the mommy" is a good opener followed by "I wanted to be able to give Junior all the things your daddy and I can give to you, but I was too young then and couldn't care for Junior as well as I wanted him cared for. Madge and Julio were ready to be parents so they adopted him and became his mommy and daddy. I'm ready to be a mommy now and nothing is going to change for you and me and Daddy." That's pretty much what we told our daughter and she's understood her story from her earliest memory without emotional scars or undue stress.
And shouldn't a child be taught the basics of "the facts of life" from their earliest memory, too? But it's equating her first child with a consequence that really pisses me off.
Here's my letter to Dear Abby:
Your response to Jessica in South Carolina, a birth mother who was looking for guidance on how to tell her future children about her first baby, was way off base, and, frankly, insulting.
To equate her child with a consequence akin to getting grounded, a time out, losing use of the family car--or, worse, as a cautionary tale--is downright wrong. Every child is a miracle, no matter how they arrived on the earth.
Understanding that their mother had a previous child for whom she made an adoption plan will never be "easier to understand" when they're older because the information will be sprung on them. The only way for it to become a simple fact of life is to know it from their earliest memory.
In normal conversation Jessica can say something like "You're my second baby, but the first one to whom I'm the mommy" is a good opener followed by "I wanted to be able to give Junior all the things your daddy and I can give to you, but I was too young then and couldn't care for Junior as well as I wanted him cared for. Madge and Julio were ready to be parents so they adopted him and became his mommy and daddy. I'm ready to be a mommy now and nothing is going to change for you and me and Daddy."
That's pretty much what we told our daughter whom we adopted and she's understood her story from her earliest memory without emotional scars or stress.
When a child knows something from his or her earliest memory, it's just normal; when a big piece of news is laid on them as a warning against sex (and you assumed that Jessica and the baby's father didn't use contraception when they could have become pregnant from contraception failure), it becomes a scandal.
As a mom-by-adoption in a very open adoption and after many years of studying and researching contemporary adoption related issues, I can say with some authority that you're just plain wrong on this one. Please consider what I said.
Write to her and let her know how you feel: http://www.uexpress.com/dearabby/dearabby_form.html