A Letter to My Adopted Son: On Having to Share You


November is National Adoption Month and with this, I add my truth to all the rest that is bravely being spoken.

“I didn’t give you the gift of life; life gave me the gift of you…”

To my son,

The other day you told me that sometimes you want to be “un-adopted”.

It broke my heart, but I didn’t let you know.  I’m glad you know you can come to me with these things and hope you always do.  You are my child; I know your hurts and thoughts even when they are not spoken aloud, and I will always try to hold then with gentle understanding.

Of course there are times that you wish to be un-adopted.  Un-different, un-scared, un-lonely, un-do the dark days, un-separated from the family, friends, and neighborhood you left behind, un-missing the mother that first owned your heart.  You are sweet and wonderful and undeserving of any pain.  I want it all undid for you, too.

It is not always easy for me to share you with her.  Sometimes I feel surprised, mad, sad, and scared by how attached you “still” are to her.  I confess that I have counted the years that you have been with me vs. with her and wondered why the love and longing scales continue to tip so deeply in her favor.  I imagine that sometimes you feel that way too.  The truth is that I will never be able to fill the space that she occupies.  And while I may be jealous of the way your heart still speaks to hers, I’m glad that I am not the missing hole.

One of the hardest things to reconcile in my heart is the fact that my greatest gift was your greatest heartbreak. To me, adoption is a miracle – fate solidified – an act of God.  To you, adoption is separation – differentness – a missing piece.  Don’t get me wrong, you celebrated as much as anyone on that special day, even telling the Judge, “I’ve waited a long time for this!” before the gavel was struck down.  You are glad to be adopted by us, but really, you wish you didn’t have a need to be adopted at all.

There is pain and heartbreak that comes with being your adoptive mom, but I do not believe it rivals the pain you feel, or the pain your first mother feels.  So, I will accept the gift of humility that has come with the gift of you, and allow myself to speak the truths you need to hear.

Your mom is beautiful. She is smart. She is loving. She is special. It is okay to miss her. It is okay to love her more. She loves you, too.

I’ll close my letter to you with the mantra we share. The words that I have whispered into your ear thousands of times over the past 4 years: You are safe. You are happy. You are loved. Everything is going to be okay.

One way or another, we’ll figure this out together.

With love and respect,

Mommy R & Mommy

Visit 30 Adoption Portraits for more open and honest stories from the frontlines of the adoption triad.

23 comments on “A Letter to My Adopted Son: On Having to Share You”

  1. As a social worker this brought tears to my eyes! I commend you for looking at the child’s feelings and his experience. So many parents focus on their own process of adjustment and fail to recognize the world wind of emotions and experiences the child has gone, is going and will go through. Lucky Family

  2. I am a birth mom who placed my son at birth. We have an open adoption that has worked well. As I read your post I felt touched by the openness. I wondered how we could share so many of the same feelings when we are on opposite sides of the experience. In my contemplating I just came to the knowing that to love a child so completely puts us on the same side of the experience… Namaste.

  3. Hi Elise,
    My mother’s first husband abandoned us before I was born and they were divorced shortly after. Two years later my mother married my father, and at five years old he adopted me. I’ve always known that my mother’s first husband was my biological father, and I’ve always called my father “dad”. That never stopped me, especially as a child, from being hurt by the abandonment, and from wondering “what if?”. There were times that I put my dad through the hoops to make sure that he loved me, not so much because I didn’t think he did, but I was trying to put my understanding of this man and my understanding of that missing man together in my mind. How could this man that had nothing to do with my creation care so much, when the man that did cared so little? I wanted to understand how my father could love me but my mother’s first husband could abandon me. But I never genuinely doubted my father’s love. As I grew older, I became more able to process the subtleties of my father’s behavior better. In Boy Scout’s it isn’t uncommon for people to see the organization as a once-weekly baby-sitting service for their young and teenaged sons. My father, on the other hand, understood BSA as a way for the two of us to spend time together, camp, and be together. He was tender, and still a masculine role model for me. He was able to also be a sympathetic ear for the boys with fathers that wouldn’t attend BSA with them. He guided me, he talked with me, he gave me a home, he hugged, he loved me… and I understood very well what it all meant, but it took some time. After enough time the adoption instead of meaning, “I’ll take care of him,” became to me an act in which my father climbed to the top of the world and then shouted loud enough for all to hear him that he loved me.

    My only reason for telling all of this to you is so that you can understand that he does see your love and your support, he sees the things that you do for him, and the older he becomes the more able he will be to put it all together and see you and what you have done for him. I always knew my father loved me, and I suspect that your son knows the same. I hope that you can also understand that as young as he is, his ability to talk to you about his complex thoughts and feelings is not up to the task of helping you understand it all. Give him time, hugs, kisses, and space. His love is and will be yours, even if it is so complex that he isn’t able to reveal the depths just yet.

    Bless you for loving a child regardless of his parentage,

  4. Like Lana, I was also adopted. In my childhood the pains of being adopted would ebb and flow, as would the joys. Having mixed feelings be okay/safe… that was undeniably the most important to me, since as a kid I couldn’t necessarily choose my feelings, I could only choose whether or not to hide them or share them.

  5. So beautifully written Elise!!! You and your family are so special on so many levels! Love is always a theme in your home. And unconditional love is what is going to get you et al through the tough times. Big Hugs

  6. These are all of the things I hope to be able to tell my foster daughter one day when I adopt her. I need to work more on the humility part-it is so hard. This is such a beautiful letter to your son!

  7. Thank you so much for your comment Lana. I’ll hold your words close…there just isn’t a manual for this stuff, is there?

  8. You know, as an adoptee and now an adult, I was hesitant to read this. I have some very strong opinions about adoption that most people don’t like to hear. I commend you. Your son is very lucky. I love your honesty and truthfulness. I always said… if a mother can love more than one child, why can’t a child love more than one mother? I wouldn’t say he loves her more. Just differently. I love each of my moms for different reasons, not one more than the other. You are definitely doing something right. 🙂

  9. It takes a very special person to see his attachment with clarity and perspective. Your son (and other children) are very, very lucky to have you.

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