My blog friend Linda who interviewed me in her blog had mentioned in passing in one of her comments that she was adopted. Since at that time, I was closely counseling two couples going through adoption processes here in India, I requested that she write a guest post in my blog about the process of being adopted, at what time did she believe that the child should be informed about the fact of her being adopted and any other relevant information.
Linda has gracefully acceded to my request and I reproduce below her write up.
Those with similar experiences and/or comments may leave comments, which will be replied to by Linda.
Thank you Linda.
You ask whether an adopted child should be told he/she was adopted, and if so, at what age? I will share my adoption story with you as part of my answer.
I was born in 1954 in New York and went straight home from the hospital at five days old with my adoptive parents. Back then, it took one year for an adoption to be finalized by the courts and after that occurrence my parents had a big 1st birthday party for me. Of course, I don’t remember it, but there are pictures in a family album of the celebration. I know how thrilled everyone was, because my parents were in their mid-40’s when they adopted me, which was highly unusual in those days! They were unable to have children despite trying for many years and then other adoption attempts fell through, so I was a very wanted baby – and quite a surprise for a middle-aged couple who had already been married for 25 years!
Since I was an only child and the neighborhood we lived in didn’t have many children at the time, my parents decided I should attend nursery school (or preschool as it is called now) for one year before kindergarten. Before sending me off to nursery school, they told me I was adopted, and tried to explain what that meant to a 4-year-old! I do not remember this conversation, but my parents told me when I was older they felt it was very important to tell me I was adopted for one reason. They didn’t want a child in school saying “You’re adopted” to me with any negative connotation attached to those words. They wanted me to know, right from the beginning, that being adopted was a wonderful and very special status, and not in any way bad!
And while I don’t remember the actual conversation with them either, my earliest recollection of what being adopted meant was thinking my parents went to a store instead of a hospital to get me, and they picked me because I was just what they wanted! This idea still makes me laugh today. It was very confusing — I knew I didn’t come out of my mother’s tummy, but I couldn’t quite grasp what being adopted meant. However, my parents’ goal was fulfilled – I knew it was something good, and that I was a very loved and wanted daughter.
Times are so different now, with many more choices about adoption: closed vs. open adoptions, adopting a newborn or older child, adopting a child from another country, adopting through attorneys or through adoption agencies, or adopting as a single parent. But if I was adopting today, I would still tell my child at an early age that they are adopted and how very special it is. I think my parents’ actions would still be considered wise today.
I do know one woman who found out at age 35 that she was adopted and her adoptive parents had chosen not to tell her until then. She actually took this shocking news very well as far as I could tell. But I can’t help thinking how hard that would have been for me to digest and accept at that age! I’d want to ask my adoptive parents, “Why did you keep this fact from me my whole life?” or “Didn’t I have a right to know this information sooner than this?” I think it could be emotionally traumatic for an adoptee to find out one’s true origins so late in life.
Another issue arises if adoptive parents decide not to tell their child he/she is adopted at an early age. Wouldn’t the adoptive parents be worried about extended family or friends letting the words slip out, albeit unintentionally, in front of the child? If you tell a child at an early age the truth, then this worry is completely removed. By my parents telling me themselves, they also insured that another family member or close friend of theirs didn’t. I believe it is important that the child first learn their adoption story from their parents, and no one else.
“Adoption is when a child grew in its mommy’s heart instead of her tummy.”
~ Author Unknown