Wednesday, April 13, 2011

What do you say when people ask?

I am still not good at the answer to the question, "So how many kids do you have?"

It is extremely complicated for me because I was a step-mom to a girl and a boy for 13 years.  I consider them both my children still to this day.  Especially the girl.  She and I got along very well for all of those years.  She has a little boy of her own now and I definitely consider him my grandson!

For lots of years I said 5.  I had three biological sons and two step children.  They were all mine.  I fed them, took them to school, fixed what they broke.

So after their dad and I got divorced, I was puzzled once again about how to answer that question.  It was easier with my daughter because she was grown and not living at home anymore.  But my step-son was still part of my life.  Usually I said, 4 boys and a grown daughter.

As time went on, the step-son and I began having less time together, so sometimes I would just say 3 sons.

Then I had Brit.

And just like that, she was gone.

I know I gave birth to her.  And some of the people asking remember that I was pregnant.

She is still my birth daughter.  But I am not her mother in a parenting sense.

So what do I say?

By saying I have 3 boys, I feel like I am denying her existance.  If I say 3 boys and a girl, inevitably it is followed by "Oh I bet you spoil her!  One little sister and all those brothers!"

At that moment the tears well up.

I panic and want to run.

Or, even more poignant and painful, sometimes people ask in front of my kids.  If I answer 3 boys, the youngest will usually pipe up and say "And a sister, but my mom gave her up for adoption."

I've been working on that with him.  But try stopping a 10 year old from saying what's on his mind.

To him, it is what it is. 

To a stranger it is a conversation stopper.

For me, it is a dagger to the heart.

So, what do you say?  Who counts?  And do you defend it to just anyone?


ms. marginalia said...

I like your son's approach. The truth is difficult, but it does all of your children a disservice to be selective about who belongs on the list and who doesn't. If you wouldn't deny your stepkids, why deny your placed daughter? She is still your daughter. It also sends a conflicted message to your sons to tell them to keep Brit on the down low. If you don't want to elaborate on your family structure, how about smiling, saying "It's complicated," and changing the subject if you feel it's none of someone's business?

For the record, I am an adult adoptee who was kept secret to protect my mother from the shame and guilt she would feel if she told anyone about placing me. It made a relationship between us very difficult for a while. It also caused strain between her and my brother, whom she kept and raised.

What if grown-up Brit visits you one day? Will she be introduced as a "friend"? Or will you call her your daughter? If so, why not start out as you intend to continue, and anyone who judges you can go to the hot place.

I understand that this is very hard, all around. But please think about the burden that Brit and your sons end up carrying if you are not open and honest. I am not saying that you need to tell everyone about your life, but there can be serious damage to relationships from silence and omission.

birthmothertalks said...

19 years later and I still struggle with this one. Even with being in reunion I still struggle with admitting that I have a daughter. It's not that I am ashamed of her but it's hard to explain. I feel ashamed of myself and just don't want to open myself up to just anybody.
I think in an open adoption it would or I would think should be easier but I can only imagine how it might had made things different for me.

Cash's Birthmomma said...

I often wonder the same thing Lisa. It's not a question that I am asked frequently, but its a difficult question for my parents to answer. They already have 6 other grandchildren.. so does the one who was placed for adoption count, or does he not? (I believe Cash should be considered a grandson, but my mom hasn't fully agreed with that yet)

I believe the truth is the best option for you here. Its difficult, and you don't want the questions that follow, but maybe people will just leave it at that. You gave birth to Brit. You love her the same as your other children. I'd say that counts as having a daughter.

I know its hard to answer all the questions, but say what's right for you. If it's someone who doesn't know your story, and may not ever know your story, then don't feel the need to explain your whole heart to them. I don't see the harm in telling those closer to you that you have a daughter, because you do!

Joy for the Seasons said...

I admire you for working out this part of your life publicly. I can only imagine that it is not and easy journey for you. Life is so messy, isn't it?! Thank you for your very sweet and encouraging comment on my blog. It really meant a lot to me.

Vanessa said...

I really loved this post! I know it was probably very hard for you to write, but the honesty in it made me tear up! I cannot even begin to think of being in your shoes, but I would guess that if I was, I would say I had a daughter. Depending on the time, I may elaborate and talk about the adoption, if not I would try and change the subject.

Thank you so much for your comment on my blog! I am now realizing that I have been on your blog before and I think your story is just amazing!