"Adoption Loss is the only trauma in the world where the victims are expected by the whole of society to be grateful" – The Reverend Keith C. Griffith, MBE
I wonder, often, what is like to look at the world through my sons eyes.
His eyes are this lovely yellow, caramel, hazel color. They aren’t quite green yet they aren’t quite hazel and they are most definitely not brown. Think cat’s eye color. That is the color of my oldest son’s eyes.
What does he see when he looks out from those yellow cats eyes, through his Zac Efron like shaggy bangs, past his freckle speckled nose, just beyond his cupids bow top lip?
More importantly, what does he feel inside when he sees those things? How does he process his world?
What is it like to be the first born son and child in a family but not the first born child to his mother?
What does it feel like be a first and simultaneously middle child? If you believe birth order contributes to your personality, what type of personality type do you get when you hold two roles – if even symbolically in your family?
What does it feel like to learn at 7 years old that you have a sister and she is 12 years older than you? How do you process that?
What sort of explanations does your little mind find to justify why your sister does not live with you, does not want to meet you and does not respond to the cartoon pictures you mail her?
How do you reconcile the fact that your sister, for some reason, regularly makes your mommy cry and be sad?
How do you develop as a young man, an older man, knowing your mother was impregnated before your birth and presumably left by the man who helped concieve that child? How does that impact your view of your own gender?
How do you view your grandparents and those that should have helped mommy in her time of need? How do you feel when your fathers mothers says negative things about mommy due to sisters existence?
When all this and more is swirling inside him, does he let it out some how? Does he talk to friends about it? Surely, he struggles to talk to mommy about it. Even though she welcomes it and is open about it, it makes her cry. He doesn’t want to make mommy cry so it is best to keep it to himself.
He cannot talk to Daddy about it. Sister came from some other Daddy. Daddy doesn’t like Sisters Daddy. Mommy loved him before she loved Daddy. Daddy gets all funny and angry when Mommy talks about Sisters father. Sister is a bad topic with Daddy too.
He cannot talk to little brother about it. He doesn’t even understand yet what it means to have a sister. He hasn’t really grasped it either. He understands even less. Silly questions like “I have a sister?” prove that. Even though Mommy has pictures up of sister in the house, little bro doesn’t quite understand yet.
So what does he do?
My ex husband and I recently began attending family therapy. The motivation behind it was to provide support to our ten year old son who is struggling with processing our recent divorce AND the existence/lack of presence/lack of contact with his sister lost to adoption.
Some would suggest that I have no proof that he is struggling with this. To that I would produce reams of school work and projects that have a common theme – his missing sister. To that, I would recite the litany of questions and comments that my son will express at any given moment. The comments are getting a bit harder and the words he is choosing a bit harsher and angrier. I am not foolish enough to believe there isn’t a reason behind that. I can choose to ignore it or I can, like I do much in my life, attack it head on.
My son, my amber eyed son, is collateral damage to his sister’s adoption. If he were injured on a sidewalk in Tel Aviv, due to a nearby suicide bomber, someone would assist him and tend to his wounds. His adoption related soul wounds due to the lack of his sister need to be tended to as much as the wounds caused by the divorce of his parents.
Unintended victim or not, my son has been injured by the fact that his sister was adopted out. His life path is dramatically different than it would have been had I not surrendered his sister. When prompted with that family tree project in school – how will he choose to respond? When others ask him if he has brothers and sisters how does he explain that he does have a sister but he doesn’t?
My son has emotional shrapnel to deal with that the average kid doesn’t.
I won’t deny that and I won’t deny that I am part of that – a huge part of that. But I can also be an enormous contributor to him being okay with it. (Whatever “okay” might be in his world).
I can choose to do what my parents did and others did and look the other way at my son’s pain (as was done to me). I can make it easy on me and leave him to figure it out all on his own (also done to me). Or I can take his hand, squeeze it tightly and walk into the fire with him. I can stand by him and tell him its okay to be hurt, to be confused, and just because mommy is crying and sad it doesn’t mean he should keep his feelings to himself.
His feelings are valid. They are real and he, like his sister, never asked for adoption to be part of his life.
I cannot help her with the challenges it poses for her, but I can help him.
And so I shall.