I have discussed the concept of collateral damage in adoption several times on my blog. My experience highlights that my sons are collateral damage to the surrender of their sister to adoption. I use the term collateral damage as the military does. Specifically, that it is damage that is unintended or incidental to the intended outcome. In the military sense, a targeted action is directed to a specific victim or resource but someone or something unexpected happens to be in the line of fire.
My oldest son has expressed what I perceive to be evidence of his personal collateral damage experience. He has asked me, on more than one occasion, why his sister doesn’t want to know him. He seems to understand why she might be mad at me or at my mother, his and her grandparents. Yet him? He is befuddled. He did not even exist when she was born. He has directly asked me “What did I do to her, Ma?” Needless to say, my heart cracks a bit each time he expresses this.
What did he do, exactly? Have the misfortune of being born to a mother who gave away her first born? Express a desire to know his half sister? Find her to be beautiful? Find that she reminds him of his mother? Find that he cares for a sibling he was not raised with but desperately wants to know? Why should he feel obligated to comfort his mother for feelings provoked by his sister?
I have no answers for him. Years ago (see normalizing) I would try to give age appropriate explanations of adoptee psychology. It was crap. It was me trying to explain the unexplainable. Trying to make the insane seem sane and the cruel seem kind. I don’t do that anymore. Now, when he asks, I simply respond with “I don’t know why your sister doesn’t want to know you”. For that is the only truth I do know. I do not know. Only she does. He deserves an explanation from her not a made up wild ass guess from me.
Jenna has been talking about this collateral damage surfacing in her own home, in her open adoption. My heart aches for her too. And for her little guys who are dealing with this younger than my sons did in a completely different way – they see and KNOW their sister via an open adoption. Jenna could use some hugs and loving. Feel free to send here or here.
For mothers who read here, that are in reunion and had subsequent children, would you consider sharing evidence of collateral damage in your family? How have you handled it? How have your children done so?
Equally, if not more important, were you told at the time of surrender that future children would be effected?
ETA: The links in the first paragraph take you to some of my older posts where I discuss collateral damage in my home. You can also use the Categories pull down on the right of this screen and select Collateral Damage.