“The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.” This is a phrase we are all familiar with and most likely have been the target of at some point in our lives. When you think about it though, what are the aspects that make this statement ring true? When it comes to behavioural patterns, how does it come about that we resemble those of our parents? Is it biology…DNA that is wired to behave that way? Or is it the observation of these patterns that leads to us adopting them for ourselves?
When you take this idea into adoption you sit with a lot of “what if”’s. “What if he becomes an alcoholic because his biological mother drank through the pregnancy?” “What if he is a drug addict by 16 because his mom was on crack?” “What if he becomes a rapist because his biological father raped his biological mother?” These are real concerns. If I had been pregnant with our baby, I would have taken every precautionary measure to make sure that everything was perfect, that he was never at risk. When you don’t know what circumstances your baby is coming from, it is a very scary place to be in.
I feel like a lot of my blogging is about concern and worry, but honestly, it’s so good to have the difficult information along with the exciting parts. So, as much as I express concern about so many different things, it’s only to make sure we deal with every smidgen of information or circumstance that we could possibly be faced with so we are fully prepared.
As much as you may think that a biological parent’s behavioural patterns would be passed down through DNA, a child’s behaviour is primarily formed by watching and learning, and less so from what his DNA make-up is. In the argument of “Nature vs. Nurture”, it seems that when you look at all the statistics and studies (I won’t bore you with those) then “Nurture” is the gold medalist! This is the best news for an adoptive parent! Our little boy will have an opportunity to grow into whoever he wants to be, so long as we are there supporting and “nurturing” his talents and character. Obviously there are medical conditions that can be inherited, but as far as behaviour goes, the opportunities are endless!
Once you have a background from the birth mother you have a stepping stone to work from. However, if your child was abandoned and there was no possible way to get a history, then you have nothing to refer to throughout his life.
After a short tea and coffee break, we jumped straight into the next chapter…the “Telling” factor. I’m amazed at how frequently the question “Do you have to tell him?” pops up when we mention telling our boy his story. The one thing that they encourage you very strongly to do is to ALWAYS be honest and open about your child’s story, to always keep an open line of communication about his birth mother and to never make him feel that he should be ashamed of who he is and where he comes from…no matter what the circumstances!
Let’s be real here…with the high chance of our boy not being the same race as us, the reality is that he is going to know he’s adopted the minute he understands colour. Once he turns 18, he has full access to his entire file containing his entire background and all the necessary information. If, as an 18 year old, he suddenly realizes that us, his parents, have been lying to him his entire life about his background, then he is going to feel angry, hurt, betrayed and will struggle to ever trust as again. This is the reason they encourage you to be honest and open from the start. You tell him his story (age appropriately) from the day he comes home, right up until he reaches adolescence. Once he reaches that age, he should know his full story. If there is anything that you haven’t told him by now, you wait until he’s 18. Never ever introduce new information during his teenage years. As a teenager, a child already has to deal with so much in terms of discovering their identity. Introducing information that confuses the identity that they have already established is dangerous and could cause so much irrepairable damage. So you either tell him early or wait.
The next part was who do you tell your child’s story to. Nobody. Yep, that’s the answer. Nobody else gets to hear his story aside from you, as parents, and your child. This decision allows him to one day decide who and what he wants to tell, leaving him with some control over his past. If he decides he’s happy for people to know, then great! But he gets to tell them when he’s ready. If he decides that he never wants to tell anyone, then that’s his decision that we will respect. Whichever way he goes…it’s his decision. Please respect this decision and don’t try push us for info on our baby boy’s background when we bring him home?
All this practical information left us excited and encouraged about telling our boy his story. We started thinking of ideas to keep his birth mom a constant thread throughout his life, always talking about her. If we know her name, we will use it. Birthdays will be a celebration of his life, but also a remembrance of someone he lost…we will make sure that we honour both of those moments.