Adoption: Telling My Kids That I’m An Adoptee

I’ve been very open about my experiences as an adoptee. I’ve shared my story of how an ad in a newspaper led to my adoption. I’ve shared the story of my unexpected reunion with my biological father, and what happened when I discussed adoption with my eldest when she was five. But while I’ve been candid with my friends and followers about my stories of adoption, I haven’t been so open and honest with my children.

My mom used to dance around the subject of adoption when talking to strangers. “Oh, her father was African” she would say when confronted about my ethnicity. I didn’t really understand why, and at times, I felt as though she was ashamed of where I had come from. I know now that she did it out of love. To her, I was her daughter, and how that came to be wasn’t anyone else’s business. But we didn’t look alike, and our differing appearances prompted questions.

Why I Waited To Tell Them

I had always believed that I would be open and honest with my children about my past and where I came from, right from the beginning. After all, adoption is part of who I am and how I came to be. But when I became a mother, I hesitated. While I had discussed adoption with my daughter, I had refrained from sharing my own experience with her. I thought maybe she was too young to understand.

But I soon realized that my hesitation was about more than my child’s maturity. I was worried that knowing that her mom was adopted would somehow devalue her relationship with her grandparents. I was worried about the questions she would ask, and that she wouldn’t understand why my biological parents had given me up. I was worried that she would think that we would give her up for adoption if she did something wrong. For so many reasons I was afraid to tell her that I was adopted, so I didn’t. Until last night.

My mom had recently asked me if I had told my oldest that I was adopted, and suggested that I tell her before she hears it from somewhere else. She had a point – I definitely wanted to be the one to tell her, but how? When would be the right time?

The Conversation

Last night as I was eating dinner alone with my kids, I bit the bullet and started the conversation. “Do you know what birth parents are?” I asked my eldest. “Yes, parents who made the child. (My friend) was adopted and showed me a picture of her birth father the other day,” she responded, and took another bite of her dinner. “Well, I’m not sure if you know this, but I didn’t come out of Nana’s tummy like you and your brother came out of my tummy. I was adopted…” I began. I took a deep breath and paused, awaiting her reaction. She looked at me wide-eyed and waited for me to continue.

“Nana and Papa adopted me, and they are my parents. They love me just as much as I love you, and they are very special people because they chose to adopt me,” I continued. She didn’t seem phased by this new information. “They have adopted you and your sister and brother, right? They must be special to adopt so many kids.” she said casually.

“Do you have any questions about it?” I asked, expecting a slew of difficult and complicated questions to come from my inquisitive little girl.

“Yes.” she proclaimed, and took a deep breath.

“What were your birth parents’ names?” she asked. I told her.

“And, if you were very young when you were adopted, how did you get your milk?” she asked. This prompted a short discussion about breast milk and formula, and how some mommies are unable to feed their babies with their breasts. She seemed to understand my explanation and moved on to her next question.

“Did you ever meet your birth parents?” she asked. I told her that I had reunited with my birth father awhile ago, but that he had unexpectedly passed away.

“Can I see a picture of your birth parents?” she asked. I told her that I had some photos, and that I would share them with her one day, but not today.

And with that, she seemed satisfied with the discussion and answers I had provided, and changed the topic of conversation. And that was it.

I feel a sense of relief knowing that I am no longer keeping a secret from my big girl. She now knows, and she doesn’t seem to be affected by the news of my adoption. I will continue to check in with her to make sure that she doesn’t have any questions, but am so happy to have finally opened up to her about my past.

And I will tell my other children as well, in time. When they are old enough to understand.

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  1. *hearts*

  2. I’m sure this was a difficult conversation, but bravo to you and the way you handled it. I’m a birthmother and my son is now 25. It’s been a fully open adoption since day one, for which I am grateful (and lucky). Until I read your post, it hadn’t occurred to me that an adult adoptee would need to explain to their own kids about their adoption. It had never crossed my mind. Thank you for sharing this important part of the whole adoption experience.
    As a side note – about three years ago, my now 10 year old asked about her brother and my experiences as a birthmother. I had been prepared to discuss this with her – but I was not prepared for the question while we were in the drive thru line at the local Kentucky Fried Chicken. She definitely through me for a loop – but we had the conversation anyway. And as kids do, she asked many questions. I answered simply and honestly. It was awkward at first, but so very healthy.
    All the best to you!

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