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Destinations, Dreams and Dogs - International adventure with a fast-track family (& dogs) of Old World values, adopting the Russian-Italian-American good life on the go…!

Did You Say “Birthparent”?

There are reasons why people adopt from foreign countries.  Generally, they don’t want anything to do with birthparents and other assorted relatives.

This is not to say that you cannot ever contact them, should you so wish to say something meaningful, taking into account that no one around them might ever have known that they  gave birth to a baby now living elsewhere in the world, and you could be royally messing with their life if you choose to reveal such a fact through a letter falling into the wrong hands.  It happens to those adopting younger children, toddlers, and infants.

Yet, for many of us with older children, birthparents are a very delicate and sometimes deadly topic.  You see, they remember.  They remember events that should never have been seen, heard, felt, nor experienced by anyone.  So the idea of sending a cheery holiday card to the “other side of the family” kind of gives one pause.

Every child’s story is different, of course.  Perhaps it’s a parent in prison, a parent who was abusive, or a parent who was murdered.  Personally, I feel that this information is private for the child and his immediate family.  Verboten.  Off-limits to inquiring minds of the casual passerby.

But it doesn’t stop them from asking now, does it?

When our kids first came home, we briefed them.  “Your family background is nobody else’s business, pohn’yalee?” (Got it?) I quizzed them.  “Some people are simply nosy, and you don’t owe them any answers.”

It was most likely a couple of years ago when we last discussed such things.  Believe it or not, we rarely spend our days and nights chit-chatting about the ins and outs of being adopted, similar to someone having a Caesarian section.  It’s part of the story, but not one that you recount day in and day out.

We had dropped our guard.  I didn’t realize we had to be on guard.

“Mama, that new lady was asking us questions…” my oldest daughter started.

“What new lady?  What kind of questions?” I faced her, confused.

She explained:  in this setting, while you were speaking with so-and-so, she came up to us.

“The lady made us uncomfortable when she started asking about birthparents…” Mashenka reported as the three younger children nodded their heads in agreement.

“I walked away,” Petya, our oldest, shrugged.

“She asked about birthparents and said, ‘What they think about you living in U.S. now?  Are they happy you are here?’”

The children watched my mouth drop.

“You’re kidding….  What did you say?” I am frankly horrified.

“I say to her, ‘It is sad story,’ and hung my head,” she related.

“Good girl.  It’s not her place to ask,” I reassure them.

The nerve.  Are there no boundaries today?  Can an adult ask or say the stupidest thing that pops into their head and think nothing of it?

What happened to my children in the past was a crime.  You do not treat children how they were treated and get away with it.  I’m sorry if that’s fascinating fodder for some, but we will not be talking about it at any social gathering or elsewhere, just like I wouldn’t ask all of the details about anyone’s recent mugging, or rape, or house foreclosure.

Gee, gather the popcorn and pull up a chair-!

Is a little respect really too much to ask?



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6 Comments : Leave a Reply

  1. avatar Linda says:

    I can’t believe the nerve of some people…
    I’ve been asked, a lot about my sons past… I just say that it’s my sons past, I have no right to discuss things like, when my son’s older he will decide who and what he want’s to tell.
    And I’ve been called rude because of this… oh well… I don’t really care if they think I’m rude…

  2. avatar Gwendolyn says:

    I’ve made my share of public and private faux pas of the nature you cite, Aleksandra.

    We have not had the specific sort of experience that you recount. However, our children attend public school, and we have shared all that we know about their family of origin with the people who work with them daily.

    In our case, ‘all that we know’ is approximately equal to ‘everything the kids can remember and tell us.’

    We feel that we need to share this information so that people understand the degree of trauma and deprivation our kids have endured. On the surface, the girls looks so perfect, but inside… that’s another matter.

    And, despite this, we have had one horror that may last for a long time. On 2 January, 2011, two loving, sensitive, devoted, but apparently not sufficiently imaginative, teachers told a true story of a young boy [now a man living in our city] who went to school one day — and never went home. The ‘war’ came to his village while he was in class, and to save his life, he had to flee. His flight may have been 15 or 20 years ago, and he does not know what happened to his family. THIS WAS ALL IN AN ASIDE, a little history before the main part of the discussion, which was meant to be the power we have to overcome our pasts.

    But the next day our younger DD, who had been present for this, refused to go to school. And there started the absenteeism that currently has reached 40+ days for this school year. Last winter and spring she was absent 1 – 3 days a week. On October 15th, she stopped going to school altogether.

    So putting the information out there is not a guarantee that people won’t make mistakes, but it helps.

    And I also consider it part of our ‘job’ as parents of children of trauma, to educate anyone who will listen.

    Last year I had a call from older DD’s school counselor, offering to ‘work’ with her once a week. He sounded sincere and very young, so I asked him, “Tell me three major traumas in DD’s life, traumas that anyone knowing what you know about her history would know.” He was at a loss. I said, “The situation that prompted her being taken into care, being taken into care, being adopted.” We decided that he could help DD by stopping in to visit her class regularly, so she would know him well enough to approach him, should she ever need to.

    Sometimes people don’t THINK because they haven’t got enough information to think with.

    I saw the look on their BM’s face when she asked Igor whether the children had been adopted za granytsu (abroad), a mixture of pain and horror and fear and jealousy and hope… Most Americans cannot imagine that birth parents would not be delighted to have their children growing up and living in the States. THAT’s what I mean about not having enough information to think WITH.

    Let’s keep swimming, huh?

    • avatar admin says:

      I’m sorry your youngest is going through yet another opening of old wounds, Gwendolyn-! You just never know what will trigger reactions, but one can imagine that any story of abandonment or separation from family would not be wise…. We had something similar happen recently, I’ll have to write about sometime. It’s understandable that teachers or coaches have other issues on which to focus, yet keeping their charges in mind should not be too difficult. One would think….

  3. avatar AP says:

    I have an almost opposite “issue” I deal with. My daughters want to talk about their birth families – mostly all the good things. ie Mom is so young and beautiful. Brother is the best in the whole world. Early on I tried to tell them how it is THEIR story to tell and I guess they have decided to tell it! They have even shared the “bad” stuff with friends much to my chagrin. They are teenage girls who feel the need to share with their friends. I can’t imagine what would come out of their mouths if adults actually ASKED them questions!

    Someone should write a book on adopting the older child. Wait … I think a few people might have. Funny thing is alllll those books I’ve read and very little of it actually pertains to our life. ;O)

    • avatar admin says:

      That’s true, AP, it could go either way-! There are common trends among adoptees… and then each family has its own unique twists. How’s that for definitive? Maybe you should write a book-! Or, all of us who are your 3-D friends could contribute a chapter…. The possibilities are limitless….

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