Monthly Archives: March 2013

#5 Am I Betraying My Family?

Post4  All this time, I wondered about my sisters. I wondered where they were. I wondered who the woman was that my mom referred to as my ‘real’ mom. But I wasn’t sure that I should be wondering those things. As a four year old, I would never have been able to define the word ‘betrayal,’ but it definitely describes how I felt about spending time thinking about this family that I didn’t know.

I wasn’t trying to turn my back on my family but secretly, that is what I thought I was doing. At that age, I could never have described these mixed emotions verbally. The waves of emotions were internal.

Eventually, I couldn’t take not having any answers about them though. It was obvious to me that my mom knew more about them and I really wanted to know more too. I especially wanted to know more about my sisters. I endlessly thought about the fun we could be having if we could just play together.

I finally managed to work up the courage to ask her some questions. I tried to make it seem casual. As I was coloring at my little table one morning, my mom was busy cleaning up the kitchen. Without making eye contact I asked, “How old are my sisters?” I continued coloring so my mom wouldn’t think that I was overly interested. She paused for a moment, but then answered, “One of them is six and one is eight.”

I was so excited that I wanted to leap out of my chair. To a four year old that was obsessed with getting a sister, this was the best news I had heard in … forever.

Instead of doing a cartwheel, I stayed glued to my seat and continued coloring. My mom eyed me waiting to hear what I had to say. Finally I asked, “How come you have me?” My mom moved over to the counter and sat down at one of the chairs on the kitchen side. I took a break from coloring to look at her as she spoke, but kept the crayon in my hand so that I didn’t seem too interested.

She explained, “Well, I wanted a little girl, and then you came along and that was my chance to get a little girl. Your real mom couldn’t take care of you, so I adopted you. I got you because I wanted you.”

It seemed like she was trying to stress how much she ‘wanted’ me. I wasn’t sure why.

I went back to coloring, but tried to keep the conversation going. I asked, “Can I see my ‘real’ mom and my sisters?”

Mostly I wanted to see my sisters. I wanted to play with them.

My mom didn’t seem mad at me at all for asking. She was still calm and answered, “Yes, you will get to see them sometime, but I don’t know when that will be.” Again, my excitement got a hold of me. I was going to get to see my sisters! I decided I had asked enough for now and still didn’t want to upset my mom by asking too much. I had a lot to think about.

My mom got me because she wanted me. That seemed pretty nice of her. But I couldn’t help feeling like a guest in my own house. Before all of this ‘adopted’ business started, this was my house. Now, I wasn’t sure that I was as much a part of this family as my mom, dad and brother were. I knew Randy wasn’t adopted. My mom had given birth to him. I just felt different than everyone else.

#4 Introduced as ‘Adopted’

Photo3My mom viewed telling me I was adopted as her ticket to now be able to introduce me how she wanted right in front of me. When we met people, she would say, “This is my son, Randy, and this is my daughter, Meredith. She’s adopted.” Or I would hear her on the phone, “Yes, we have one son and one adopted daughter.”

We were in a store once and the clerk remarked, “Oh what a cute little girl. I can see the resemblance.” I looked up at my mom and watched as she chuckled and coyly asked, “Can you?” The store clerk remarked, “Yes, in the face.” My mom continued to get enjoyment out of this and finally stated, “She’s adopted.” This left the poor unsuspecting clerk unsure what to say. She stammered, “oh … uh, I’m sorry I didn’t know.” These were the type of reactions that never fazed my mom. Not only would she not understand that this whole interaction had made another person uncomfortable, she actually got enjoyment from them standing there having an awkward reaction to what had just been said. She continued introducing me as ‘adopted’ to everyone until I started wondering if that was my middle name. Meredith Adopted Casterson.

I finally started thinking that this whole adopted thing must be important for people to know about. So even I started introducing myself as adopted. If it was important enough for my mom to tell everyone, then I figured I should take the queue and do the same.

So it began. Anytime I met someone, I would state, “I’m Meredith. I’m adopted.” A teacher? She will need to know this. A doctor? He’s going to want to know. The waitress? It might affect her too. I wasn’t sure how far reaching the importance was, so I tried to cover all bases. It seemed to be important and always got a response. Some responses were mundane such as, “oh that’s nice dear.” Sometimes the responses were astonishment. This word adopted seemed to make me different. Unique. Special. I tried to use the word as much as possible. And my mom seemed to like that.

My mom never told me to introduce myself as adopted. But she never stopped me either. I just noticed that it made her smile slightly as I told every single person I came across that I was adopted. As I would do so, she would lock her eyes on the person I told and wait to see their reaction.

‘Adopted’ wasn’t merely an aspect of my sense of self, it was who I was. Adopted was my sole identity. Previous to that morning in the kitchen, I was part of a family. Afterward, I was just ‘adopted.’ I held onto it tightly.

Commentary

I didn’t like being introduced as adopted. The older I got, the more I hated it. I never wanted to be my mom’s adopted daughter. I just wanted to be a daughter.

My mom came from humble beginnings and reached a point in life where she felt proud to say that she could provide a good life for an adopted child. That was her issue. Not mine. My issue was that I wanted to make her happy. If my identity as an adopted child made her happy, so be it. But still, the longer it went on, the more I hated it.

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#3 My Reaction To Being Told I Was Adopted

flowers2  So I had just clearly been told that my mom wasn’t actually my mom. I immediately felt weird about myself and very confused. As a child, I had never heard of another child who didn’t live with her mom. It was such a difficult idea to process. I thought for a moment that my mom had lost her mind or that she was going to say she was somehow pretending the whole thing. I waited a few moments to hear her say that she was teasing. Eventually it became obvious that she wasn’t joking and she wasn’t pretending. She was serious. And she was done with the conversation. She turned back to the sink and continued washing the dishes.

My mom’s words had gotten my attention, but it was her tone that made an impression. Her tone was very serious with an attitude that I needed to face facts. It was the same slow speaking, low tone she had when I knew I was approaching the line of getting in trouble which seemed to happen frequently for me. She spoke slowly to me so that even someone as thick headed as me could get the point of what she had to say.

Not only was she telling me that I needed to face some hard facts in life, she was telling me to not even consider complaining about this fact. She seemed to be convincing me, even as she convinced herself.

I dropped the subject. I did not want to talk about the fact that my mom was not my mom and for some reason I had a family that I didn’t live with and I had two sisters who were probably playing with each other and I couldn’t play too.

I had finally wished so hard for sisters that I had made it come true. Only problem was that it did not make me feel happy at all. In fact I felt empty. Now I had sisters, but my mom wasn’t my mom anymore. Not the real one anyway. I felt that I had somehow controlled this by wishing for sisters and that if I had simply remained silent, none of this would have happened.

As I turned back to play with my dolls at the table, I obsessed over what had just happened. Maybe if I didn’t complain about sisters, this would never be brought up again. I would be both the Mommy and the teacher in all of my play and I wouldn’t need sisters. And I most definitely never made the mistake of wishing for sisters out loud anymore. It didn’t work though.

I came away from that morning thinking about that word ‘adopted.’ That word had somehow changed everything I thought I was. I thought I was Meredith Casterson and Sadie was my mom and Albert was my dad and Randy was my older brother and we all lived on a small farm. But now, everything was different than I thought, but I couldn’t describe how it was different. I just knew it all had to do with that word. Adopted.

Commentary

We have all been there as a child when an adult uses a tone that sends a message that is louder than the words they are using. My dad wasn’t good at it. He could tell me to do something even with his serious tone, and it would make me laugh.

My mom on the other hand scared the living crap out of me. Her words, her tone, or even a look in my direction made me sit up and take notice. I don’t want to give the impression that she was mean. We had fun together sometimes and she gave plenty of hugs, but she was a serious person.

To a kid whose primary goal in life was playing and having fun, we rubbed each other the wrong way.

I was by no means the perfect child. I liked to push limits and tested her patience often. She was someone who liked to maintain control. I liked seeing her lose control. Other times, like in this posting on my blog, she could silence me with a few words and especially, her tone.

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#2 Being Told I Was Adopted

daisy  I think that any person who was adopted probably remembers that moment when they found out. I never gave much thought as to how others felt about that moment. I think that it is similar to most experiences in life. You kind of assume that everyone has a similar experience to you until you are thrust into reality and find out different. For example, if you grew up eating spaghetti every single Monday, you think that is what everyone does. Until you are at your best friend’s house on a Monday night and realize that spaghetti isn’t even on their radar.

So that is how I felt about others and their adoption stories. I assume that this new information must always come as a shocking punch in the gut. That is how it was for me. I have always wondered if all adoptive parents deliver the news in this way.

My Adoption Story

I was four years old and I was playing with my dolls while my mom was cleaning up the kitchen. It was a beautiful day and the sun filtered in through the windows and lit up the room. It was the last moment I was a carefree child, blissfully unaware of how my identity was about to change.

Just as I was arranging my dolls around the table for the play session of school and determining who would be the teacher, I suddenly thought that having a playmate would make this much simpler. Not just any playmate. I needed a sister.

I had always wanted a sister. Wanted isn’t even strong enough of a word to describe how I felt. I craved a sister. I thought about my sister all the time. She didn’t exist, but I could feel her presence. And I always thought that if I wished hard enough, it would eventually come true.

I definitely did not want to pass up this opportunity to tell my mom how I felt. As I had done so many times before, I announced “I wish I had a sister to play with.”

My mom, who was standing at the sink, lowered her hands to the counter, turned her head toward me and calmly, almost slowly, said, “Meredith, you do have a sister. You have two sisters.” She paused to let this set in and to gauge my reaction.

I was sitting in my little play area my mom had set up for me. It had a small table and chairs that were perfect for activities such as coloring and playing with dolls. It was in the dining area of the open kitchen. It always strikes me as odd that during this conversation, we weren’t even technically in the same room. She was in the kitchen and I was in the dining room. Yes, the rooms were open to each other, divided only by a counter, but still, in a child’s view, she was very far away from me.

My mom’s statement had gotten my complete attention. I dropped the dolls and turned in my seat toward my mom. How had I missed this information? Where were my sisters? Why hadn’t I seen them? More importantly, why hadn’t I played with them? And where was she keeping them?

I silently waited to hear what my mom said next.

The next very brief sentences summed it up for me. My mom continued, with her hands still on the counter at the sink, “Meredith, you’re adopted. Your sisters live with your real mom.”

And then, just in case I wasn’t getting the point, she clearly stated, “I’m not your real mom.”

Commentary

I was 4 in the late seventies. I don’t think there was a lot of information out there helping adoptive parents to understand how to best handle things. Even if there was, my adoptive mom was extremely independent and I can’t imagine her reaching out for help.

Looking back, I think using the term ‘real mom’ was confusing. I spent my entire childhood hearing my biological mom referred to as my “real mom” and my adoptive mom as simply “mom,” and I’ve spent my entire lifetime trying to dissect those two labels to determine what they stand for.
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#1 Hi To All

I’m looking forward to this project. I have high hopes for what this website will be.

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Thank you for coming along on this journey.