During spring break, my adoptive mom took me to visit my biological family. My older sisters and I had opposing weeks off from school, so while I was there, they were gone during the day. This left me spending the days with my adoptive mom, biological mom and my two younger siblings.
My adoptive mom decided one morning that we should have a picture done at a local department store. Since my older sisters were in school that day, she decided that it would only include my younger siblings and me. As always, once my adoptive mom decided something, everyone else just went along with it.
It felt awkward as they placed my younger brother in my arms for me to hold during the picture, seeming more like kids that I barely knew instead of siblings with which I held a strong connection. Regardless, I obediently did as I was told so that my adoptive mom would have the picture she wanted.
A few months later, I received a letter from my biological mom. And, as typical, any communication from by bio mom resulted in an immediate high.
I opened the letter and found a picture that shocked me. The picture was of my four siblings. Together. Without me.
Let me just say that again. My biological mom sent me a picture, professionally done, of my four siblings together.
And with that, my heart was ripped out.
The picture was gorgeous, and I examined every detail.
My two older sisters were beautiful. Both of them had their hair curled and brushed out beautifully. They had on white button up, lace shirts and long necklaces that hung perfectly. Lacey was holding my younger sister, Allie. Allie looked like a little doll. Her hair fell at her shoulders with sweet little curls. It was pinned back on the sides with barrettes. She had on the most adorable pink dress and was holding a doll in a matching pink dress. My sister Tori was holding my younger brother, Chris. He was equally adorable in a cute suit and bow tie.
I became obsessed with the picture. For days, I couldn’t stop staring at it. I hated it. I was so jealous that I wanted to rip it up, but couldn’t bring myself to do so. I wondered about every little detail.
Who had done their hair?
Who had picked out their clothes?
What day was the picture taken on?
What was I doing that day?
Why hadn’t somebody told me this was happening?
Mostly I wondered where I could have stood if I had been in the picture. Maybe to the side of one of my sisters?
I wanted to go back in time and find a way to be in the picture with them.
Eventually, I started to realize that I didn’t fit into their family in any way. I had fooled myself into thinking I could be part of both families. But I wasn’t part of their family. They were their own family. They had a mom, dad and four kids and I wasn’t part of that. I also started realizing that they had their own life. They weren’t thinking about me at all. They were just living their life and I was a ‘sometimes’ guest within it.
Finally, I put the picture away.
The fact is, kids in open adoption will have to face situations like this. There will be pictures, events, vacations and experiences that will not include them. They will know about these things and they may feel excluded.
It is unrealistic to think that as a 9 – 10 year old, a child will feel fine about seeing their biological parent move forward with their own family (in whatever form). It won’t be fine and it needs to be talked about.
There are many things that can trigger feelings of jealousy, abandonment, resentment, anger and rejection. It is important to stay tuned into the adoptee to determine what may be going on that could cause these emotions. Additionally, if your child isn’t expressing feelings, having an outlet such as a therapist may be helpful so that he or she may feel more comfortable expressing himself or herself. If working with a therapist, make sure that your child knows that they will not share what he or she tells them. If the adoptee thinks the therapist will simply tell the adoptive parent what is said, it will defeat the purpose of seeing a therapist in the first place.
There is no one solution to these problems. The biological family obviously cannot stop living, and in open adoption, the adoptee will hear about it. It’s inevitable.
*As an aside, I recently found out that there was jealousy from my two older sisters regarding the picture of me alone with my younger siblings. The ‘kept’ children need to be able to express these feelings as well.