Sunday, December 14, 2008

Triggers for Thoughts of Birth Parents?

What sorts of things have you seen to trigger your kids' thoughts of their birth parents? Please note, in asking the question, I'm not suggesting that triggering thoughts about birth parents is a bad thing. I'm just interested in hearing what has triggered those thoughts for other kids. It might be helpful for other parents, too, to know what might raise those issues.

Birthdays and Gotcha Days have been triggers for my girls (no surprise!), as have adoption books and movies. As I've posted before, my dad (their grandfather) going into the hospital was a huge trigger for Zoe.

Friday evening, Zoe asked to see her lifebook (she always asks, even though it is on a low shelf where she can get to it any time). She paged through it a little bit, and then wanted to talk about where her birth parents might live, and asked her usual question about why her birth parents couldn't keep her. She "knows" the answers in her head, but it doesn't yet penetrate to her heart.

Well, my dad ended up back in the hospital for another angioplasty this week, and we visited him on Friday afternoon (he's doing fine, and is home as I write this -- it seems the doctors knew there was another blockage that they never bothered to mention; they considered it borderline so didn't address it since he has a myriad of other health problems that motivated them to keep the procedure as brief as possible. When he had chest pains again, they decided they had to deal with it).

Genius that I am, I figured this is what was triggering Zoe's thoughts. I wondered if she was able to make the connection, that worrying about Grandpa's health made her think about her abandonment. So after we talked about her birth parents for a while, I asked her what it was that made her think about them today. Her answer, "I don't know." I prodded gently, trying to see if she saw the connection, but "I don't know" was still the answer, and that was that.

The next morning, Zoe came back to it on her own: "Mama, I do know why I was thinking about my birth parents yesterday. I did so good in the ballet that I wished they could see me. Do you think they'd be proud of me like you are?" Oh, yes, I think they would be!

Interesting -- I hadn't expected that to be a trigger, but I can see why it would be. And I can see the connection between the "why didn't they keep me" question and the "would they be proud of me" question. No matter how often I tell her that it didn't have anything to do with her -- she wasn't bad, she didn't do anything wrong -- I think there remains that seed of doubt. There must have been something unworthy in her -- if only they'd known she'd be such a good dancer things might have been different.

So have you been surprised by some of the things triggering your kids' thoughts of first families, China, abandonment, etc.?


Lisa said...

Malinda - I bet your Mommy radar is correct about your Dad's illness being a trigger of sorts. I am sure she would love her birth family to see her perform ballet, but perhaps describing her feelings for her grandfather's illness may be more complex to figure out. I would have loved to see her perform ballet, too! Sorry we missed it. Did you get a video?

Mei-Ling said...

You want to know something really interesting?

When I was growing up, I asked my mom the same question: why didn't my mother keep me? Why wasn't I 'worthy enough' to be kept?

Forward to graduation time from elementary school. I remember on my way home suddenly turning to look at Mom and saying, "I wonder what my biological mother would say... if she could see me now?"

I think in a way I was voicing that if I had been able to "show" my mother who I had become - by accomplishing graduation - that part of me would feel that I was finally "worthy" of having been her daughter at one point and not feeling like I had just been that "throw-away" child all my life.

malinda said...

Mei-Ling, thanks for sharing. Although I wish it wasn't so, your comment seems to validate my feeling that Zoe was connecting her ballet performance to somehow "proving" her worthiness to her birth parents.