I am a momma who strives to keep open the lines of communication with my daughter, especially those conversations that center around her adoption. Listening to adult adoptees (both on-line and those I know in real life) pushed me to go a step further this year, asking questions of my daughter and allowing us both to just sit with her emotions. We’ve had many conversations about her first family, her foster family and orphanage, our adoption story and yes, we’ve even tackled the topic of racism. I’ve made mistakes, as a momma and as a person, but I figure that trying my best, focusing on my daughter rather than myself and remaining humble during this process will see all of us through as best we can.Oh, boy, does this sound familiar! Zoe, especially, will play the adoption card at times, raising adoption to deflect negative attention ("when you're mad at me, it makes me feel like I'm back in the orphanage") or to delay doing something she's supposed to do (wanting to talk adoption when she should be doing her homework) or when she wants some one-on-one attention (interrupting something Maya is saying to ask a question about adoption).
Last month, the Tongginator played the adoption card. And by that I mean that she tried to manipulate me to get her way, using the topic of adoption. . . .
But my daughter is smart. REALLY smart. She also knows me well.
And what she’s learned these past five years as my daughter is that I pretty much drop everything to talk with her when she brings up the topic of adoption. When she says “I miss my Abu (her name for her foster mother),” I stop what I am doing, get down at her eye level, offer a hug and wait. I make no apologies for this… it’s what she needs.
Except when she doesn’t.
How lucky we are that by the time our kids start talking adoption, we know them well enough to distinguish between genuine and disingenuous adoption talk, or at least most of the time we can tell the difference! When I'm not sure, I try to err on the side of talking about adoption, if at all possible. And sometimes when I know they're really playing the adoption card, I'll still talk adoption, if I have my own agenda for doing so, like when I've been looking for an opening to explore an adoption issue with them. But I also let them know that I recognize their tactic for what it is (boy, do they hate talking at that juncture)!
I think if you've laid the right foundation with your kids (like Tonggu Momma has), by letting them know in a multitude of ways that you're open to discussing adoption feelings, there's nothing wrong with giving them a quick affirmation on the adoption point ("I know you feel sad about your birth parents, but. . ."), and then postpone the discussion to another time (". . . you need to finish your homework before bedtime. Let's talk about it after you finish.") But then I think it is important to raise the issue again at that later point, even if you think it was being used manipulatively -- and if they are reluctant to talk now, you can at least affirm your willingness to talk, and explain again why you couldn't talk before.
And, of course, the best way to diminish the value of playing the adoption card is to listen attentively to ALL important issues your child wants to discuss. That way you affirm that adoption isn't the only issue you pay special attention to, that they are about more than just adoption. And if they have a full deck of cards to play in an attempt to manipulate you, at least the adoption card won't come up as often!