Parenting Tips: “You’re Not My Real Mother!”
brought to you by
a ministry of America World Adoption
“….a threefold cord is not quickly broken.” – Ecclesiastes 4:12
“YOU’RE NOT MY REAL MOTHER”
If you’re an adoptive parent, you have likely heard this at least once; if you are pursuing adoptive parenthood, get ready—these words will come. They are most often flung from the child to the parent in a moment of anger or frustration. The child has been denied some perceived right or has been thwarted by some supposed entitlement, and lashes back with words intended to inflict the same kind of pain on the parent.
And the words are indeed painful. They cut to the heart of what we, as adoptive parents, sometimes feel—that we are not our child’s “real” parent, that we are imposters, that we have no right to care for and discipline our child, that another parent would be a better parent. It’s the secret fear that lives deep in our hearts, next to the shadow of the child’s birth parents (i.e. the child’s “real” parents). Those words can make us feel exposed as frauds.
The opposite of fear is confidence, and our confidence comes from our conviction that God has put that child into our family as part of His divine plan. Psalm 139:16 says “all the days ordained for me were written in Your book before one of them came to be.” Even before the foundation of the Earth, God knew that this child would be born in a particular country to a particular mother, and then however many weeks or months or years later, that child would be adopted into your home. In other words, from the beginning of time, God has planned to put you and your child together into a family. In God’s eyes, you are the child’s “real” parent, because He has chosen you to be.
Out of that confidence comes our response to that angry or tearful child. “Yes, honey, I am your real mother, and you cannot go to that party/have another cupcake/stay up another hour/get a nose ring/put sparklers on the dog’s tail.” Your child’s accusation must not change your mind about your decision—otherwise, the child will know exactly how to push your buttons to get what he or she wants. Nor should your response come from your own fear or anger, or you are likely to say something hurtful that will merely serve to escalate the confrontation. Instead, you are calm, cool, and collected, secure in your place as the child’s parent and confident of your parenting rights.
Later, when the battle is over and emotions are calm, you may want to address this with your child. Gently, and in a way that is not accusatory or pitiful, ask your child what he or she meant by that comment. Don’t be surprised if your child just shrugs and says, “I dunno.” In the heat of the moment, the child will seek to pull out the big guns and use whatever means possible to get a rise out of you. Often the parent reads a deeper meaning into the words that the child just carelessly throws out. In which case you too, need to shrug it off and move on.
But don’t be surprised also if your child raises some questions about birthparents that have been simmering below the surface and were brought to a boiling point in the midst of the battle. This could lead to a discussion about loss and grief, about your child’s fear of rejection, and the life-long adoption issues of being adopted. And this could also be an opportunity to remind your child that he or she is loved beyond their comprehension by a God whose plans are always good and who, in His perfect wisdom, knitted your family together through adoption. That’s about as real as it gets.
This article was written by Diane Hood, Clinical Supervisor with America World Adoption, and the Director of Social Services in our Georgia office. Diane has more than 20 years experience in the adoption field and she is a parent by birth and by adoption.
ACT (Adoption Coaching and Training) is a ministry of America World Adoption designed to support families through training, support groups, and individualized coaching. Explore ACT services on our website, and reach out to us today for a free consultation to make a plan to meet your needs.