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Adopted Child: “I Want to Live with my Birth Mother”

faitha's picture

By faitha - Posted on 24 June 2009

Child (c) Lynda BernhardtFrom the day I decided to adopt a child, I knew I would one day hear the words, “I want to live with my birth mother.” I always imagined those words would come out of the mouth of a confused and angry teenager. Instead, they came from a very angry eight-year-old whose world had just come to an end.

Let me back up … Santa brought my adopted child a Nintendo DS-Lite for Christmas. Personally, I don’t think that an eight year old child (doubly so one with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder – ADHD) has the maturity to take care of a computer gadget that costs over $100, but that was the “big gift” that he REALLY WANTED for Christmas, so I relented.

Sure enough, an eight-year-old child with ADHD does not do a very good job taking care of a $100+ computer gadget, and his DS is in bad shape. Instead of snapping open and shut, it flops around like a wet noodle thanks to my son breaking the casing. This has caused the wires inside to do weird things to the point that the games are barely playable.

Fortunately for me, Nintendo likes to get children hooked on what my friend calls Nintendo’s “kiddie crack” early, so Nintendo provides a warranty, even for little boys like mine. (I guess it is a long-term investment on their part.) I have to pay a nominal amount because the broken casing is not covered by the warranty, but Nintendo is going to fix the DS and even extend the warranty another full year. (Suckers!)

Here is where my son’s world falling apart came into play – We had to ship the DS to Nintendo through FedEx, and it won’t come back for 11 to 16 days. My son would have handled losing an arm better than he took the news that he would be without his (on its last leg) DS for two whole weeks! When he saw me put the package in the FedEx drop off, the fury of my little boy knew no bounds.

In the course of tearing up everything he could get his hands on and hitting me with a barrage of words came the lowest blow he could think of: “I want to live with my birth mother.” I simply replied, “Good luck with that,” because I was not quite sure what to say to this.

I don’t know if he really thought that his birth mother would not take away his beloved DS for two weeks or if he thought that telling me that I was replaceable would be the best way to get back at me, but he pulled those words out of his arsenal and flung them right at me. I was stunned – not because I did not expect them at some point, but I did not expect them at age eight.

Of course, my son was back to being sweet and loving after an hour or so. I am not even sure he remembers saying those words to me, and I have no question that he wants to continue being my son. I was simply taken aback by him saying this to me.

To those of you parenting adopted children, how old were your children when they told you that they wanted to live with their birth parents? What was your response?

Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt

yourbloodismyblood's picture

First thing, I want to apologize on the behalf on the emotions as an adoptee. After reading the article I remember those very words that used to play in my head for many years as a child. I believe the very first time and only time i ever said, i was about that same age maybe a year older. I believe it is actually normal for a child or at least expected for an adoptee to say that at some point. I don't think you should worry too much about it, although i am sure it probably does hurt you as a mother. As a young child being a adoptee, we don't know the complete value of family, hurt, and the type of love that is in a person that is willing to adopt a child as their own and we should be greatful. That is something that we learn as we get older. Honestly, and no disrespect, but the way you responded by saying "good luck with that" can be very hurtful to your child. It may give him the feeling that he is "unwanted" by his mother. Now that just may be true to, but to tell a child at that age that he is unwanted in any form will always and i mean always play in the back of his head. but as i said, just consider it normal, he will grow out of it. It may take more time for him due to the fact that he has ADHD though. But please don't be discouraged in anyway, continue to love him just the same as you know he loves you. It is very difficult and challenging being an adoptee and having to deal with society as well as our own identity. Check out my blog I share some of my feelings growing up as an adoptee and now i am beginning my search.

thank you

wantrkids's picture

How old were my kids? LOL! Exactly 7 and 2.75 - which is also how old they were when we adopted them. They have been using that line on me since they figured out that mom is the one in charge around here, not them.

My best advise is don't let it threaten you or rock your world. Either scenario you presented is likely. What it all boils down to is an expression of big feelings on his part that he doesn't really know what to do with. It's also a clue that he probably has some fantasy image of his birth mother cooked up in his head and that he thinks about her more than he lets on and he probalby has some unanswered questions about her. So, now that a little time has passed and he's cooled down and the shock factor has worn off for you, I'd talk with him about it.

"You know, Jonny, you said something yesterday that really surprised me. When I shipped your DS off to be fixed, you became very angry with me and told me you wanted to go and live with your birth mother. I understand that you are angry about not having your DS and you think I'm a bad mom because you think I took it away. I didn't take it away. I sent it to the repair shop to be fixed. It will be back for you to play with again in two weeks.(End of Nintendo conversation.) What I am curious about, though, is what do you know about your birth mother?" Let the conversation go from there. You can do a few simple probing questions such as "Do you know her name?" "Do you know where she lives?" And then just let him take it from there. He might not ask any questions, but he might ask a lot. Don't be surprised if the "big" questions (like "why didn't she keep me") come up sooner than you think. It already has with my 9 year old son.

The most important thing is that you open the channels of communication and let him know it's ok to ask questions about her whenever he wants, that it's ok for him to love her and you, too and that she isn't a threat to you. It is also important that you do answer his questions the best you can at an age appropriate level, but let him take the lead on how much information is shared. Don't spill the whole story just because he asks where she lives. And if you don't know the answers, be honest with him and tell him you don't know, but together you can find a way for that to be ok.

John's picture

12, he had been home six months. Tyler was severely upset. He was not following any of the household rules that count, and was getting a consequence that he would notice. He knew all to well the issues his Mom has, he lived with her until age 7, yet, "I want to go live with my Mom and my last name isn't ...". My response was "That will be difficult, the adoption is finalized, you need to call the judge." It didn't have any traction, so he moved to another way of doing the hissy. An hour later, he was Tyler again, and apologised.

I think you handled it well Faith. Your response was exactly what it should have been. At 8 he is old enough to get that type of response to a hurtful comment that he made. A heads up, I will back off emotionally if that is whats needed here. A goody two shoes response gives that comment traction, and it will come back again and again. Afterwards it is fine to say "I am always willing to talk to you about your birth mother, but not when you use it to hurt." He will live with the message that hurting someone else makes them back off. All 5 of mine from foster care have used that line, usually only once or twice, it is both a version of "I hate you", that a non-adopted child would use, and a trial ballon to see if they have something that will work for the future.

scrapsbynobody's picture

I know it's not exactly "adoption PC" but I have to agree with John. I treat it just like the "I hate you" comment, and say, "Thank you for sharing." This is said in a tone that implies that further sharing might not be beneficial at the moment. This is not confusing or unkind, because we discuss their feelings about their birthparents on a very regular basis. It is not a taboo subject and they know that, but it is not appropriate to throw it into the mix because I ticked them off.

And BTW, all of mine have dropped that bomb, pretty much the moment I did anything they didn't like. Maybe within the first three days?