How Much To Reveal

I was at the eye doctor last week for my annual check-up and I got caught up in a conversation that has left me wondering if I could have handled it differently. The subject of adoption is always tricky when considering the question of how much information should people know.

We were discussing some changes in my vision when she asked if I did computer work. I answered, “Yes, I write.” which led to an explanation that I have a blog. When she asked what it is about, I hesitated and then answered, “Infertility and Adoption.”

The fact that I hesitated has bothered me. The fact that I was not in the mood to explain the role that either subject has had in my life bothered me. The fact that I choose to reveal the subjects bothered me. It all just felt wrong.

Although my children were not with me during this incident, I worry what kind of message my attitude about adoption could send to my children, regardless of how I handle it. I do not want my children to ever feel like they should not discuss adoption, but I also do not want them to feel like they have to discuss adoption either.

It is an everyday part of our life. In our private circle, it is never an off-limit subject. We field questions from our friends and family, as many of them are not familiar with open adoption. We have no issues with this.

It is in the public arena that I struggle. Sometimes, I want to be very open in discussing their adoption. To me, the path we ended up on in working towards having children is nothing short of amazing. I want people to know that and to see our journey as we do.

Sometimes, I want to just blend into the crowd. Sometimes I feel guilty for being grateful that our children are the same race as us so I do not have to field the questions or the looks. Other mothers do not have a choice but to face that on a daily basis. They have no choice to blend in and not worry about what others may think. I do and I get to turn it all off if I want to, but then I wonder if it is okay for me to turn it off, given that other adoptive mothers cannot.

Depending on my mood, I tend to have one reaction or the other. I never want my children to feel like I am invading their privacy or covering up the fact that they are adopted. When there is hesitation in my voice, I worry that my inconsistent reaction will send the wrong message.

I have been having some concerns about Turkey-Man’s hyperactivity. He will be starting kindergarten in the fall, so I wanted to privately discuss my worries with his pre-school teacher and get her feel on how things were going. During the conversation, I realized that she did not know yet that our children are adopted. I have a legitimate fear of Turkey-Man having ADHD, given that a close biological relative of his does. I was not sure how to relay my fear without including the potential biological influence that I am concerned about. I quietly explained the situation. Then, I worried the rest of the day about feeling like it had to be quietly explained. Why did I lower my voice when I mentioned their adoption?

I hate the fact that I overanalyze everything, but it is just how my mind works. In my perfectionism, I tend to examine everything, looking for the best way I could handle a situation.

In adoption, there are no right answers. The continuum of being open and honest versus private with the details is broad. I want to give my children the right to share their story on their terms. I tend to be more private because I realize any part of their story that I share is something that they have no control over and they may or may not be okay with that when they are older.

I do not know what the right way was to handle the eye doctor’s questions. I have a complete inability to lie, so that was not an option. I feel guilty that I was not in the mood to discuss the subjects, but then I also feel guilty to have revealed them at the same time. This is why several days later the conversation is still on my mind.

For those who have adopted or are considering it, how do you handle the subject of adoption when it comes up? Where do you fall on the continuum and what is the best way to address it? How much should people know?

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3 comments

  1. Haven’t adopted 🙂 re the blog aspect, it’s also a personal journal, so, in the future – just say you use the computer for journaling.

    I never had a problem with anyone knowing I was adopted, whether it was how I was raised, or my personality. I don’t think it’s a big deal telling the teacher, etc., there are others who feel differently than I do, perhaps look to how you child shares, or doesn’t to guide you?

    As the ADHD – you could have just said that other family members have been diagnosed with ADHD – you don’t need to qualify it…

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  2. I asked my stepdaughter at age 4 how she prefers me to explain our relationship because people in stores ask if she is my daughter or if I am her mom. Correcting mom to stepmom seemed natural, but correcting daughter to stepdaughter felt cold to me. She said “I am your daughter, so if they say that, they are right, but you are my stepmom, so if they say mom, tell them stepmom.” I check in once a year. Knowing it is how she wants me to speak about it makes it easy to do confidently!

    Based on her appearance, people also ask me if she is adopted. I find directly asking that question for no reason incredibly rude!

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