Surviving, Learning, Laughing: Too Good to be True

Through candid (and often funny!) observations and heartwarming personal stories, a Holt adoptive mother shares the challenges and joys of parenting adopted children

by Jane Ballback

I mentioned in my last blog that all three of my children had very different reactions to their relinquishment and adoption. In this blog I want to talk specifically about my son Jaik who has never shown or expressed an interest in — or any curiosity about — his adoption, nor does he seem particularly interested in anything related to it.

When I started teaching the classes for Holt he was in his late adolescence. Now that I’m doing this blog, I sat down one more time to talk to him about my participation in the blog and how I was telling his stories. He listened very politely to the whole thing and when I got finished he said (in Jaik’s very clear way), “I know you are very interested in all this, Mom, I simply am not.”

I actually do think that he does care about his relinquishment and his adoption but for his own reasons he just is not, in any way, ready to deal with it.

I recently read a very interesting book on this subject. The book is called, Being Adopted, the Lifelong Search for Self, by David Brodzinsky, Marshall D. Schechter, and Robin M. Harris. This book along with several other good books, are listed under the links “Post Adoption Services/Recommended Books on Holt’s website”.

This is the first book I’ve found that mentions in the introduction of the book that there really are vast differences in the way that children react to their relinquishment and adoption. There are some children that are so happy, so relieved, so pleased to be within a family that they don’t have a great deal of reaction to their early life.

What’s also interesting about this book is that it follows adoptees all through their life cycle. I’m busy reading the book because my boys are now 23 and my daughter Stacee is 20; and I’m very interested in now knowing how their adoption issues could play out in their young adult and middle adult years. It’s a fascinating book.

Despite Jaik’s reluctance to talk about his adoption, Jaik had some “adopted behaviors.” Let me describe an incident that taught me a great deal. Jaik is pretty much the perfect kid. He does things easy and well, he’s very well rounded, and he has a natural inclination to be a perfectionist. As a small child I thought it was really fascinating how he would calibrate his behavior when he came somewhat close to doing something wrong or something he shouldn’t. He would quickly figure out that it wasn’t worth whatever consequence I was going to give him for doing what he wasn’t supposed to do. I was intrigued by this behavior because in contrast, his twin brother Brandon did everything imaginable that most young children do to express themselves, to test the waters, and to eventually just get on your nerves.

I didn’t think Jaik’s behavior was entirely normal, but I didn’t know how to gauge it. Jaik continued with his perfectionist behavior through his preschool years and into early elementary school. At age seven this mystery became shockingly clear to me. One day he was doing something that mildly annoyed me (I can’t remember what) so I said to him, “Jaik you need to go to your room. I’ll come up and talk to you in a few minutes…” Fifteen minutes later I went up to speak with him. And in 15 minute’s time, Jaik had moved his furniture, his toys, his clothes — as much and as many as he could handle, carry, and move — and neatly stacked them in the hallway. He was sitting on his bed in a nearly empty room with his duffle bag packed, ready to go.

I was devastated! I looked at him and with tears streaming down my cheeks, I said, “Jaik, what in the world are you doing? And as I looked at him sitting on that bed with his little duffle bag…I finally thought…I am witnessing something very important.

Much of his perfectionist behavior was very natural and normal for him but he and I had a “silent contract” I did not know about. In his little mind he thought if he was the perfect child, there was absolutely no way that I was going to stop loving him or, god forbid, ask him to go. Most adopted children really do wait for the other shoe to drop and they do this because the biggest shoe in the world has already dropped for them — they have already been given away once and it really doesn’t matter what the reason is or the circumstance. They are waiting for it to happen again.

I walked into his room, sat down next to him and just waited awhile…and then very quietly said “Jaik, look at me.” Jaik didn’t want to look at me, so I very gently took his face in my hands, put his nose next to my nose and said, “Jaik, there is nothing in the world that you could do to make me love you less, to make me want you less, or heaven forbid, to ask you to go! You belong to your dad and me, you belong to this family and you will always belong to this family, no matter what you do or what you say. Now let’s put this room back together and please, Jaik, never do this again. You do not need to be mama’s ‘little perfect boy’. You just need to be yourself. I fell in love with you the moment I saw your picture and I fall in love with you again every day.”

Although Jaik has never given a voice to what’s going on in a young child’s head or heart, he reacted to every bit of the fear and grief that often overwhelms adopted children.

As an adoptive parent, can you relate to this story?  Feel free to post a comment to this blog or write your own post adoption story and send it to Ashli Keyser, managing editor of publications.  We look forward to hearing from you!

Click here to read additional post-adoption blog entries written by Jane

Sign your child up for a Holt adoptee camp this summer!

4 Replies to “Surviving, Learning, Laughing: Too Good to be True”

  1. Thanks for your post. I can really empathize with your son, Jaik and his unwillingness to discuss his adoption. As a 23-year-old Korean adoptee myself, I know that I constantly frustrated my adopted parents with my complete lack of interest in the topic. You mentioned that he might not be ready to deal with it, but in my case, I was genuinely so comfortable with my adoptive family that I never felt a need to discuss my birth family or my adoption. (However, in an interesting turn of events, I actually connected with my birth family this year.)

  2. Ms. Jane:
    I’d be happy to share. You might find some interesting tidbits on my blog @ http://whcasey.blogspot.com. I apologize because the current format is difficult to navigate – that’s something I’m working on. The first post that tackles the birth family reunion is dated Monday, October 4th. You can contact me via e-mail at whcasey@gmail.com. I’ll look forward to hearing from you.

    Best,
    Whitney

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