You have this glorious child through adoption – this gift. You want to give them everything – love, family connection, a good education, fun vacations, and generous holidays and birthdays. Sometimes it doesn’t feel like that is what they want from you at all…
For instance, birthdays. When my daughter was turning about nine or ten, she started rebelling against her birthdays, sabotaging them. She would really act out and just make them impossible. This behavior lasted until she was 15. That was the year I read Sherri Eldridge’s book, “20 Things Adopted Kids Wish Their Adoptive Parents Knew”. In the book, Sherrie pointed out that sometimes a child grieves on their birthday. They know they are adopted (or should know that from you, the adoptive parent) and they grieve the unknown or what life would have been like with their birth parents. They don’t realize they are doing this; they can’t put it into words. But when I read this passage, I asked Lauren about it. She said, “Yes! I didn’t know why I felt that way, but I would sometimes be sad on my birthday.” It prompted the most wonderful conversation. She was grieving “what could have been.” We’ve all done that. Grieved a lost marriage, a job we didn’t get, a boy that didn’t call after a date.
We grieve what could have been.
It didn’t hurt my feelings when she recognized this, I thought it made perfect sense. That was the year we decided to search for her birth mother – it took me less than 24 hours to find her. Ours was a private adoption in the 80’s. Her birth mom was a friend-of-a-friend-of-a-friend so backtracking just took a few phone calls.
The reunion with her birth mom was prompted by a deep conversation on her 15th birthday. I wish I had known so much earlier what she was thinking, why birthdays were not all I wished for her. Not every adoptee will feel this grief, but now you might know why your child is sad on such a happy occasion.