My husband and I have always been aware that sooner or later along our journey of raising an adopted child, statements and questions would arise from our son or from others that would sometimes be painful, hurtful or throw us for a loop. Like ‘Wild’ cards in the game of UNO, these statements usually tend to occur at moments when we least expect them. The first one I remember being on the receiving end of was an offhand comment from my sweet niece who asked an innocent question about “who my son’s ‘real Mom’ was.” Being a relatively new Mom at the time, I remember her comment really stung, but at the same time I knew to keep things in perspective and that there was no hurt intended from the comment but it was simply a 8-year-old trying to understand adoption and wanting to know more about her cousin’s birthmother.
Tonight, another one of these zingers got thrown at both my husband and I unexpectedly by our 5-year-old son just after we told him that he wasn’t going to get a snack after dinner. (In the game of delaying going to bed, the ‘Wanting a Snack’ card has been his most recent one that he has been playing nightly.) We are used to the typical counters coming from our son like: “You’re terrible parents,” and “I hate you both,” and even (Scott’s favorite) “You’re the cry makers!” But tonight his response to our denial was a new one, spewed out in a moment of rage… “You’re not the adoptive parents I was supposed to have!”
Now this is never a statement adoptive parents want to hear and in the past something like this would have surely cut deep and brought on an avalanche of tears. However, tonight I must have had my protective coat of armour on or perhaps I’m just secure enough in motherhood now to know that he really didn’t mean what he said because to my surprise, my reaction after hearing this statement for the first time didn’t involve pain or tears, but rather it was one of amusement and admiration. I actually smiled to myself when he said it and thought, “Wow! The angles our son is now taking to try to gain the upper hand in our game is actually quite astonishing. He actually played the ‘Adoption’ card for the first time!”
We know it’s normal for other kids to say all kind of mean things to their parents when they don’t get what they want and our kid is no exception. Except for the fact that he really, REALLY wants control, so much so that we needed to get help from a therapist to help us outsmart him since traditional methods of gaining the upper hand were not working for us. So, thanks to our training on dealing with our son’s outbursts, neither my husband nor I had a reaction to his comment other than the standard, calmly delivered response of, “Well I’m sorry you feel that way buddy but you’re still not getting a snack after dinner,” that my husband expertly delivered. Our son may have played a powerful card but we have the advantage of experience under our belts so we have learned to handle some blows.
In talking with my husband later, we wondered whether our son really knew the powerful card he was playing or if he just threw it out there to see what would happen. We both believe he was just trying to use anything he could to rile us up as many kids do, and that being the newest card in his hand he was likely just testing it out on us. But the thing that neither one of us could deny, and it amazed us both, was that somehow at just 5-years-old our son instinctively knew that the ‘Adoption’ card was a valid one and that it was a powerful one to play.