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dominates our thoughts this month. Big Holidays like this are freighted with extra emotional baggage in the world of adoption. In American culture, the importance of fathers tends to be underappreciated. Dads are overshadowed by the intense emotional focus on mothers. Whether it is accurate or fair, mothers are the ones by whom adoptees feel most “rejected.” Mothers are seen as the ones most responsible for choosing adoption.
Yet the true importance of fathers is no small thing.
It is from their fathers that our sons learn how to be good, loving men of character and courage. Dads teach daughters how to recognize good men as possible partners, colleagues, and friends. When children lack the presence of a loving involved father, it leaves a deficit. That absence matters.
In the adoption community,
we tend to focus predominantly on the powerful emotional and psychic reverberations of the separation of mother and child. Search and reunion efforts emphasize the mother/child link.
But adoption also separates adoptees from their birth fathers as well. This fracture has significant consequences too. Beyond the contribution of his DNA, a birth father’s influence matters to adoptees. Dad’s genes constitute half of his biological makeup and thus helps shape who the adoptee will become even if they never meet.
The quest to find Birth dads
to reunite, and build a connection with them gets less press than the quest for birth mothers. Still, for many adoptees, their yearning for birth father information and their hope for a relationship is not a secondary desire. Whether the desire to learn about and or contact a birth father is an unquenchable need or simply a need for the basic desire for knowledge, or some position in between these polarities, the importance of birth fathers is gaining importance and appreciation by adoptees and professionals as well.
Recently, I spoke with a young man
I’ll call him “Michael.” His birth father contacted him last year. The emotional upheaval Mike experienced from this unexpected event covers every imaginable feeling: joy, relief, acceptance, validation, sadness, shock, and even a tinge of anger. Michael, now in his 30’s, reunited with his birth mother r over 10 years ago.
He’d been dismissive of any need to find his birth father
–at least in conversations with friends and family. Perhaps this was because “Mike” and his adoptive family had tried unsuccessfully to find Mike’s birth father years earlier. When Mike’s birth father “found” him, his joy was transformative. Startling. Definitive. Connecting with his birth father provided an additional kind of completion. His father filled in many blanks. They have shared many Difficult conversations. Obviously, this was a deeply emotional time and dredged up many additional “what ifs”. Their conversations triggered many more questions—the least of which is how will they proceed? What kind of ongoing relationship will they build? How can they pick up the pieces after 35 years?
A local Connection
Ironically though Michael was adopted thousands of miles from his current home, it was a shocking and pleasant discovery to learn that he and his birth father now live less than 20 minutes apart. The surprises did not end there. Mike also learned that he has seven siblings. Most of them also live locally and they were delighted to meet him. Their welcome has been healing and exciting for Mike. These new relationships enrich his life and the life of his young son who is delighted to discover all these new relatives.
Figuring out how to incorporate all these new relationships takes energy, attention, and an emotional— toll too. For now, Mike is enjoying the “honeymoon” stage. He looks ahead with optimism to becoming better acquainted and more intimately connected with his large paternal biological family. (*Michael/Mike is a pseudonym)
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