Dear Lois: My future daughter-in-law wants nothing to do with me. She says we don't even exist - those are her exact words. She was married before, and I have learned she treated her other family the same way. Now none of us have any contact with our son. She told my daughter that if my son comes to visit us, she won't be there when he gets home. As a result he chose to exclude us from his life. We have tried to make peace. We visited her three days after Christmas, but when we said we would not pay for an attorney so my son could get custody of his 5-year-old daughter, they decided they don't want anything to do with us. Please help! I am a sad mother.
- JanetDear Janet: Sounds to me as if your son is the one who has a lot to work through. Did you ever promise you'd help him get custody? Why does this couple expect your support? And instead of dealing with the woman your son is going to marry, why not talk directly to your son? If he's not allowed to visit your home, can he visit one of his siblings and talk to you from there? I understand why you're sad, but until you come to some kind of acceptable relationship with your son, I don't know how you can deal with his wife-to-be - or with them as a couple.
Dear Lois: My friend asked her daughter to attend her brother's graduation from college. The daughter lives in Boston with her husband and 9-year-old daughter but has refused to attend her brother's graduation because she doesn't like New York. My friend, a single mother in her 60s, is very upset. She still teaches in order to afford to send her son to the college of his choice and doesn't understand her daughter's reaction. Any comment?
- A Friend in New York
Dear Friend: There are many reasons the daughter may be distancing herself. She may resent the help her brother received from their mother; she may not be able to afford to come; she may be going through a difficult period in her own family. I suggest that the mother try to bury her own hurt for the moment, turn to her daughter and ask what she can do to make it possible for her daughter to come. If she cannot get a satisfactory response, then she has to understand that there are times when our children put themselves first (even if we always put them first). She should remember that this day really belongs to her and her son, the two who made the joint effort and sacrifice to get him the education he wanted. Tell your friend not to think about what she doesn't have that day but rather what she does have.
Dear Lois: I am a 53-year-old adoptee who was told I was adopted at a very young age. I agree with you that children should grow up knowing. However, as I got older, I needed more sophisticated answers. Children will continue to wonder why they were given up, and answers need to be appropriate to the child's age. Parents who adopt, particularly women, must deal with their personal grief over not being able to have their own children before they adopt. Otherwise the adopted child is looked upon as a replacement.
I only wish my adoptive mother and I could have talked about her great sadness over not being able to have her own children and my sadness over being adopted. If we had known, it would have brought us closer together. Although my adoptive mother was told to say I was chosen, I knew adoption was not their first choice. My birth mother contacted me last year; it's a very complex situation. I realize now that both my birth and adopted mothers lived in fantasy and denial, respectively, over me; they were also victims of their generation. This is very much a woman's problem, one we are just beginning to deal with.
My birth mother, who set up the search for me, has now decided it was a mistake after opening the Pandora's box. Can you imagine how this makes me feel? Although I know better, it makes me feel that my being born was a mistake, and I'm replaying the whole scenario at the age of 53.
- CC in California
Dear CC: I have read few letters that deal more honestly with the feelings of an adopted child toward both a birth and an adoptive mother. You are right in saying that the words of choice years ago were "We chose you, so you are special." We failed to mention that "Someone didn't want you," and so we let those conflicting emotions work in young hearts and minds.
Certainly recognizing these feelings is the first step in dealing with them. Good luck to you. And thank you for that sensitive letter.