The greatest number of letters I have ever received on a single subject have come as the result of printing letters from birth mothers, adoptive mothers and children (some of whom are in their 60s and 70s today) about their feelings concerning adoption. A large number of adopted children who've responded are seeking birth mothers with the approval of their adoptive parents, and many of them are forging new relationships with new families. Almost without exception, however, they continue to love and respect the parents who raised them as their true parents. Every once in a while, though, a new question is raised.
Dear Lois: I was born out of wedlock as was my mother. When I was 18, I met and married a girl whose parents were opposed to our marriage. She was obviously rebelling. As immature kids we had a son, then broke up after a year of problems that only got worse. She sued for divorce and asked the judge to deny me visiting rights because of my violent temper (which I probably did have). Eventually, I matured, realized my problems and dealt with them, but she still did not permit me to see my son. I missed him dearly. She remarried, wouldn't answer any of my pleas and never let me know where she was. I communicated through her parents. Now it's 20 years later, and her parents have sent me some pictures of my son. I am married and have a family of my own, but we keep the picture of my son on the mantel. I explain to my kids my heart still yearns to see my son. My question: Is my behavior hereditary? My mom was born out of wedlock, and so was I. Is not knowing your father (my mom didn't know hers; I didn't know mine) a curse going down the family line?
Dear Johnnie: If it is a curse, it sounds as if you've broken the spell by becoming a devoted and interested father. Illegitimacy cannot be inherited. What we do pass along to our children is a pattern of behavior, an environment which can be loving and nourishing or cold and uncaring. You were probably an angry young man without a father figure in your family. Your children, however, seem to have the example of a father who cares about them, and they can see the anguish caused when a parent is denied the right to be a part of his or her child's life. I hope your son gets the chance to see the man his father has become.
Dear Lois: Our 19-year-old son dropped out of school three years ago and does nothing. He does not seem interested in going back to school or getting a job. He wants to go into French immersion in a school with 1,000 kids. He is very introverted, and we think going into a strange environment would intimidate him. Family and friends suggest we kick him out. Neither my wife nor I think we can do this. We don't believe he has the skills to survive on his own. He's a smart kid and it's just killing us to see him waste his life playing computer games and watching TV.
- Dropout Son's Parents
Dear D.O.S. Parents: A 19-year-old male who is in good physical health obviously should not spend all his waking hours watching TV and playing computer games. If you can't tell him to get out of your house, then be tough enough to give him some responsibilities. Can't he help prepare meals? Can't he do errands? His behavioral pattern is not his alone; you are part of it. I suggest that you get family counseling without delay. Call your local board of education or local Family Service Association and ask for references. Visit a few of the recommended persons, tell them your problem, and then decide who will best help your situation. This has gone too far for you to handle alone. Get some expert counseling, and see if you can help your unhappy son. I wish you well.