It’s like a ringing in my ears and it quiets down sometimes. It can quiet down so much I almost forget it’s there, but then there are sometimes where it’s so loud, I just feel alone.
Season 2 episode 3, of This is Us, Randall, a teenage transracial adoptee (he is African American, his adoptive family is white), tells his siblings that thoughts of his birth parents are like a ringing in his ears.
I’ve sat with those words for over a week – a ringing in my ears.
As an adoptive mom, I see this longing, this missing of family, most notably in one of my children. He talks about his mom and dreams of the day he will buy her a big house in Ethiopia. He thinks he would like to live there with her half the year.
This outward conversation ebbs and flows, and I imagine I only hear the very peaks of the waves. The majority of it remains internal. I welcome those conversations and honor his words.
When he dreams of supporting her on his salary as a professional athlete, I don’t tell him the folly of this plan. I don’t remind him we haven’t heard from her in years or that most boys don’t become NFL players. I tell him his heart is beautiful and I know how much he longs to see her. I tell him one day we’ll go to Ethiopia again.
In the same episode of This is Us we see Randall as an adult, now a foster dad, speaking to his new 12-year-old foster daughter.
My whole childhood I felt split inside. There are these people that I lived with, and then there were my birth parents who I had never met. But I thought about them all the time. But here’s the thing, my life turned out pretty great. And it’s not just my big house, or my super fine wife, all right? I’ve got this big amazing extended family. I’ve got this big amazing beautiful life.
We need to give our hearts to supporting our children in their efforts to connect with their first/families. They need this to be whole.
There are circumstances that may not always make this safe when they are young, but I would argue that in most instances boundaries can be put in place to allow some contact, even if it is through letters or calls.
If our children need our help searching – we help them search. If we need to travel to their country of origin – we travel. If we need to overcome our fears – we overcome them.
As a first/birth mom, I speak to this from my oldest son’s perspective too, as he shared it with me. He found me when he was 16. For 16 years he longed to know me, to know the truth of his own story, to know who he was and where he came from.
Even when it was difficult and he felt very guilty about his relationship with me, he needed the connection.
I needed my relationship with him too. Despite the years of separation and the miles, the bond between a mother and her child is not easily broken.
As a first mom, I didn’t experience my loss as a ringing in my ears – losing my son was like having lost a complete part of myself; I felt I was perpetually grieving and bleeding. There was no true resolution — he was out there somewhere, but I didn’t know if he was safe, loved, healthy. It was a gaping wound that could not heal; I would not have survived apart from the love of God.
This is Us continues to surprise and impress me with insightful writing about adoption and foster care.
If you aren’t watching it and you are involved in adoption/foster care or someone you love (teach, care about, know) is an adoptive parent, foster parent, adoptee, first parent, foster youth, former foster youth, (you get the idea), it is worth your time.
If you don’t have access to network TV, you can watch This is Us on NBC.com. I believe the episodes are available on Wednesdays. If you need to catch up, you can find season one on Hulu.
Do you watch This is Us? What do you think of the adoption/foster care themes?
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