Ringing in His Ears on ‘This is Us’

This Is Us. Ron Batzdorff/NBC

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?

Thank you so much for helping me bump my social media numbers and newsletter subscription numbers up before I sent my book proposal to some important folks. If you didn’t “like” or subscribe earlier this week, you can still help! Click the link to the post above for more info.

Newsletter subscribers will get any exciting news first; if you want to be in my “inner circle” be sure to sign up. I send it every few weeks and it only takes a minute or two to read – I promise.

You might also like:

Do You Like What ‘This is Us’ Has to Say About Adoption?

‘This is Us’ and Birth Family

What ‘This is Us’ Teaches Us About Tragedy

Have a fabulous weekend, friends.


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Let me introduce myself. Russ and I are the parents of twelve children by birth and adoption, and sometimes more through foster care. I'm the creator of One Thankful Mom which has been as much of a gift to me as to my readers. In 2011 I became a TBRI® Pracitioner* and have lived and breathed connected parenting ever since. I'm deeply honored to be the co-author, together with the late Dr. Karyn Purvis, of The Connected Parent; it is her final written work. I love speaking at events for adoptive and foster parents. I'm also the co-founder of The Adoption Connection, a podcast and resource site for adoptive moms. I mentor and encourage adoptive moms so you can find courage and hope in your journeys of loving your children well.


  1. Christa
    October 20, 2017

    LOVE this! And I love This Is Us!

  2. Katrina
    October 22, 2017

    Interesting post. I have not seen the show. I was recently inquiring to another seasoned foster/adoptive mom about how much connection to give my son with his birth parents. Her suggestion was much different. She gave the example of a marriage. If you are married to a safe and loving person, is it appropriate to continue a friendship with an abusive ex boyfriend or girlfriend? No.
    I’m truly trying to do the right thing by my child. Can you expand more on what you mean by saying that our children need us to connect them with their first families in order to be whole?
    I think you would agree that Christ alone satisfies our hearts.
    Your wisdom is always appreciated! Thank you for sharing sincerely and whole heartedly.

    1. Lisa Qualls
      October 22, 2017

      Such good questions, Katrina. I think this would make a good post on its own. Let me put my thoughts together in a way that is helpful.

  3. Regina
    October 22, 2017

    I helped my son have contact via FB with his mom last year. It was hard but I completely agree: there is a wholeness that comes from knowing his biological family. His mom is super respectful and has not pressured or pushed for more contact. I let him decide if and when he wants to contact her and he asks to every couple months. We also found out some cool things about his biological grandparents that help him feel connected in ways he never would otherwise.

    1. Lisa Qualls
      October 23, 2017

      Thank you for sharing your story, Regina. That is so encouraging.

  4. Leeann
    November 11, 2017

    We have just begun the adoption process. In fact, we just sent our application this past Wednesday!

    Thank you for this post. I agree that This Is Us has been very insightful about adoption! I love the show in general, but definitely appreciate that aspect of it as well.


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