Adoptees feel differently. Their own experience and feelings vary from day to day. Ask one of my girls how they feel about being adopted...

Meet The Children: How do Adoptees Feel About Being Adopted?

Welcome, dear reader, to this week’s edition of “ask an adoptee.” Okay, this may be the only edition. Time will tell. There’s a pretty good chance this will be the only edition. I could be wrong though. For this interview, I have chosen a variety of lovely young people who have been adopted for several years. All but one were adopted as older children. I’m aware that this is a little biased but I’ll say it anyway. I have interviewed the best kids ever. I mean, beautiful, funny, intelligent, talented. I could go on. I’m not sure how I got so lucky to snag these interviewees. (It might have to do with the motivational speech I gave them. It totally had nothing to do with the words “Mama will take you for snow cones after.”) Ahem. Anyway. First I’ll tell you about these sweeties so you can picture who I got to talk to. We’ll go in order from oldest to youngest and ask them how they feel about adoption. 

First is my sweet 8-year-old who we’ll call “The Boss” because, ya know, firstborns gotta firstborn. She is the oldest of her sibling group (but not my oldest kid which gets confusing) She practically raised her biological sister even though she is only a year and a few months older. She is mostly legs. I joke that I’m raising baby giraffes. She has been with us since she was 4 years old. She’s come a long way since we first met. As she’s gotten more comfortable living here, she has become an amazing young lady. She’s funny, smart, athletic, and is absolutely in love with all things girly. Sparkles are her love language as are twirly skirts. Though she can be bossy and sometimes has a hard time with rules, she is an absolute delight. She can be kind of blunt and sarcastic but also very loving and sweet. Today it was a little more of the sarcasm than the sweet. She is three and a half feet tall, has strawberry blonde hair, and has one million freckles. 

Interviewer: “Could you please state your name, how old you are, and how long you have been adopted ?”

The Boss: *rolls eyes* “Um. You know my name. And my age.”

Interviewer: (whispers through clenched teeth smile) “I would still very much like you to say your name, age, and how long you’ve been adopted. Please.” 

The Boss: *huffs* *crossed arms* “Fine. I’m [redacted]. I’m 8 years old. I’ve been adopted for four years. Duh.” 

Interviewer: “Uh-huh. So that would mean you were four when you were adopted?”

The Boss: “Duh.” 

Interviewer:*Forces a smile.* “Could you please try again with respect?”

The Boss: “I was FOUR. Okay?” 

Interviewer: “Close enough. Okay, next question. What is one thing you like about living with your family now?”

The Boss: “Ice cream. Fancy clothes. Church.”

Interviewer: “Okay great. That’s three things but great. Is there anything else you especially like about your family? “

The Boss: “ I like my Daddy, and my sisters. My brothers are mean sometimes.” 

Interviewer: “Okay. Now this one I want you to take some time on okay? Do you like that you are adopted?”

The Boss: “Yes.”

Interviewer: “Ok, what do you like about it?”

The Boss: “I have a family that loves me. I have sisters and a house to live in. 

Interviewer: “Does being adopted ever make you sad?”

The Boss: “Yes. I feel bad for the kids that might not have a family.” 

Interviewer: “Ok. Thank you for answering my questions. Is there anything else you’d like to say?”

The Boss: “Um. No.” 

Interviewer: “Heh. So there you have it. The Boss likes that she’s adopted. That’s good.” 

Anyway, here comes the 7-year-old. We’ll call her The Little Princess. She bears a resemblance to Shirly Temple. So her pseudonyms are usually related to those movies. She’s just under 3 and a half feet, strawberry blonde hair in ringlets that are a dream to look at (but a nightmare to take care of). We met when she had just turned 3. She couldn’t or wouldn’t talk when we first met. After two weeks with our two-year-old that had been living here her whole life, she was able to talk in full sentences. She and her new sister also developed their own language that only they understand. She has what appears to be a photographic memory. It gets me in trouble much more often than I am comfortable because I do not have a photographic memory. Okay, here she is.”

Little Princess: “Hi Mommy!!!!” *tackle hugs* *wet kisses* 

Interviewer: “Hi sweet girl. Okay, can I ask you some questions?”

Little Princess: *smiles brightly* “Yes!”

Interviewer: *tries not to giggle. Fails.* “Okay. Can you tell me how old you are, your name, and how long you’ve been adopted?”

Little Princess: “I’m 7 years old. My name is [Redacted] and I’ve been adopted…hmm. Four years.”

Interviewer: “What is something you like about your adopted family?”

LP: *smiles broadly* “I have you and my sisters and brothers and Daddy and I have my own bunk bed and my soft blue blanket. Having you! And Dogs. I love it.”

Interviewer: “Is there anything about being adopted that makes you sad.”

LP: “Hm. No.”*Smiles* “I love you Mommy!”

Interviewer: “I love you too girly. Okay is there anything else you’d like to say?

LP: “Nope! Can I go play now?” 

Interviewer: “Yep. Send your sister ok?”

LP: *Nods and runs off*

Interviewer: “And now we have the youngest of the family (by four months.) Her name is usually Sunshine. That has more to do with her having been my only baby. She came to us as a foster daughter when she was just 6 weeks old. I’d sing “You are my sunshine” a lot to rock her to sleep. Especially poignant was my plea: “please don’t take my sunshine away” while I thought about her possibly being reunified with her biological family. I’m pro-reunification, but the thought of not seeing her grow up made me weepy. She is three feet four inches tall and has dirty blonde hair. She is incredibly jealous of her sisters’ strawberry blonde hair. Her hair is curly, which she hates. She is smart, funny, affectionate, and adorable. She is also kind of spoiled having been the baby for so long. We’re working on it. 

Interviewer: “Hi love. How are you doing?”

Sunshine: “I’m good. Whatcha doing Mama?” 

Interviewer: “I’m asking you and your sisters some questions. Do you want to answer some for me?”

Sunshine: “Okay.”

Interviewer: “How old are you and how long have you been adopted?”

Sunshine: “I’m 6 years old but I have a birthday soon” (Reader be aware: soon is incredibly subjective to a 6-year-old. She’ll be 7 in two months.) “5 years” 

Interviewer: “Is there anything you like about being adopted?”

Sunshine: “My family. Being born so I can praise God. And also being adopted is something grown-ups do a lot of times because maybe they feel lonely. I like having a place to live and having a family.”

Interviewer: Is there anything about being adopted that makes you sad.

Sunshine: “No.” *Sisters creep up making ghost sounds* “Well. Yes. My sisters always creep me out. But I like having sisters. I love God. I like being silly.”

Interviewer: “Okay. Thank you, you can go play now.” 

Sunshine:*runs off pretending to be afraid of her sisters*

So there we have it. I am fully aware that as they age they will have deeper thoughts about adoption. There is a chance their views may change tremendously by the time they are adults. We keep an open dialogue about adoption, foster care, and what it means to be a family around here. For every sweet thing they said in this interview, I’ve heard a dozen You’re-not-my-real-mom-type insults flung in frustration over having to do a chore they don’t like. 

I tried to interview the teen. He is the oldest in the house but not the firstborn of his sibling group. He has zero of the drive that the boss seems to have and doesn’t like to talk. Because it seemed unprofessional to basically write out a series of grunts, eye rolls, and door slams, I chose to not record the interaction. To his credit, he will say sometimes that he likes his life here better than “before”. Before means any time before we met when he was a scrawny, scared 8-yea- old. His feelings are justifiably mixed. His adoption happened after a year and a half of foster care where he anticipated going home to his biological parents. It wasn’t until he was safely, permanently in our home that he felt safe enough to share that he was glad to not live with his biological family anymore. Most of his needs for a long time were strictly physical. He needed a constant supply of food to feel secure. He needed clean clothes, doctor care, and repeatedly reminding him he was safe to share his wants and needs before he began to open up. While we don’t hear much from him these days in the form of actual words, he does tell other people (his youth group leader mostly) about his feelings. From what we can gather, he is actually pretty happy with his living situation. We are in close communication with his youth leaders. He opens up to them quite a lot, mostly because they are not us. For now that will have to be enough. 

The Boss, Little Princess, and Sunshine are all at an age where they are beginning to wonder about what their biological families look like. While I have some pictures of their biological parents I don’t know very much about them. I have files and police reports, some caseworker notes, and some inferences. I don’t have a complete idea of what kind of people they are. I tell the kids that their first parents loved them but made unsafe choices. It’s difficult to not have better answers for them. They understand in basic terms that they weren’t safe in their first families. My sons tell the youngest some things I wish they wouldn’t about their living situation before us. She went through a period of time when she was afraid of (in her words, which I corrected) the “bad” parents. She was afraid they would come take her. I explained they wouldn’t do that and they weren’t “bad” but they had made bad choices. My son was quick to tell me “No. They were bad.” I don’t ever just agree with that statement. I don’t want them to grow up thinking that the people they came from were bad. I think it helps all of them to have a sibling in the home so they have some connection to their biological family. Even if their biological parents aren’t safe, I’m happy that they can have each other. Sometimes it stings my heart that they are more likely to go to a sibling with their thoughts than me, but academically I understand. I love that they get to have each other. There are some adopted kids that will never get even that. 

My kids are only a small sampling of the population of adopted children. Obviously, the feelings they experience are going to be different from other kids. Their own experience and feelings vary from day to day. Ask one of my girls how they feel about being adopted on a day I said “no” to something they wanted, and their opinion of me is different. Just yesterday I was “The absolute worst” to The Boss. Her words. Why? Because I asked her to put away a few pairs of shorts into her drawer. Sunshine will cry because she hates having to share with her sisters. My boys get angry because they want something but won’t or can’t tell me what. Adoption is complicated and emotional. However, I think it is also an absolutely amazing way to make a family. As an adoptive mom, I am always hoping I do the right thing but I know that there are things I get wrong all the time. I hope my adoptees will grow up to be happy, healthy adults that thrive. I hope they will always know they are indescribably loved and wanted.

Christina Gochnauer

Christina Gochnauer is a foster and adoptive mom of 5. She has a bachelor's degree of Psychology from Letourneau University. She currently resides in Texas with husband of 16 years, her children ages 3, 3.5, 4.5, 11, and 12, and her three dogs. She is passionate about using her voice to speak out for children from "hard places" in her church and community.