I Am the Adopted Kid!

How should I respond to my four-year-old son when he begins telling others that he is the adopted kid? That’s where we are in the Camp household. It’s not a bad thing. Not at all. I only wonder how much he understands at the age of four.

For those who don’t know our adoption story, here is a quick recap.

Danielle and I became licensed foster parents January 2011. We turned down several placements over the next few months for various reasons. Then on an extremely hot day in June I took a call from our child placing agency about an eight-month-old boy. My mind raced with thoughts ranging from, “He is so young” to “We have turned down every call. Other than his age, I have no reason not to take this placement.”

Even though we were more ready for a child between 4-8 years old, we decided to accept placement of this precious baby. I did so with the understanding that he probably would be with us for only a few weeks, because he had several other family members in the area.

Well, a little over two years ago we adopted the little guy! If you want to read more about that amazing journey along with what we learned about foster care, check out Adopting the Father’s Heart.

Needless to say, since our son was only eight-months-old when he was placed with us, he only remembers us as mommy and daddy.

Even though Danielle and I know we are his parents, if not biologically, definitely in every other way, I still want him to know his full history. I don’t want him to find out in his late teens or even later in life that he was adopted. Talk about trust issues!

I wrote about that in this blog—When Should an Adopted Child Know? You can also find some great feedback there about the subject.

So, we have always talked freely about adoption in front of him. I even began to weave an age appropriate story for him that I began to tell him about a year ago. Yes, that caused some sleepless nights and tons of questions as his young mind processed this information.

But, that’s the point. It has allowed him the opportunity to process.

That brings us to a few weeks ago when Danielle recorded a video of our son thanking a relative for a birthday gift. With a big smile on his face he proudly stated —”Thank you from the adopted kids!”

What did he just say!? Does he understand what he is saying?

A few days later while bathing, my son used the same term again. “I am an adopted kid!” Ok, I thought to myself, I am going to find out how much he understands.

For the record, our son is an incredibly verbal boy. He uses mulit-syllable words all the time that I don’t hear most four-year-olds saying. And, he usually knows what they mean. If he doesn’t, he asks.

“Son, what does it mean that you are an adopted kid?”, I asked him. Without hesitation he replied, “Well dad, my first family weren’t able to take care of me, so they gave me to you and mommy.”

I sat there a little dumbfounded. “Is that a good thing?”, I asked. “Yes! It’s great!”

Now I don’t know if he will always feel that way as he understands more and asks more questions or decides he doesn’t like us for a day or two. But at least at this point in his life, he understands that he came from another family who couldn’t take good care of him. And, now he is with us. And, he really thinks that’s great.

Now we still get questions like, “Can I be in your family forever?” or “Will you always be my daddy?”

Even those questions usually cause a lump in my throat, I am thankful that we are on this journey together helping him make sense of his past, present, and future.

Please share your experience or questions about helping an adopted child make sense of who he is.

If You Are Considering Foster Care or Adoption, You Need to Take this Free Course!

Kennethcamp2 3d

This 8 day course—Are You Considering Foster Care or Adoption?—will walk you through this important decision. Sign up for it now!

I am a longtime Austinite. Married my beautiful wife over 25 years ago. Adopted our son September 2012. Currently a writer and loving it. Previous jobs and careers include project management, missionary, and pastor. I enjoy sports (both watching and playing), traveling, reading, digging in dirt and hanging with my friends and family.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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23 thoughts on “I Am the Adopted Kid!

  1. This is a wonderful and heart-warming story! I’m sure he is truly thankful of you! I’m always been careful with my action and words around kids. Im only in my early twenties but I know they can remember everything because I do. The earliest memory I have is when Im only 18months old inside the crib, I knew its crazy but I really do remember even my first birthday party. Thats why I can prove that our actions towards children will affect their minds forever.

  2. You are such a thoughtful dad, and it sounds like your son is reflecting and practicing your thoughtfulness. This post reminded me of my choice to become a mom to my stepson who was 13 at the time. Since he was older when we became a family, I didn’t get the boyhood moments you describe, but I did have the joy of sharing his thoughts, fears, and goals as he became a man. My great joy is that he went from avoiding marriage and children (because he didn’t want to possibly make a mistake) to finding a beautiful woman to marry and then having a wonderful daughter. Constant and consistent love, a desire to succeed, and presence make this possible. You clearly have done an excellent job.

    Also, congratulations on being a winner in the SBO contest!

  3. Beautiful post! We’re an adoptive family too — that’s how Carol (above) and I first hooked up and became business partners…I was thrilled to connect with another adoptive mom writer!

    Our son is 6 and we did what you did: Told him his story from day 1. I read his birthmom’s emails to him and show him photos, and we’re connected with her on Facebook so I can tell our son, “Hey, R commented on your photo today!”

    He hasn’t asked many questions yet — I heard that starts happening a lot around age 7-8 — but he does talk about how he came out of his birthmom’s tummy and she put a spell on him to make him sweet. 🙂

    • Thank you Linda! I bet you were thrilled to connect with another adoptive mom writer! I wish more dads wrote about this.
      I too have heard that around age 7-8 they are able to understand a little more what adoption means which spurs more questions.

  4. Congratulations on your placement in the Best Storytelling section at SBO. And how discerning that you began early on to weave an age-appropriate story instead of addressing it when it came up much later. I’ve never thought about how that might work, but it seems so clear now that starting to explain it in bits and pieces earlier on makes the whole process easier in the long run. Or, at least I think it would.

    I’m thankful I had an opportunity to read your post this evening.
    Again–wonderful job!

    • Thank you Heather! Not sure it was discernment, except in being wiling to listen to those who know much more than I on the subject. Thanks for the reading and the encouragement.

  5. Great post, Kenneth.

    As adoptive parents, we have to be aware of our *own* discomfort levels and try to mitigate them. It sounds like you’ve done a great job helping your kid ‘always’ know that he was adopted, which is the same approach we’ve taken — we have pictures of their birthmom in their baby book and everything. I hope we never go back to the days when kids’ adoption is kept secret from them. I think it’s very traumatic, and means you’re living a lie with your child, really. It devastates the relationship later (I have grown cousins who were in this boat.)

    You just have to smile when he says that, and let him take the lead. Because he’s proud of who he is, and knows how his family came together. He doesn’t see it as anything to be ashamed of or to regret. You’re doing great!

    My kids don’t often volunteer that info, but they don’t cringe if it comes up, either. It just IS. They have other friends whose parents are divorced, or whose dad has died. Adoption is just a fact of their story.

    Your son will re-process it at every stage of development…so be ready to go back over the story again, adding more age-appropriate details. We actually just created a lengthy storybook/picture album for our 12-year-old daughter that adds a TON more detail about how she ended up in our family, as she is struggling hard with her situation right now.

    • Thank you for the great insight Carol. I have heard that we should continue adding to the story as he grows older as you suggest. Geez, isn’t being 12-years-old hard for anyone?

  6. GREAT that he totally understands! When I found out there was a sister, I was older than you and it turned out to be quite traumatic since she refused to give me time to put her in our family portrait! Yes, don’t know if you recall the whole story, but she was a full-blood sister that my parents had prior to marriage (my dad never knew my mother was pregnant until the child was gone). They married 2 weeks later (he was in another town) and I was born the following Dec. For 11 days of the year, my sister and I are actually the same age! She was 10, she told me, when she found out she was adopted. SO glad you’ve talked about it so openly with your son!

  7. I love this! I always identified myself as “being adopted” in my head. I never felt disconnected from my family, but it was always in my mind that I was the “different” one that didn’t look like anyone else. I secretly wanted to know someone that I looked like. I had hoped to get a kid of my own that favored me but, alas, that Camp gene is a strong one! (And, I got some pretty handsome sons, if I don’t say so myself.) Since I don’t have any biological family history, I am going to have a DNA ancestry-related report run so I can finally know “where I come from”!

    • I look forward to hearing what you find out about your ancestry! I guess we all have some level of curiosity about where we come from. It’s a little harder when we don’t know anyone who is biologically related to us.