Sunday night Danielle and I watched October Baby for the first time. When the movie was released in early 2012, our foster son had been with us for about nine months. At that time, we didn’t know whether he would return to his biological family.
The movie deals with two intertwined themes—abortion and adoption. Hannah, the main character, finds out at the age of 19 that she is adopted. Not only adopted but also the result of a failed abortion.
The rest of the movie Hannah struggles to find out who she is and her birth mom’s identity. This story strengthened our resolve to let our son know at an early age that we adopted him. He was eight months old when CPS placed him with us. He is now 2 1/2 years old.
When should a child know they are adopted?
Here are some reasons why we decided to tell our son while he is young:
- Advice from adults adopted as young children. Many told me that they preferred knowing at an early age. My sister-in-law was adopted as a newborn baby. When her mother told her around age seven, she responded that she already knew. Her parents talked about it freely around her for as long as my sister-in-law could remember. To her it seemed perfectly normal. She has never struggled with being adopted.
- We want our son to always know that we chose him. Our son can understand this at some level even now at his age. We communicate how he is a gift from God to us.
- Better to give him years to process. I realize that our son still might struggle with the idea of his adoption. But we can process it together while he lives with us instead of waiting until he is a young adult about to enter the world on his own.
- Gives us the opportunity to build trust. He will know the truth at an age he can comprehend it. He will grow into that understanding as well. He will always know that we were truthful with him. He might struggle with why his biological parents could not keep him, but at least he will not wonder why we did not tell him about them.
- Everyone deserves to know who they are. Even if the story is difficult to hear, doesn’t everyone deserve to know who they are? We will have time to talk about what he might say to his mom and dad when he meets them one day. I want to help our son ponder what life might have been like.
- Give our son time to forgive. Our son might harbor resentment or bitterness toward his biological parents. We want to teach him that because God forgives us we can forgive others. I want our son to live free of shame and anger.
It is tempting to think that I can protect my adopted son from future pain and disappointment. I choose to trust that God will protect and comfort him as his perfect Father. The failures of birth parents should not and do not need to define the destiny of a child.
A scene at the end of the movie is one that I hope to experience one day. Hannah’s parents are helping her move into her college dorm. They say their goodbyes, and she walks away. Then she stops, turns, and runs back to her dad saying, “thank you” while hugging him. Her dad asks why she said thank you. “Thank you for wanting me.” was her reply.
Yes, we want our adopted son.
When do you think a child should know they are adopted?
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