My Experiences with, “You’re not my real mother!”

My last review was of the book You’re Not My REAL Mother!

I think most adoptive parents hear this at some point. Unfortunately, it is often hurled at a parent by a teen or “tween”-aged child casting about for anything that will get our goat. I think we’re lucky if we get hit with this while our kids are young. That shows that our kids are able to express to us any doubts they may have. And they may be more willing to listen to our replies.

I dreaded the phrase and imagined that hearing it must be excruciatingly painful. My actual experience was very different. The first time my seven-year-old shouted that I couldn’t tell her what to do because I wasn’t her real mother, I didn’t even think twice.

“I’m the mother you’re stuck with until you’re 21, so get in the car,” I said.

Pretty much what I’d have said to my birth son too.

Later I wondered if that outburst had been masking some troubling feelings about being adopted. At some point, I have to accept that I’ll probably never know exactly how my kids think or feel at all times.

Recently (about a year after the first incident), Meg made the statement again, this time not in anger or pique, but just as a matter-of-fact comment, “you’re not really my mother”.

Having just got the book of the same title, I pulled it out with a flourish. “Don’t I have tea parties with you? Don’t I kiss your owies? Don’t I make you say thank-you before you play with a new toy?”

Meg (age 8) did not appear impressed. She didn’t argue against any of the things I do, but patiently explained to me that yes, I was her mom, but I wasn’t her real mother because she wasn’t in my tummy. Patrick, she said as an apparent afterthought, was my real child because he did grow in my tummy. (I thought maybe she was jealous, but considering how they have gotten along lately, maybe she thought her brother was my consolation prize.)

Meg didn’t appear upset at all, just matter-of-fact. She did nod when I said, “I’m not your birth mother, but I am really your mother.”

Regina, age 5, had dictated a “story” to me a couple of months ago which consisted mostly of sentences about each family member, seemingly stream-of-consciousness randomness. I was surprised when she said, “Patrick is so, so special because he grew in mommy’s tummy.”
She didn’t seem upset either. Hopefully she was just thinking that everyone in the family is special in some way. (And the non-adopted kid is in the minority in our house.)

Regina’s dad read her the book I’m Not Your REAL Mother! first. She has since asked me to read it to her several times.

“You’re MY real mommy,” she said as she handed me the book.

When the older kids are going nuts, there’s nothing like a younger one who still adores you.

Please see these related blogs:

Thinking About Other Parents

Naming, Claiming, and Letting Go

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About Pam Connell

Pam Connell is a mother of three by both birth and adoption. She has worked in education, child care, social services, ministry and journalism. She resides near Seattle with her husband Charles and their three children. Pam is currently primarily a Stay-at-Home-Mom to Patrick, age 8, who was born to her; Meg, age 6, and Regina, age 3, who are biological half-sisters adopted from Korea. She also teaches preschoolers twice a week and does some writing. Her activities include volunteer work at school, church, Cub Scouts and a local Birth to Three Early Intervention Program. Her hobbies include reading, writing, travel, camping, walking in the woods, swimming and scrapbooking. Pam is a graduate of Seattle University and Gonzaga University. Her fields of study included journalism, religious education/pastoral ministry, political science and management. She served as a writer and editor of the college weekly newspaper and has been Program Coordinator of a Family Resource Center and Family Literacy Program, Volunteer Coordinator at a church, Religion Teacher, Preschool Teacher, Youth Ministry Coordinator, Camp Counselor and Nanny. Pam is an avid reader and continuing student in the areas of education, child development, adoption and public policy. She is eager to share her experiences as a mother by birth and by international adoption, as a mother of three kids of different learning styles and personalities, as a mother of kids of different races, and most of all as a mom of three wonderful kids!