We have always spoken to our son openly about his adoption story. We read adoption stories together and talked about them. We have maintained a beautiful open adoption with his birth parents. I have always cherished the beauty of our adoption story and wanted my son to see it too.

But not everyone felt the same way. As I shared pieces of our story with others, critics were not hard to find. People love to share their opinions, even on topics they don’t understand. They talk as though their opinions are absolute truth—true for everyone, in every situation. People share horror stories and sensationalize rumors. Although I could see their rudeness was mostly ignorance, something in their comments would set a small itch under my skin. Sometimes it would make me question my choice of sharing my son’s adoption story with him openly. I wondered if he was too young to understand. Or if he would end up with more questions than answers.

Then his understanding began to unfold. At a young age, my son began telling me things he thought about his birth parents. He would say things like, “Mom, did you know my birth dad likes tomato juice?” or “I think my birth mom’s favorite color is pink.” I wasn’t sure how to respond. I had no idea if his ideas were true, but would tell him maybe he was right. I liked hearing him talk about his birth parents. I could tell that he felt a connection and was trying to find a deeper understanding of who they were. But as his interest increased, I wondered what was going through his mind and how he felt about it all.

Then the stories became more detailed. He would tell me about how he helped his birth parents find us. He would talk about ways he was similar and different from them. He started telling me things that I knew were true and some I knew were not. I did my best to help him feel more connected with his birth parents and sort through his ideas. We read letters and emails and talked about stories we remembered. Then came the questions. And as he began to ask questions, I realized that he fully understood the beauty of adoption. And as it turned out, it wasn’t something I was scared about. We bonded over sharing his story of love, sacrifice, and hope. And I loved every minute.

Sometimes people fear that they are not enough. People worry that they will be misunderstood. Because of fear, many people refuse to take a step forward into the unknown. But for me and my son, that step forward brought excitement and peace.

Now when people question my choice to share this story with my son, I have an answer for them. I can tell them that he understands, and it is wonderful. I can tell them that he knows his birth parents and loves them, and that only amplifies the love we share as a family.

I know that everyone’s experience is different, but I think honesty is the only way forward. What experiences have you had, either as an adoptive parent or an adoptee? What advice would you share with others? How have you handled difficult adoption stories?