Please Don’t Tell Your Child’s Story

It's not really your story to tell.

Robyn Chittister September 24, 2016
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Yes, you read that right. An adoption blogger—an adoptive mom who blogs about adoption for pay—is writing an article titled “Please Don’t Tell Your Child’s Story.” What a hypocrite, right?

Not so fast . . .

First, some context. My very conspicuous family (two white parents, two black kids) has recently moved to New Hampshire (long story). My husband and I lived here when we first got married. We have been staying with our children’s godparents, who are very well-liked and often entertain other families. Because it’s very apparent that my children are adopted, adoption often comes up as a topic of conversation.

In our first week here, I heard three sets of adoption stories, all in startling detail. None of the people who shared these stories were the children’s parents. Two of them were friends of the parents, and one was in the adoptive family—an aunt, I believe. I got to hear about the birth families who were on drugs, the neglect and abuse the kids suffered, how many foster homes the children had before being adopted . . . all things I didn’t ask because I didn’t need to know. I shouldn’t know these things. It is fairly obvious to me that these other people shouldn’t know these things either.

I do blog about my kids. I blog about how my son feels about people not telling their kids they’re adopted (“that’s mean”). I blog about how scared I am because my son could be the next Tamir Rice. Occasionally, I’ve even blogged about my daughter’s hair.

But you will never know their stories: how they were conceived, if their birth mothers have children by other men, if their birth fathers have children by other women, if drugs were or were not involved, or their parents’ specific reasons for placing. You will not know any of that. That’s not my story to tell to the world.

When my son came home, I was indelicate, at first, when talking about certain parts of his story. But I realized fairly quickly that whatever I talked about would come back around to Jackson. Did I really want my pharmacist to tell my son details that I didn’t even know how to tell him?

No. No, I didn’t. As I’m writing this, I realize that my kid could be one of those stories passed around when you meet an adoptive family for the first time. In a way, I’m fortunate because  nothing I said is particularly damning or embarrassing. It’s simply private, and it should have stayed private.

Before you tell your child’s story, ask yourself . . .

  • Is it necessary to share this information with this person?
  • Why are you sharing this information with this person? Is your goal support? A shared experience?
  • Can this person be trusted not to share this information with anyone else?
  • Would you want your child to hear the story you’re telling as you’re telling it?
  • Would you be comfortable with people sharing this information about you?

People will gossip. Kids do pay attention to the juicy stuff. If you need advice, the best choice is to ask a very trusted friend or, if you’re lucky, try an adoption support group. If that’s not possible, find a way to ask the question anonymously on a forum. If you need to share just to vent, commiserate, or seek some understanding, minimize the people with whom you share. Make sure they’re really trustworthy.

Your child’s story mostly belongs to your child. The adoptive family meeting your aunt for the first time probably shouldn’t be privy to it.

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Robyn Chittister

Robyn is a full-time writer and mom through private, domestic, open, transracial adoption. She resides in New Hampshire with her family of two adults, two children, and a fluctuating number of animals. She is seriously passionate about adoption and tries to use her words wisely--both here and at her personal blog, Holding to the Ground.


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