Reunification Can Be Tough

I wanted my son to find his birth mother. I was excited when they were able to reunite. But . . . it was still hard. Really hard.

Denalee Chapman July 25, 2016
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As much as we adoptive parents support our kids from closed adoptions in their searches and reunifications, and as much as we want the gaps to be filled in for them, reunification can be a little tough on adoptive parents. Take, for example, Po’s dad in Kung Fu Panda III. Sure, he may have been a little too secretive about adoption (he didn’t tell Po he was adopted until he was 20). But he was still a great dad for his son. (For a really good synopsis of the trilogy and its relation to adoption, take a look at this article.)

It was while watching Kung Fu Panda III with my grandkids for the first time that I was all of a sudden transported back to my son’s reunification with his birth mother. It was just three years ago, and the entire process was packed with emotion: excitement, extreme gratitude, trepidation, a little confusion, relief, acceptance, and concern. In reality, I believe every member of our adoption triad felt all of those emotions and more.

Thankfully, our son’s birth mother was happy to be found and she even initiated the reunion. As joyful as it was for her, she expressed how hard it was, sometimes being transported back in her mind to those tough days in her earlier life. I was grateful for her openness as she shared a variety of feelings and thoughts those two weeks she stayed in our home.

I was also grateful that my son confided in me many of his feelings—both positive and negative. But I did not reciprocate. I couldn’t allow myself to share my feelings of jealousy, my irrational concern that I would be replaced, or my hurt at some of the statements spoken and written. I knew the two of them had enough on their plates that there was no reason for me to add anything that could weigh them down.

So, while watching Kung Fu Panda III recently, a couple of moments in the movie really hit me hard. When the two pandas realize they are father and son, there’s a tender moment between them. Almost immediately Po’s biological father runs to Mr. Ping (Po’s dad) and grabs him in a tight bear hug (no pun intended!) and says, “Thank you for taking care of him for me.” Sounds sweet, right? Yeah. The sentiment really is sweet. But for a parent to hear that (at least for this parent writing this article) it feels like an immediate demotion from parent to babysitter. I know that when those words were said to me there was only the purest intent. But the words still stung. I didn’t “take care” of my son. I parented him. That means I gave him my heart, my time, my resources, my love, my whole self. I would have given my life for him if that was required. No – I didn’t “take care of him” for someone else. I did it for him.

A little later, Po’s dad (yes, he’s a panda and his dad is a goose) watches the excitement between the recently reunited birth father and son. Po is anxious to show his newly found dad all the cool things he can do. Po tells his birth father to watch him and be “awesomely impressed.” In the background, Po’s adoptive dad says, “I’m already awesomely impressed.” Ouch. Yeah, I know it’s a cartoon. But my heart hurt a little for Mr. Ping, Po’s dad. And for me.

Then, when Po and his dads reach the panda village, there’s a great welcoming party. Just by looking around, so many of Po’s questions are answered. It’s a wonderful, feel-good time. But as I watched Po being introduced to his cousins and others, I remembered feelings that I thought I shouldn’t have, but I still did. Within days of finding his birth mother, I had to ban myself from looking at Facebook. Because plastered everywhere (it seemed to me) were words of “Welcome to the family,” “Glad you’re finally back,” “Hey, bro, this is your cousin,” “Glad you’re back with the family,” “You’ve finally come back to your family,” and more. WAIT! I screamed in my head. He’s with his family. He never left his family. WE are his family. Selfish, I know. Try not to judge me.

Honestly, I squelched those thoughts as much as I could, and I NEVER voiced them. I celebrated with his birth family and their friends, I supported their reunion, and I was honestly and truthfully happy for all of them. But can’t we have conflicting emotions at the same time? We can. And I did. From this adoptive parent’s perspective, it would be great if all birth families, when found, could be sensitive about the words they use; and if all adoptees could know that their parents really do support them, and that they will always be “awesomely impressed.”

Are you looking for your birth family or the child you placed for adoption? Adoption Detectives may be able to help! Click here for more information. 

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Denalee Chapman

Denalee is an adoptive mother, a motivational speaker, a writer, and a lover of life. She and her husband have adventured through the hills and valleys of life to find that the highest highs and the lowest lows are equally fulfilling. Book Denalee to speak to your group, or find Denalee's writings, including her books on her website at DenaleeChapman.com.


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