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Upsetting adoption situation in my family (favoritism, detachment)

post #1 of 72
Thread Starter 

I have not adopted a child, I do have lots of adoption in my family though. My oldest brother placed a child for adoption, my husband's sister placed a child for adoption and my brother and his wife have 2 adopted children (2.5 and 14months). My post here today is about my brother and his wife's situation. I'm posting here partially to vent (I need a safe place to let this out!), but also I need some words of advice to help me be more understanding and gentle...here goes...

 

So my brother and his wife were unable to conceive children. They had this miraculous adoption 2.5 years ago with their son. They brought him home from the hospital and have a great semi-open adoption with his birth mother (who is like, an angel). Anyways, they LOVE their son. Like, they call him "hunny, love, sweetness" etc. all day long, parent him in a very gentle loving way and just think the absolute world of him. They were always *hoping* to have more children but were happy and grateful to have their little family as is.

 

Fast forward 18months and in another miraculous way, they were able to adopt a little girl who was 5 months old. To say it was fast is an understatement. From the first time they even heard about the possibility (and it was really just a faint possibility as the birth mother was VERY unsure about weather or not she wanted to parent her daughter) to the day she was placed with them was less than 6 weeks. I know some adoptive parents wake up one day and get a phone call "there is a baby waiting for you!" but my brother and his wife weren't on a waiting list or even actively looking to adopt at the time. (it was a friend of a friend who directed the birth mother to them and so it was a private adoption). SO, it was quick. and they still lived in a ONE BEDROOM APARTMENT! And now bam, one day they have two children, 14 months apart. and holy smokes! I can only imagine how different it would be parenting a child from the day they were born to parenting an older baby who already has habits, relationships etc. not to mention that fact that they are so close in age! what a challenge! BUT....

 

(and here I'm going to insert 3 disclaimers before I continue: 1)I admit that I have less-than-no-idea what it would be like to be in that situation therefore I have no right to judge them really, 2)I understand that everyone gets to make their own choices on how to parent! Therefore I have no right to judge them for making different parenting choices than me and 3)I realize that most parents find that they change their "style" come the second or third child. I understand it's impossible to be exactly the same kind of parent to your second as you were to your first since you still need to continue to care for and love your first child.)

 

ok, so BUT...it has been 8 months since the adoption and I am having such a hard time even being around them because:

the favoritism is out of control. their son has become one of the worst temper tantrum, high energy, high needs toddler I've ever met and yet he can do no wrong in their eyes. (in a way, i admire the way they handle him, they are very gentle and loving and patient). their daughter on the other hand is a fairly independent, low needs little girl (i've never seen a baby play independently for such long periods of time) and my sister in law is constantly complaining about her to me. they also sleep trained her HARD CORE and she still cries herself to sleep for naps and bedtime (sometimes for 30 minutes or so...and that's months after she's been "trained"), whereas their son often sleeps in their bed! they sometimes spend upwards of an hour soothing him to sleep at night! it's like mind boggling how they can treat their children so differently. the language they use while speaking about and too their children is like night and day. with their son it's "oh sweetie, are you just the cutest boy ever? mommy loves you so much. what a good boy!" and with their daughter it's "no. stop whining, you have nothing to whine about, you're fine." and "you need a nap 'cause you're starting to get annoying" or "she's such a fatty, she'll eat anything. she's like a dog". and this is not once in a while. this is literally how i hear them speak. and although i don't see them daily, i see them often enough (at least once a month) and it's sometimes for days at a time (they come stay with my parents for visits often). 

 

my sister in law is also constantly complaining about her daughter. it's to the point where i find it really awkward being around her because she'll say something really negative about her daughter and i just have nothing to say. like i don't know what to say in response! and i'm not trying to make her feel bad, but i literally cannot bring myself to agree with her or even "oh yea, i hear ya"...i just can't. 

 

It's also really upsetting the lack of physical touch their daughter gets. i don't see them hold her, cuddle her. kiss her. when she gets up from her nap, they carry her the least amount of time they need to. the second they enter the playroom/main room she's down on the floor. i've even seen my sister in law move her out of the way with her foot SEVERAL times. a few times knocking her over by accident and just saying "oops! you're ok". 

 

They have a double stroller and their daughter is ALWAYS in the bottom/back seat (where she can't see anything) because "she doesn't care about the view anyways". 

 

I think what makes this so distressing to me is that they never treated their son that way when he was a baby. they still don't. they cuddle him and love him and speak so kindly to him. their daughter? she fell yesterday at the park and my sister in law comforted her for the shortest time possible. even while holding her she said to me "oh she's fine, she always cries and then cries because she's crying and then forgets why she's upset and then she's crying for no reason" and then plunks her down on the gravel and walks away (my poor niece still had tears in her eyes). 

 

I'm just so sad about the whole thing! i feel sad for my brother and his wife because they are obviously struggling and stressed out. I feel sad for my neice and how she may be negatively affected by the way she is being parented (i'm worried she'll have attachment disorder). i feel sad for her birth mother (i've met her several times and sometimes i wonder if she saw the way her daughter was being parented if she'd still have placed her for adoption). i'm sad that my relationship with my brother and his wife is seriously suffering...i find it hard to be around them!

 

help please. insight, advice, words of encouragement...share your experience if you think it might help me deal with this situation...do i say something to them? do i just totally let it alone and hope it gets better?

post #2 of 72

omg.  where to begin? i would say something to her.  after all, this is a person that she is treating this way and the way that she parents now will be what this child deems normal and remembers as the basis of her childhood.

 

this saddens me.  i would talk with her and if that doesn't get any results, i would talk with him as well.

post #3 of 72
Thread Starter 

thanks for your reply badmamajama, my concern with saying something to her is that i feel like it might do more harm than good. re-reading my original post i feel the need to almost come to her defense in some ways. she seems like an awful mother from what i described! i will say that her and my brother are *good* people and i know they are grateful to have 2 children especially since they thought they may have none. my sister in law stays home with the kids and my brother works and i think that has been especially hard for her as she had a great career before the kiddos came. and she's not really the stay at home mom type...i think she basically just doesn't enjoy it but does it because the kids are so young and she feels it's best for them right now. i also must state again that i'm not around them day in day out so for all i know at home on regular days they treat their daughter much differently (i highly doubt it but part of me wants to give them the benefit of the doubt). 

 

anyways, back to the idea of talking to her: what do i say? i have a feeling she feels judged as a parent all the time - by her in-laws (there's a lot of us!), by her childrens birth mothers and their families (her daughters' ENTIRE birth family came to the placement as she was their first grandchild, and i could tell they were sooooo sad that she was being placed with another family. that little girl came from a loving, supportive family - her mother was just young and felt she couldn't be a single parent). so i don't want to confirm her suspicion that we're all judging her parenting....but holy smokes! how can we not???? 

post #4 of 72
Wow that is really sad and upsetting greensad.gif. A few things come to mind. One is that I find I'm a better parent when I get some time to myself to meet my own needs and recharge. Is there a way you can offer her this? Maybe you could watch the kids somewhat regularly so that they can get a break?

Also it occurs to me that maybe there is some post adoption depression going on or at the very least maybe some feelings of being overwhelmed, maybe feeling guilty like they've taken time away from their son (I know I felt this way for my firstborn when my second was born), or just are having a hard time bonding. I think if you could really gently and in a non-judgemental way bring this up, maybe they would open up a little more about what is going on. Maybe talking to a therapist would help them too.

If none of that works, I'd probably get a lot more blunt about their behavior being unacceptable. If they really are struggling as much as you describe, and they're unwilling or unable to make some changes even with supports in place, they could consider disrupting/dissolving the adoptive placement (have they finalized??).
post #5 of 72
Thread Starter 

Yes, APToddlerMama, I couldn't agree more about her needing more time to herself. I've known her for many years and we used to be very close. She *can be* a kind loving, caring, wonderful woman. And I saw her be a wonderful mother to her son. I can see she is very overwhelmed and I think post adoption depression sounds about right. 

 

I was thinking she (well, they both do really) should talk to a therapist. Part of the reason I've not said anything until now is that...well..who the heck am I to say anything? I have no right to tell them they're being *bad* parents. But if I could somehow get them to maybe go talk to someone about their situation - someone who has experience dealing with adoption, family relationships etc - that just might be the ticket. 

 

Occasionally I do want to be blunt and blurt out "maybe she just needs a hug!" when my SIL shows zero tolerance for my neices 3 seconds of whining. 

 

The adoption isn't finalized completely yet, but I don't think they'd go back on this. We'll see I guess. 

 

My heart just kind of breaks for my neice though....I truly hope she ends up ok in the end. 

post #6 of 72
Well maybe saying something like "it must be hard transitioning to having two when they're so close in age" would open up the conversation a little. Or "I can imagine you might be a little overwhelmed. What can I do to help? Could I babysit so you can get a night out?" I don't know. I'm not good at these conversations. Hopefully someone else can throw out some better conversation starters. It's tough, but I think you really need to say something.

Ugh. And as a side note, the fact that the adoption isnt finalized is almost more problematic In terms of what you should say because they have a real out. They could always tell people the birth family changed their minds or something to save face. I hate to think of that poor baby growing up in a situation with such blatant favoritism and lack of concern for her emotional health greensad.gif. I don't know how you can convey this to them appropriately, but I think it would be good for them to really give themselves permission to consider disrupting the placement. I'm sure if it is on their minds that they're thinking they cannot do it because they'll face harsh judgement. It would be nice to be able to open up that conversation too because truly it is not going to be in this child's best interest to be parented by people who are unable to bond with her for whatever reason.
post #7 of 72
Quote:
Originally Posted by bashismybabe View Post

. Part of the reason I've not said anything until now is that...well..who the heck am I to say anything? I have no right to tell them they're being *bad* parents. But if I could somehow get them to maybe go talk to someone about their situation - someone who has experience dealing with adoption, family relationships etc - that just might be the ticket. 

Occasionally I do want to be blunt and blurt out "maybe she just needs a hug!" when my SIL shows zero tolerance for my neices 3 seconds.

Have to add that you aren't going to tell them theyre bad parents though. You can have empathy for their situation while indicating some concern for your niece. And who the heck are you? An aunt who cares about all four of them and wants what's best for each of them. You're also probably one of the only people who can be a voice for your niece. It isn't like you're some old lady in the grocery store checkout commenting on their kids eating candy.

And personally, I would say "looks like she needs a hug" when she does. Sweetly and not like you're anticipating them not giving her one. I've been the recipient of this more than once and I've found it to be a good reminder that the irritation or whatever else going on in my own head is preventing me from seeing the bigger picture with my kids.
post #8 of 72
You said the adoption isn't finalized yet?
That could be the problem!

It can be really difficult to bond with a child under the constant threat that the child will be taken away. Some people unintentionally inhibit an attachment because they don't want to get hurt if things don't work out.
post #9 of 72
Quote:
Originally Posted by marsupial-mom View Post

You said the adoption isn't finalized yet?
That could be the problem!
It can be really difficult to bond with a child under the constant threat that the child will be taken away. Some people unintentionally inhibit an attachment because they don't want to get hurt if things don't work out.


What she said. It's an awful situation, and totally unfair to the child, but that could be what's happening.

post #10 of 72

Wow... it sounds complicated. Is it possible that she has had a hard time bonding with this baby and therefore feels defensive about parenting her?

 

I can understand the idea of having 'hackles up' because she feels judged by the birth family. Chances are they are not judging her in the slightest, but its hard to describe.... parenting a child who is loved and wanted by his or her birth family (well I know they all are, but I mean open adoptions where you can witness this first hand) feels like you are entrusted with something so huge and so important that you can never be good enough... at least that is how I felt. I had (and still have) such a hard time feeling 'worthy' or 'entitled' to parent my daughter and she is one and a half. Maybe she is feeling some of these emotions and the way it comes out is detatchment and meanness to the little girl?

I would suggest when you talk to her, that you suggest she see an infant mental health specialist that has experience in adoption. Their job is basically to help parents understand their children better and to work on the bond and a positive parenting experience. You don't have to tell her its because she's being a jerk to her daughter :) You can say that you think its a good idea to get everyone settled as a family and you think it would help her help her son cope better with his new sister.

post #11 of 72
Poor little girl!!

Is it possible that this child has some very specific issues and someone told her to parent her this way to address those issues (or potential issues)? Maybe there is some reason she is consciously doing this. Maybe it's very intentional. Just a thought, I could be totally wrong. I would see if you could open up a conversation with her. Not, "Hey you guys are being horrible parents," but maybe something like, "I've noticed you guys have a very different approach with DD than the way you parent DS. Can you tell me more about your methods?" and go from there. Maybe she'll break down crying that she just isn't bonding to DD. Maybe she'll bring up reasons no one has thought of (not that that would justify it, but could at least explain where they are coming from)... Maybe she honestly doesn't see how differently she is treating them, and would value your insight. It's somewhere to start.
post #12 of 72
Edited because it was too personal. And besides, I'm probably wrong and selfish, anyway.
post #13 of 72
Thread Starter 

Thanks for all your responses. This is really helping me deal with this issue! I appreciate your insight. 

Quote:
Originally Posted by marsupial-mom View Post

You said the adoption isn't finalized yet?
That could be the problem!
It can be really difficult to bond with a child under the constant threat that the child will be taken away. Some people unintentionally inhibit an attachment because they don't want to get hurt if things don't work out.

You are probably right. I imagine this could be part of the issue. The birth mother DID parent the little girl for 5 months and she is still very attached to her. They have an open adoption and the birth mother comes for visits about once a month or so (and sometimes she brings several members of HER family  - her mom, sisters etc.). I can see it being difficult to bond with a child when their "original" family is still so involved and concerned. LIke, they probably feel like they're still just parenting someone else's kid. 

Quote:
Originally Posted by sesa70 View Post

Wow... it sounds complicated. Is it possible that she has had a hard time bonding with this baby and therefore feels defensive about parenting her?

 

I can understand the idea of having 'hackles up' because she feels judged by the birth family. Chances are they are not judging her in the slightest, but its hard to describe.... parenting a child who is loved and wanted by his or her birth family (well I know they all are, but I mean open adoptions where you can witness this first hand) feels like you are entrusted with something so huge and so important that you can never be good enough... at least that is how I felt. I had (and still have) such a hard time feeling 'worthy' or 'entitled' to parent my daughter and she is one and a half. Maybe she is feeling some of these emotions and the way it comes out is detatchment and meanness to the little girl?
 

Yes, they are definitely having a hard time bonding with her. I think there is no doubt about it. Thanks so much for sharing your experience. That totally makes sense!! I remember a while ago (a few months I think) my SIL opened up to me breifly about something that I found hard to understand at the time, but now I think I get it more: she said "S (the birth mother) is always asking me these questions that I find so frustrating!" me "oh, really? like what?", her "well, the other day she asked me how I would deal with it if  A(my niece) is kind of overweight . I was like, 'I don't know!', like yeesh, what was I supposed to say?". She gave a few more examples of questions the birth mother had asked her and expressed her frustration. I didn't really know what to say because in my head I was like "uhhhhh, those sound like perfectly reasonable questions to ask the people your are entrusting your daughter with for the rest of her life!!!!!".

 

Quote:

Originally Posted by crunchy_mommy View Post

Poor little girl!!
Is it possible that this child has some very specific issues and someone told her to parent her this way to address those issues (or potential issues)? Maybe there is some reason she is consciously doing this. Maybe it's very intentional. Just a thought, I could be totally wrong. I would see if you could open up a conversation with her. 

Thanks for the suggestion, but I really really don't think that's an issue. My brother is quite open with me (and my SIL too for the most part). If my niece had an issue that required "detachment" parenting (which is how I feel they are parenting her) I think they'd let us know. I'm curious though, what kind of issue would require that that kind of treatment? 

 

 

so, i think i've decided to talk to my brother. i don't think a conversation with my SIL would even be productive, it would probably result in tears, bad feelings, misunderstandings and a potentially ruined relationship between her and i. my brother on the other hand...I think our relationship could handle a difficult conversation like this. phew.....i'm nervous but i think it's necessary. even just for me, so i can get it out and stop thinking about this all the time!!!!!!

 

thanks again for your help everyone, wish me luck! I'll come back and let you know how it goes...

post #14 of 72

Let him/them know that if it is in fact the case that the openness in the adoption is preventing them from feeling attached, that's completely normal. We had this with my son's foster family -- monthly visits and in between that and reading ultra-loving and supportive Facebook posts, it felt like he wasn't "ours." It took a long time to get over it, but we did, and we also stepped down the contact with them. Your brother/SIL may need to cut back on the visits for awhile just to give them time to bond with her and heal, and there's nothing wrong with that, it's about what's best for the baby. (Another option might be for the birth family to take her out for an afternoon and give SIL a break -- then they have the visit, SIL has a break, and the family doesn't have to sit there and witness the birth family loving on the baby, which can put walls up at times.)
 

post #15 of 72
Quote:
Originally Posted by bashismybabe View Post

Thanks for the suggestion, but I really really don't think that's an issue. My brother is quite open with me (and my SIL too for the most part). If my niece had an issue that required "detachment" parenting (which is how I feel they are parenting her) I think they'd let us know. I'm curious though, what kind of issue would require that that kind of treatment? 

I can't imagine anything that would require 'detachment parenting' and I certainly wouldn't recommend or condone it in any way! Just wondering if maybe there was a social worker or family member involved that gave them (misguided) advice about this... Perhaps birthmom said something about her temperament and suggested some of these things. IDK. It was just a thought, I don't know anyone involved obviously so I may be totally off base and read something into your comments that wasn't really there.
post #16 of 72

Ugh.  I will be praying for this family.

 

How awful for the little girl.

I wonder if the way the mother feels towards the birthmother is impacting her feelings about the little girl.  Like transferring her dislike for the birthmother or something on the little girl.  I am hopeful that this works itself out but this little girl should NOT have been sleep trained( no infant child should) and she needs security and love.

 

how awful.  You have my sympathies and I know you will stand up for this innocent child.
 

post #17 of 72

I just wanted to say that this family is in a very bad place. I would not say anything.  As others have said, I would just offer as much support as I could.  I have a child who was very hard to bond with.  I was my own worst critic.  When people brought it up, I just felt even worse and had less patience.  Having a child who easily bonds with you and then a challenge is so hard.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Bad Mama Jama View Post

omg.  where to begin? i would say something to her.  after all, this is a person that she is treating this way and the way that she parents now will be what this child deems normal and remembers as the basis of her childhood.

 

this saddens me.  i would talk with her and if that doesn't get any results, i would talk with him as well.

post #18 of 72

Reading this as a first mom.....it breaks my heart to think that could be my child it is happening to.  I'm sure the little girl's first mom would just break in half if she knew.  Especially if she had a hard time with even deciding to give her up in the first place.  :*(

post #19 of 72
Maybe the child should go back to the birth mother. And maybe you can help that to happen.

There is no good excuse for blatant favoritism! Sleeping with one and not the other is obvious. Help the baby.
post #20 of 72
Quote:
Originally Posted by pumpkingirl71 View Post

I just wanted to say that this family is in a very bad place. I would not say anything.  As others have said, I would just offer as much support as I could.  I have a child who was very hard to bond with.  I was my own worst critic.  When people brought it up, I just felt even worse and had less patience.  Having a child who easily bonds with you and then a challenge is so hard.

This. I don't have access to my computer right now just my phone.But there's so much I want to write. If an otherwise loving kind mother seems mean and like she doesn't even like her child there is more to the story. Obviously its not a good thing for the relationship to continue down this negative path but I suspect you are not seeing what this mom goes through all day every day. Not in a few days a month. Heck the husband may not even see it.
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