I always feel awkward when someone ask me “How many children do you have?” or “Is he your only child?” I never knew how to answer these questions, especially coming from a complete stranger. You see, I have given birth to two sons. One, my first born, I am raising as a single mother. My second child, who is twenty months younger than my first born, I chose to place for adoption.
Now the positive side of this whole experience is that I have an open relationship with my son’s family who adopted him. Part of that decision was based on the fact that my sons didn’t make the choice to be disconnected. Both families wanted both of our boys to be able to maintain contact and have somewhat of a relationship. My oldest son always knew about his younger brother. There were no secrets back then and they are no secrets today. As a result, he told teachers, classmates and friends about his baby brother. And if the question was presented in the grocery store check-out line, well, you guessed it; my youthful son quickly blurted out, “No, I have a brother but he was adopted. He doesn’t live with us; he lives with his adopted family.” This remark most often prompted a confused look at first, and then a pre-conceived notion. Then, what started out as light conversation fell suddenly short into awkward silence.
Although I was not ashamed of my choice, I still didn’t always feel comfortable telling every Tom, Dick and Harry or Sally about my choice. This information was usually reserved for family and close friends and a handful of co-workers. And maybe a counselor, if need be. So when someone asked this question who did not personally know me or my family, I didn’t know how to respond. In addition, I didn’t want to discourage my son from talking about his younger brother. But how much does this person on the street really need to know or for that matter care to know about me and my family? Usually, these questions are for light conversation. After a few episodes of being met with confusion and discernment, I learned my lesson and proceeded with great caution when the subject of children arose.
Then I read a Dear Abby letter from a birth mother who was asking the same questions. Dear Abby responded, “Technically, you don’t “have” your birth child any more so it is okay if you say you don’t have any children.” This actually made sense to me.
I have never denied either of my children. Even though one lives with me and the other lives with his family who adopted him, I know I gave birth to both children and I love them both. So if I respond to your question, “I have one child”, it doesn’t mean that I am lying to you or denying my birth son. It just means I’m sparing you the minor details. If by chance we become better acquainted, I promise to tell you my WHOLE story.