I wrote a post for the US website Those Four Little Words a few months ago, which was published last week.
Fairly innocuous I thought. Describing our journey to adoption, our choice as the adopters for our son and in the process a little of his history.
The response was positive. Comments supportive. Until I received an email from the site's publisher. Politely and with much regret she told me she had been approached by an organisation who expressed concern about the nature of the information I shared about our son's birth family.
Talking about our decision to adopt. Describing why we had concluded we were indeed the correct match as his adoptive parents. Using words I have used before on this blog I tried to describe to a largely US audience why a same sex couple could be a positive influence on our damaged little boy.
This was the section about which they were concerned:
Our son had been a victim, that’s beyond doubt. But he had also learnt from those experiences. He’d learnt how to manipulate a situation to his advantage. He’d learnt how angry and demanding behaviour was the only way to get attention. He’d begun to learn to be like his birth parents.
My reaction came, as usual in two phases. Shock. Affrontery, who were these people? How would they know about our story? What right had they to complain about those words? So personal. So heartfelt.
As usual, I then took a step backwards and considered the issue more calmly.
Did the words breach our son's confidentiality? Did they paint an inaccurate or biased opinion? I thought not. I queried, I hope reasonably, the concern. Apparently the words that had, most especially, caused offence were 'he'd begun to learn to be like his birth parents.'
The whole situation made me reflect. Was the description too harsh? These blogs are items of public record. Even if I wanted to remove them so there could be no future reference to them, I would find it almost impossible to do so. Their echo, their shadow will continue in perpetuity.
For that reason I am very, VERY careful about my words and about the information I share. I'm aware that not only do they, hopefully, engage, inform and entertain people now. They will also be something our children will one day look back on.
Disclosing information about our children's pasts is always a difficult topic. Talking to them about the past is a blog post of its own.
If anything, I smooth the harsher edges from the description of our son and daughter's pasts. It's in my, and I think all, our natures to do that.
However, I do believe very strongly it is wholly wrong to somehow sanitise our children's past. They, and the world, need to know why they were removed from their birth families. Why they were placed for adoption.
Not to do so can only store up heartache later on when that sanitised view is shattered by the discovery of the reality.
We work with two local Borough Adoption Teams, helping train prospective adopters. Their policy is clear and strong in telling adopters that their children should be told the story of their previous lives warts and all.
I know many adoptive parents who use words that tell their children their 'birth parents loved them very much but were unable to look after them.'
We used similar words with our son in the beginning. Then after he told us some of the stories of what he had suffered at the hands his birth parents, we realised that to continue to do so was untenable.
So now we tell him the truth.
In a very simple way we tell our daughter the same thing. She, being less than a year in age when she was removed from her birth parents, has little recollection of that past. Or so we thought.
Earlier this week. Out of the blue. Our daughter told J a story full of fear and terror. About herself and the 'bad guys' who used to look after her. To recount it would be to potentially identify her. Suffice it to say we know it to be true. It made J's blood run cold.
That now, some three years later she still remembers it, can recount something we have not told her, but that clearly is etched in her consciousness was for us profoundly shocking.
It made us all the more determined to continue to tell the children, age appropriately, the absolute truth. Always.