Why Some Adopted Kids See Their Adoptive Mom As An Enemy

The mom I once hated, I now love. The mom I rejected, I now enjoy. The mom I thought was a loser is now my hero. 

Memories of her are like gentle ocean waves. I can smell her best-in-town apple pie, feel her hands rubbing oil on my asthmatic chest, and her tender care for my kitty named Dinny Dinwit.

This miracle is the result of a crisis of forgiveness that set me free from my painful past, including my contentious relationship with mom. The raucous anger that dwelt within me is tamed. 

Through gut-wrenching personal work, I’ve discovered the reason for our contentious relationship. 

The answer is complex, and I believe moms need to know what they can do when their adopted child rejects their love, and them. They also need to know that their adopted child can heal from pre-adoption trauma.

How I wish mom and I would have been exposed to these truths I’ve discovered lately. We would have been freed from the war between us and enjoyed an intimate parent/child relationship that only comes from tough self-examination.

I am fully aware that’s what moms of adopted kids want in the parent/child relationship and I long to share these truths with both adoptive moms and fellow adoptees so they can find healing…sooner, rather than later. Hopefully, after reading this post and those that will follow in the months to come:

  • You will understand why your child sees you as an enemy.
  • You will see that it is truly possible for your child to heal.
  • You will embrace the fact that you are enough as a mom.

Your Adopted Child Can’t See Your Face

When your child connects with you for the first time, he brings with him all the “faces” of other moms that were in your role prior to coming to you. So, if your child is a newborn, it is the first mom’s face. If a school-age child removed to foster care, the first mom’s face. If a teen coming from multiple failed placements, she sees all the mom faces before her.

Think about the popular ad on tv promoting adults getting vaccinated for whooping cough.  The setting shows devoted, loving grandparents holding a baby.  It all looks wonderful until  you see the startling  faces of the grandparents–they’re the faces of wolves.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m not calling former moms “wolves.” Instead, maybe this is an example to remember when you try to understand your adopted child’s rejection of you. For many adoptees, we don’t see your loving face. We see a former mom saying “I don’t want you.”

This is called an unintentional relationship. In other words, things happen that you don’t want (child rejecting love and you) and over which you have no control. Your child sees you in a distorted way, reacting contrary to your heart’s desire to become a haven of love for the child whose safety has either disappeared or never existed.

The word non-intentional is defined by four words and I believe they may somewhat describe the true heart of your child:

  • Non-Intentional==”I never intended to reject your love.”
  • Unplanned==”I wasn’t planning on being hateful.”
  • Unpremeditated==”I can’t control my anger at you.”
  • Unconscious==”I have no idea the havoc I’m creating or how I’m hurting you.”

Yes, it is a bit scary to think about parenting a child in a non-intentional relationship, but you can do it.  You may have not signed up for a non-intentional relationship with your child, but you’re in it now and you can rise to the occasion. 

Try to identify the face/faces of former moms in your child’s behavior and help him learn to regulate–that was then…this is now. “Your first mother was mean to you, but that was then. I will always be here for you and keep you safe. This is now.”

Your Child Is Defending Himself Against More Abandonment

For years I’ve wondered why I perceived mom as my enemy. Why were we at cross purposes? Why did we have shouting matches before high school? Why did her words make me cringe, like long fingernails scraping a blackboard?

Just like a boxer in the ring, your child is defending himself. He’ll land you an upper cut with words like: 

  • “I hate you.”
  • “You’re not my mom…not my real mom.”
  • “I’m going to run away.”

But, don’t be intimidated, moms. Take a closer look at your child in the boxing ring. Your child’s invisible black eyes are pleading with you to hear his heart cries. For example, when my grandmother handed screaming, push-away newborn me to my mom, she probably translated my behavior as, “I don’t have what it takes to be a good mother to this child.”

And, I, in the only way my newborn self could communicate, I was saying, “I’m hurting so incredibly bad. Don’t touch me, or I’ll die. I can’t take any more pain. And, besides, you are a stranger to me. I want my first mom.”

  Your Child Is Not At Fault, Nor Are You

No one is at fault here. Not moms, nor kids.

However, the level of pain can seem unbearable. Focus on the Family’s counseling service says the receive panic calls from many desperate moms every day.

It’s tremendously easy for many adoptees to believe that they’re damaged goods and that’s why why they can’t have a healthy relationship with their moms. They’re always wondering in what ways we’ve been damaged.

  • “If I would have loved mom more, she wouldn’t have gotten hooked on drugs.”
  • “If I wouldn’t have cried so much, she wouldn’t have abused me.”
  • “Maybe I was too ugly.”

It’s important to remember that the world in which we live is broken and inhabited by broken people. We must cut each other slack and look with eyes of compassion whenever possible.

Forgive us moms, for we don’t know what we’re doing.  We are so messed up inside.

Some day, hopefully, your child will love you. Someday, she won’t see you as her enemy. Someday, she’ll say goodbye to her painful past.

FYI–I have a FB page devoted to parents whose kids can’t receive love. It is: What Parents Can Do When Adopted Kids Reject Their Love

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2 Replies to “Why Some Adopted Kids See Their Adoptive Mom As An Enemy”

  1. “Why Some Adopted Kids See Their Adoptive Mom As An Enemy” was very insightful. It verified my thoughts about why my son can’t accept my love. I also wanted to say I’ve read your book “Twenty Things Adopted Kids Wish Their Adoptive Parents Knew”. It was a great help at the start of our journey, and I still refer to it. Imagine my surprise when you liked one of my blogs! Thanks for all your writing!

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