How I identify with the message of the framed print above my bedroom table named: “My Sandcastle.” It pictures blue skies, a sandy beach, and a four-year-old girl straddling a two- foot-tall sandcastle. Busy at work, she slaps handful upon handful of wet sand upon her creation, oblivious to the seagulls flying overhead or the people walking by. I’ve been like that little girl, building sandcastles in my heart for decades–seven exactly:-) The first fantasy I’m aware of was when I was 20 and pregnant. While waiting in the OBGYN’s office, I studied a pamphlet that showed unborn babies at certain stages of development. Suddenly, I wondered if my first mother ever thought about me like this. Fantasy grew as I searched and found. “She would be so happy to see me. I would have to wear a very special outfit to meet her. I must take flowers to give to her, and when we met, I would ask to be last off the plane so that I could exit like Scarlet O’Hara in Gone with the Wind. I know this is hard to believe–but it’s true, my friends.
But now, back to the beach, the tide came in and waves of rejection swept me off my feet. Perhaps my physical appearance reminded my mother of the man who got her pregnant during their affair? Upon flying home, I called to thank her for the visit, at which time she began spewing vicious words and thoughts. With each successive wave, my fantasies washed out to sea. After the last vestige had washed away, someone with sandaled feet strolled up. Pointing to the place where my sandcastle stood, he said, “Look at what is there now. It’s reality. You are going to gain your sense of safety and comfort from another source now⎯one that is deeper and richer. I (God) want to fill your innermost being with my presence. You don’t need your sandcastle anymore. Look to me. I am all you will ever need.”
Definitions By Adoption Experts
Listen to what the adoption experts say about adoptee fantasy:
- Drs. Brodzinsky and Schechter say in BEING ADOPTED: The Lifelong Search for Self, “In our experience, all adoptees engage in a search process. It may not be a literal search, but it is a meaningful search nonetheless. It begins when the child first asks, ‘Why did it happen? Who are they? Where are they now?
- “The fantasies are the mother replacement: the comfort zone that the mother did not provide. They serve the function of the surrogate rag doll that experimental monkeys are given after their real mother is taken away.” Betty Jean Lifton, JOURNEY OF THE ADOPTED SELF
How to Spot Adoptee Fantasy
Most adoptees, no matter their age, engage in fantasies of the first family. Does she ever think about me? If I knocked on her door, would she be glad to see me? Would she like to come to my birthday party tomrrow, or my college graduation this Friday? Will I look like her? If you’d like examples in art of these fantasies, get a copy of my FOREVER FINGERPRINTS…An Amazing Discovery for Adopted Children, from your library. The main character of the book dreams of what it would be like to find her first mother, who is a queen in a faraway land. Huge horses will take her there.
Adoptive and foster parents must honor the child’s fantasy because it is much-needed comfort in the midst of excruciating loss. It’s my belief that one of the greatest losses anyone can ever experience is that loss of the first family. And, to find comfort in such a primal loss, the adoptee must find a way to comfort.
Ways To Draw Out Fantasy
If you were to ask the average adult adoptee if she has experienced an active adoption fantasy life over the years, she/he might say no. However, if given examples, he might identify. This could be a lighthearted conversation with your teen or adult adopted child.
- Do you hope your birth mom will come to your birthday party?
- Play “adoption day” with your child and pretend you picked the wrong child. Child will then correct you.
- If you met your birth mother, what do you think she’d say to you?
- Do you ever see anyone that looks like you?
These are open doors into the hearts of your children! What a privilege God has given you. Go through those open doors and play your hearts out with your kids!
Your adopted teen may seek out the missing birth mother through “mother surrogates.” Instead of confiding in her own mom, she will reject her mom as a confidante, and will choose other people. This is terribly wounding to moms. Run to Jesus with the hurt and ask him to help you forgive with his words, “they know not what they do.” Pray that someday there will be intimacy with your adopted daughter. If you are in an open adoption, the dynamics may be that she chooses the birth mother over you. Pray for balance for everyone in this case.
It is common, oh so common, for an adoptee to search for a face in a crowd that resembles her own. She believes that if she could only find the face of the lost loved one that the hurt of being adopted would magically disappear, the grief would evaporate, and the lifelong repercussions of adoption loss would be gone. However, there is another face that the adoptee is really search for—not the birth mother, not the birth father. Instead, it is the face of Jesus Christ. Only then will every tear be wiped away, every loss a gain, and every hurt healed.
No matter what form your child’s fantasy takes, there are specific things parents can do. Be aware of the times he is emotionally distant and ask him what he’s thinking about. Probing questions are great also. Engage! Get down on the floor and play trucks, play legos, whatever it takes to engage emotionally with your child. Remember, their first impression of God comes from you!