Dear Margo: Yet Another Adoption Dilemma

How can I help my adopted child manage his relationship with his birth parents? Margo Howard’s advice

Yet Another Adoption Dilemma

Dear Margo: Ten years ago, my husband and I adopted a beautiful baby boy from a teenage girl, “Anna.” The three of us, plus her boyfriend, “Kyle,” agreed to keep in contact to allow the two of them and “Ethan” to have a relationship. While I had certain misgivings at the time, it really has worked out wonderfully. Anna and Kyle, who are now married, visit every few months, and Ethan considers them a favorite aunt and uncle. The problems I worried about have not come up: They’ve never tried to take Ethan from us; he’s never been upset about being adopted; my husband and I have never worried about our place in his life. Ethan understands that Anna and Kyle actually had him but couldn’t take care of him, and that my husband and I are his parents. There had never been any real confusion or hurt feelings among the five of us — until now.

Recently, Anna announced that she is pregnant. Ethan became upset about why they would give him up but not their soon-to-be child. My husband and I have tried to explain to him that they were not in a position to be parents when he was born, but they’re ready now. He won’t listen and keeps insisting that everyone just likes the new baby better. The four of us have discussed this, and we cannot come up with a solution. My husband suggested that maybe Anna and Kyle should stop coming around as often, but it seems that would make Ethan feel even more unloved and abandoned. What do you suggest? –Worried Mother

Dear Wor: If Ethan is 10, he is not a “little kid,” and the situation he finds himself in is a little like sibling rivalry squared. Because you say his birth parents visit every few months, the contact is not terribly frequent. One thing that might be useful is that when the new baby comes, Anna and Kyle bring him or her over and make Ethan feel that this is his baby, too. In a best-case scenario, he will feel a brotherly regard for the baby.

If you feel he is obsessing, perhaps introduce a child specialist into the situation. I have never been sure about keeping birth parents in the picture, but you absolutely did the right thing telling Ethan he was adopted. –Margo, hopefully

Let Sleeping Dogs Lie — but Where?

Dear Margo: My wife sleeps with her two beloved dogs — sometimes on the bottom bunk in one of our two sons’ rooms, sometimes on the couch. She says she would sleep with me if I let the dogs join us in our bed, but I find them bothersome. Am I wrong in not accepting this compromise? –Getting Used To Sleeping Alone

Dear Get: It depends on how important it is to you to sleep with your wife. If you are allergic (which doesn’t seem likely) or simply don’t like the idea of livestock in the bed, you are not wrong. However, I know so many couples who do allow the dog(s) to sleep with them, I am wondering what your reasoning is. I also don’t know your definition of “bothersome.” Do the dogs try to play at 3 a.m. or lick your face at dawn? (I also don’t know how large these hounds are.)

Your wife seems to have taken quite a strong stand on the issue, but it’s not clear to me what her point is. Is she saying she prefers the dogs to you? Is she trying to get you to love the dogs as much as she does?

I suggest giving it a try, to show good faith, and if they do actually interfere with your sleep, perhaps your wife will return your good faith effort. –Margo, drowsily


Dear Margo is written by Margo Howard, Ann Landers’ daughter. All letters must be sent via e-mail to Due to a high volume of e-mail, not all letters will be answered.


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94 Responses so far.

  1. avatar Katharine Gray says:

    LW#1:  I have always been in favor of telling an adopted child he/she is adopted.  It seems the truth eventually comes out one way or another.  I grew up with quite a few adopted children/teens/adults and all seemed perfectly comfortable and happy with knowing that fact about their parentage.  In addition, I know some who have sought out their birth parents when they were adults and established some sort of relationship with them (some closer than others but never talked to an adopted friend who didn’t consider her adoptive parents her *real parents*.  I have wondered about this concept of *open adoption* and what the unseen consequences might be and this appears to be one.    If LW1’s child is an only child and has been the center of the world for these four adults it has to be unsettling for him.

    I think some consultation with a child specialist is a good idea.  Maybe just 2 or 3 sessions with a child therapist would help the boy get over what looks to be a classic case of sibling rivalry but with a twist…his birth parents…unlike most parents who are faced with sibling rivalry…are not going to be with him everyday and assure him of their love and will probably on their own tend to reduce the number of visits etc as they become involved with the newborn so the 19 year old may feel truly *abandoned* by them.  

    Sort of makes you wonder about the wisdom of letting bith parents play a significant role in your child’s life…at least until the child is grown up enough to handle and understand the dynamics.

    #2:  I  don’t know what is going on.  Our cats sleep with us.  If we had small dogs they would probably sleep with us too. Big dogs not as I like room.   If everything else is ok with your marriage and you are only unhapy about not *sleeping* with your wife as opposed to having no sex with your wife, then let it go or get used to the dogs. Maybe you snore or have bad breath and that makes it hard for her to sleep with YOU!    

    • avatar ish tate says:

      I wonder if the issue isn’t the dogs at all. A while ago I read an advice column about a woman who let her son sleep in her bed to avoid having sex with her husband. She thought he was cheating. I think something similar may be going on here and the dog co-sleeping is just an excuse. I mean, really how can you choose your pet over your spouse?

      Before we got our dog my husband and I talked about what kind of pet owners we would be. This included whether he would be an inside or outside dog, whether he would be able to get on furniture and whether he could sleep in our bed. My super awesome and adorable dog weighs between 55 and 60 pounds. It would be like having a small, squirming and SNORING child in bed with us. But even if he was 10 pounds I wouldn’t let him sleep with us. My husband regularly takes naps on the couch with the dog and they both seem satisfied with that. : )

  2. avatar Chris Glass` says:

    On Letter 1 this seems to have less to do with adoption than it does being displaced as the only child in his birth parent’s life. My son was the first baby in our family and he was upset when my sister and her husband were expecting because he was their favorite. If this child has a stable home and it sounds as if he does he will get used to the idea. Ten is the preteen age where you are no longer a small child but not quite old enough for independence. He may wonder where he fits in.

    • avatar K Coldiron says:

      Totally agree. The adoption part seems like it’s making the situation all messy, but I suspect it’d be just the same with a non-adopted 10-year-old with parents who decide to have a baby.

  3. avatar Amy Barklow says:

    Margo is unfortunately WAY off on LW#2.  The man said his wife is sleeping with the dogs simply because he won’t allow them on the bed when they sleep, which to me says she’s choosing them over her hubby.  Get thee to a marriage counselor, sir.
    Marg, your tone is that of a biased dog owner scolding a man who isn’t one.

    • avatar Maggie Tenser says:

      I agree.  I love my tiny dog, but there is no way she’s ever sleeping in my bed with me.  Expecting the dogs to sleep in dog beds is not unreasonable or a sign of lack of proper affection for them.

    • avatar Margo Howard says:

      Amy — funny. I do not have a dog because my husband says no!

      • avatar Anji says:

        LOL Margo!
        I do not think that Margo is being biased. I think that there are more things going on here that the LW was not clear about. Honestly, I suspect they need to get to a counselor. A souse that prefers their animals is definitely trying to make some sort of statement!

    • avatar jayHG says:

      Exactly, Amy.  I just said that in my own post below. 

      The husband said the dogs were bothersome, which means he apparently HAD slept with them (otherwise he couldn’t have found them bothersome).  The woman has chosen the dogs over her husband.   He needs either a marriage counsel or a lawyer to stop the madness and get out.  I dare say that this woman and her dogs will live happily ever after.  She’s made her choice. 

  4. avatar Margy says:

    LW 1: Guess ten year old Ethan has been the apple of his adoptive and birth parents’ eye for so long that he is feeling jealousy over the unborn sibling. He must not have much friends or doesn’t have good buddies. If he did then maybe he would be welcoming, relishing the idea of being a big brother. I mean, if he had friends who have brothers or sisters and he spent time playing with them (as opposed to just seeing them at school only) then he would see how these families get along.
    In retrospect, maybe just telling Ethan he is adopted and having Anna and Kyle in his life as an aunt and uncle instead of his birth parents would have been better;revealing Anna and Kyle as the birth parents when he reached eighteen or thereabouts…
    LW 2: I like cats and I have no problem sharing my bed with a cat or two or three! But I don’t care to share with a dog. If my husband wanted to sleep with his dog on the sofa that’s fine with me!

    • avatar Grace Malat says:

      I don’t think it has anything to do with whether or not he has close buddies/friends and seeing how other families get along.
      I had a very difficult time getting pregnant and was even told I might not. When I finally did get pregnant it was wonderful but for many reasons my husband (at the time) and I decided to have only one child.
      When my daughter was under the age of 6 and she started noticing that other families had more than one child she started asking for a brother or sister, this started when she was about 3. When she started school, kdg, and started going to friends houses for play dates, she quickly changed her tune and decided she did NOT want a brother or sister. So it can cut both ways. And yes all her friends had loving stable homes. She just realized what a hassle it could be sometimes to have a sibling.
      When her dad and I divorced she was 12 and a few years later I remarried and was blessed with another daughter. They are 15 yrs and 3 mos apart LOL, and although they don’t get to see each other, we live on opposite sides of the country, they get along great through phone calls, emails and such.
      One of the great benefits has been that my oldest daughter has been a great source of information and advice.
      For this LW I would agree it’s normal sibling rivalry that happens when a new child enters the family. He just needs to have a bit of extra attention and be drawn into being a big brother. If the birth parents could take him with them to hear the baby’s heartbeat, show him sonogram pics, maybe get his input on a name, although don’t promise you’ll use it. Also take him shopping to buy a welcome home gift for the baby and maybe matching t shirts of big brother little brother/sis. They just need to assure him of his place in both families.

      • avatar Margy says:

        Hoping Ethan will love his adoptive parents (yes, he does), love his kid brother/sister (perhaps years later!), appreciate his birth parents decision to have another child, this time to keep and raise… Be content to have a kid brother/sister who lives in another home!
        Going off on a tangent here, my landlord mentioned how his son (28/29 thereabouts) still harbors resentment over a trivial (through my landlord’s eyes) incident. I think  some children never get over something (nursing that “wound” all through childhood, teens, young adulthood…) while others grow up, not necessarily through being a parent but just through maturing, how some things have come to be…

  5. avatar Rosemary Celeste says:

    I think that Ethan the 10 yr old should get to be more involved with his birth-parents’ lives  so he can help welcome in his new sib, get more connected to his birth -parents and  find his emotional security as far as that goes. I think he will get over this phase by getting to have more closeness with them. It is a tough one to swallow for a kid: if they did stay togther and get married, then why didn’t they want/keep me? More open of arms would be good between the families. The blessings will reverberate throughout the years to come.

    The dogs on  the bed could be solved with a cot or chaise in the bedroom for the dogs to sleep on next to her side of the bed. Win-win.

    • avatar Maggie Tenser says:

      I don’t see how more closeness will help at all.  No matter how close he becomes, he will never be their son – he’s already someone else’s son.  What he is dealing with – the fact that his parents could not keep him but, now, can keep his sibling is something he’s going to have to work through with his parents and himself.

      • avatar David Bolton says:

        My partner is adopted and your observation is completely incorrect. His birth mother regards him very much as her son, and we are quite lucky to have her in the picture. And to suggest that a ten year-old “work through” something like this himself is ridiculous.

    • avatar D C says:

      I have a friend who found out at about the age of 36 (because that’s when her adoptive mother died and she finally felt free to find out about her birth parents) that the woman she had grown up knowing as her aunt (mom’s sister) was actually her mother.  Her birth mom had been there for every important event in her life, which was wonderful…. but had gone on to have 4 more children, the next one in line only 14 months younger than her.  THAT left her feeling a lot of the “why didn’t she want ME” stuff.  Her father, however, was not the father of her half-siblings, so that was pretty much the answer to the why not me question.  She got to meet her birth father, about 6 months before he died of a heart attack.  LW#1’s child will eventually feel lucky to have know his parents his whole life, and between the ages of 10 and 20, he may not always have a good attitude about it.  Hopefully the whole family can work together and end up happily ever after. 

  6. avatar D says:

    Is there any reason why the birth parents should not answer the question of why they have not made an effort to take the boy back?  The boy is somewhere thinking “My birth parents can take care of a new child but they still cannot/will not take care of me.”  That is a concern of his that needs to be answered and unless the birth parents answer that to the satisfaction of the boy, there will continue to be problems.  No amount of counseling will help.
    What I also find interesting is that the two sets of parents had a conversation about the boy without the boy present.  What sense does that make?  The boy is old enough to know what is going on and should be involved.  It will be probably be uncomfortable answering questions with the boy around, but the boy is more important than their comfort level (at least he should be).

    • avatar Maggie Tenser says:

      The child is ten.  The adults in his life (teachers, grandparents) will be having conversations about him without him present for many years to come.  And that’s healthy.
      And, honestly, this is quite a common situation.  When an adopted child attempts to find their birthparents as an adult, one of the things they are advised to prepare for is that their birhtparents may have since married each other and had children.  The situation is common enough, that I’m sure a child-professional has needed to deal with it before.

      • avatar D says:

        His birth parents know him and have been a part of his life.  Watching it unfold right before his eyes is going to affect him differently than if he learned about it as an adult.  In the situation you described, the adopted children and the birth parents do not really know each other.  I will say that I was partially wrong in my statement that no amount of counseling will help.  I should have said that no amount of counseling will help unless the birth parents answer why they are going to keep the baby but not the kid.  I am still trying to figure out how both sets of parents talked and the option of telling the kid why the birth parents do not want to take back the kid is not deemed to be a good one.  It would be painful and cause a lot of heartache, but it will be the best one going forward..  I think that both sets of parents want to keep this as pain free as possible, but if everyone is honest with each other, I am not sure that is possible.
        Is it possible to rescind an adoption and return a child to the birth parents?

        • avatar Mrs. Doolittle says:

          Rescinding the adoption is the worst possible consequence.  If you ever adopted and loved your child you would never have written this.  Talk about feeling rejected twice!  The parents he has now are his REAL parents in every sense of the word.  He will get thru this and as he gets older will understand it better.  This is just a twist on the normal preteen issues to come.

        • avatar Susan W says:

          Wow you don’t have a clue what it is to be a parent and to love and care for a child.  You also don’t seem to have a clue what it means to make a decision in the best interest of a a child.
          Both of these couples are parents to this child – the birth parents made a really good and caring parenting decision at the child’s birth, and the real parents – the adoptive ones – are making continuing good and caring parenting decisions for the child now.  They are discussing this situations privately as adults should, in order to present a united front in communicating this situation to the child, to minimize the child’s confusion and distress.
          The fact that the birth parents are having another baby that they will keep may be disturbing to the child, just as having a new baby enter the household may be disturbing.  This happens all the time.  The parents just need to all communicate through this situation that the child is loved and wanted and that he is in the best place possible for him and that is where he will stay.

        • avatar stateoflove_N_Trust says:

          Are you kidding me?  You seriously think rescinding an adoption for parents who have cared for and bonded with the child every day for 10 years is a viable alternative?  You need to learn more about child development, bonding, psychology, etc.  Terrible idea!

          • avatar D says:

            To everyone who seems to think I am evil for asking about rescinding the adoption, what I meant was if all involved (birth parents, adoptive parents, kid) were okay with him moving back in with the birth parents and the birth parents becoming the legal guardians of the kid.  I was more concerned about is it actually possible instead of whether it was a good idea or not.

          • avatar Lym BO says:

            IT is possible. IT is called “interruption of adoption”. These birth parents don’t want this child. The adoptive mom pretty much says that at the beginning of the letter. The birthparents need to answer the question (after doing some research about the right way to say the right thing.
            I would have to speculate that a very large majority of teen birthmothers go on to have children when they are ready. It’s not uncommon.
            The boy needs to be reassured that everyone loves him, that he is where he belongs & not much will change.  Oh, and that he gets to be a big brother now.

    • avatar K Coldiron says:

      Take the boy BACK? Because someone adopted him! LW and her husband ARE his parents.

    • avatar AdoptAuthor says:

      Goodt point!  The birth parents need to tell him that they cannot take him back because his adoptive parents are now his parents by law and also they would be heartbroken because they love him so much!  Might help a bit, but still doesn’t answer why they are able to parent the new baby but were not able to care for him. that, I beleive is his real question.
      People who think this is nothing more than sibling rivalry and that friends would help Ethan are very much off base. They are playing in a league they do not belong in. Adoption is a specialized field.
      Ethan needs counseling with an expert in adoption!

      • avatar Briana Baran says:

        The boy is ten, and although the problems with coping are his, he is not yet mentally or emotionally equipped to sort his issues out without input from the obviously very caring adults in his life. The best parents discuss the complicated, critical details of a situation like this (those that a pre-adolescent child’s brain is not yet developed enough to make sense of, nevermind that he doesn’t have the experience or objectivity to be rational about this) out of the child’s presence so that they can supply a united, supportive front for him when they discuss it with him. The language and thoughts of adults can be very confusing and even hurtful to a 10 year old…because they have no basis for understanding them.
        A therapist specializing in family and child therapy, particularly in adoptive issues (although this is sibling rivalry with a twist…a lot of children who have been “only” for ten years when presented suddenly with a pregnant mom will react very similarly as in, “Well, I guess I wasn’t good enough”, or, “I must be a disappointment”, or even, “Ah! They’re replacing me!”) could probably not only help the boy work through his worries, but also give both sets of parents coping skills for the future. Parenting isn’t easy…it’s hard work and a constant process of educating one’s self and finding new solutions to new and interesting (as in the Chinese curse, “May you live in interesting times”) problems. Self-help books are generally full of crap, I’ve found, and don’t address those uniquely awkward situations like this one.
        Although adoption is a different situation…it is not the drama filled, so different thing too many people make of it. None of us get to pick our parents, and simply having one’s birth parents raise you doesn’t mean you picked that lucky long straw, or are any less confused about life. You may wonder just as much, if not more, what led your egg and sperm donors to ever conceive you, and why they didn’t just abort you, or give you up. This child has a wonderfully honest, loving group of people in his life…not some Gothic horror-show. I wish him, and them, well.

  7. avatar Maggie Tenser says:

    I own a very small dog.  I love her deeply.  She sleeps very happily in her own little bed next to mine.  Why?  Because it is my preference not have a dog sleep with me.  Being a dog-lover and sharing sleeping arrangements with your dog do not have to go hand in hand.

  8. avatar Cindy Marek says:

    L #1: I think you should consult a child specialist, as Margo suggests. And quickly. I can see how this would mess with Ethan’s mind: Why did my biological parents give me up but they’re going to have/keep this baby? He’s too young to understand his parents as teenagers weren’t ready nor prepared; they’ve grown and matured since and circumstances are entirely different. A 10 year old can’t comprehend such life changes. Since everyone’s been entirely open and honest, yes — a specialist needs to be in the picture.
    L #2: No, I don’t believe you’re wrong. Your wife took marriage vows to you, not to those dogs. She seems silly to me, on this count.

  9. avatar Jrz Wrld says:

    With LW1, the kid is 10. Get him to a child therapist to work this one out – it’s a complicated situation. You’ve handled a complicated situations very well it seems, but an outside assist looks like it would be the best solution here.
    With LW2, I can’t help but wonder if the wife may have anxiety at night. I sleep with my dogs and my cat in the bed. If I have one of my crazy nightmares or anxiety issues at night, I can reach over without fear and wake up one of my pets, who don’t mind at all, and instinctively know that I am distressed. People have more issues with that. I can deal with my animals sleeping elsewhere just fine, but for someone who has a more severe sleep issue/anxiety issue, their presence could be vital.

  10. avatar Sazerac says:

    It’s rather late now, but the best option would have been to let “Ethan” know he was adopted–perhaps even let him know who his birth parents were, but not to let them become as intimately involved in his life as they have been. Adoption is just that–the child “becomes” yours and in no way should be considered a part of his or her biological parents’ family. In allowing “Ethan” to become intimately involved with “Anna” and “Kyle”, he has been set up for a mountain of confusion and heartbreak; the first of which has just happened with the advent of their second child.  It won’t be the last, either.  That confusion and heartbreak will follow him through life and affect his deepest relationships if it is not addressed.  The OP and spouse need to get Ethan to counseling, and based on the counselo’rs recommendations, take whatever steps they deem necessary with regards to “Anna” and “Kyle on how much interaction they need to have with “Ethan” moving forward.

    • avatar AdoptAuthor says:

      I am sure he knows he is adopted and knows they are his birthparents. His relationship to them is LIKE that of aunt and uncle. That doesn’t mean he was lied to! No one has an open adoption and lies about it!
      Really – people who know nothin about adoption ought to just keep out of this discussion!

      • avatar Briana Baran says:

        I thought the LW made it abundantly clear that her son knew that his “aunt and uncle” were his birth parents, but that the LW and her husband had adopted him, and were his familial parents (as in those who were raising and providing for him). Sometimes people get a little excited and don’t read the letters very…mmm…carefully.
        I’ve had several adopted very good friends in my life…and none of them, throughout their lives, made the tremendous issues out of being adopted that seem to be the norm currently. Two of them sought out their birth parents…one said it was the biggest mistake she ever made, one is on passable terms with her biological mother. The other woman had no interest whatsoever (and she is much younger than I), because her mom and dad are the beautiful people who loved and raised her. They never cared if she searched…but it wasn’t a matter of interest to her.
        I, on the other hand, used to fervently hope that I was adopted when I was a child. I’d have taken the Marquis de Sade, or Lucretia Borgia, or Lizzie Borden…o, just about anyone for a parental unit instead of my mother. Now that she’s 79, my desire to pitch her in her farm pond and wait patiently to see if she will float (proof that she’s a witch…I know the nose isn’t false, and that she weighs less than a duck) has waned, and we are on passable terms because I may soon need to care for her, as I truly am the only sensible child she has.

        • avatar ish tate says:

          Kudo to you for your sanity, and A+ for the Monthy Python references.

          • avatar Briana Baran says:

            Well, she once turned me into a newt…so this was long after I got better.
            Thanks, you made my day.

  11. avatar MSLLL62 says:

    LW#1. You need to tell this young boy that his real parents loved him enough to give him a good home. They didnt’ abandon him. They visit him often. They love him very much. Explain to him that if he had a baby right now he couldnt take care of it any more than they could. Explain just how lucky he is to have everyone that loves him. Now he will be even more lucky to have a baby brother to play with. That they biological parents love him and you the adoptive parents love him. Also explain to him what an important job he has at being a big brother. Explain to them that all four of you will love both of them. Try to be involved with this second child by inviting him to stay over as he grows. Explain to him that he is luckier that most kids. Most kids have one set of parents that love him. He has two. How lucky can that be? I do agree if there is more distance between the biological parents and him he will feel even more abandoned. You could also explain that most kids that are adopted never get to know who their real parents are. That everyone made sure that he did so he knew he was loved.

  12. avatar Lila says:

    I don’t think young “Ethan” is confused.  He knows exactly what is going on, he’s just jealous and insecure that he is apparently not going to be “number one” with his birth parents any more.
    I’m with Chris:  it’s more like an eldest child feeling “displaced” by the arrival of a new baby, but it’s compounded by the question of “Well, then, why didn’t they keep me?”  Both sets of parents are doing exactly the right thing by explaining that ten years ago, the birth parents weren’t ready to take care of a baby.  Maybe they could flesh out the explanation by asking Ethan to imagine all of the money, time, and responsibility that goes into rearing a baby.  Be specific about having a steady job, an education, a decent salary.  When young people are first starting out, they often don’t have those things.  Ask him if HE is ready to be a Dad.  Get him thinking about what it means to be “ready” in practical terms, not emotional ones.  Gradually he will grasp the situation.
    I also agree that it would be better to involve him MORE with his birth parents, not less, and encourage him to have a brotherly relationship with his new sibling.

    • avatar Cady McCowin says:

      I think asking him if HE is ready to be a dad is a really good suggestion. He’s old enough that he can start practicing empathy and putting himself in other peoples’ shoes. Of course he’s going to have some trouble with it — any kid who’s been an only child for 10 years is going to find his world is rapidly changing when his parents have a baby, and he does have the extra adoption angle to deal with. And he will deal with it, but it’ll take time. He’s also coming up on that age when he stops being sweet and cute all the time and starts rebelling against and getting angry with his parents, so it’s not surprising that a simple explanation has thus far failed to ease his discomfort. Unless he turns out to be the world’s sweetest teen, his parents may look back on this as one of the easier issues they had to deal with as he approached and navigated adolescence!

    • avatar HappyMommy says:

      You have hit the nail on the head!
      My ten-year-old, only, open-adopted daughter makes no secret that she loves being the center of attention and has frequently stated we are not to adopt more babies. She has no desire to share us. I’m sure if her birth Mom were to become pregnant, DD would dream all sorts of histrionics about why its a burden she cannot possibly bear. Note – although my daughter’s manipulative stories are not always false, but they can be slanted suspiciously toward my guilty side (which she knows well).
      10-year-olds are darn smart. When you’ve been doted on by four adults, of course an interloper is not welcome. It will take a calm, united front among all the parents to 1) assure son that he is loved as much as ever, 2) life with a baby is different, and he will be very important in helping to raise it, 3) check out if the question about being placed for adoption is legitimate, 4) provide guidance in his place in the new family structure. Adults can make such a huge difference here!
      As an aside, my niece – the first grand baby and a doted on child – was deeply furious when my daughter arrived and stole some of her attention. She has been mean and spiteful to DD to this day. It had nothing to do with adoption, everything to do with jealousy.

  13. avatar elaine s says:

    For LW #2,  I had an Australian Cattle Dog, now deceased, who was one of the dearest friends I have ever had.  He always slept with me.  I acquired a husband, who, during an amourous moment,  edged the dog out of the bed, on the very first night he spent with me.  I got up a little later and found the dog, who had left the house through his dog door.  He was sitting in the backyard, heartbroken.  I hugged him and asked him to come back in.  He did, but he let me know I had made a serious error in judgement.

    The husband ran home to his mother everytime the going got rough in our brief marriage.  We were marred 5 years, and he spent over half that time with Mama.  This man was in his late 50’s at the time.  He was also chronically unemployed, a hypochondriac, not great in bed, and a bore.  The dog was right!  LW #2 better watch out because his wife may well conclude the dogs are much better friends and companions than he is.

    • avatar stateoflove_N_Trust says:

      I am not sure what the point of this anecdote was.  Are you suggesting that the husband is the problem because you chose poorly for a partner?  Additionally, why wouldn’t someone kick a dog out of bed during sex?  Allowing them to stay, especially in light of their nosiness (literally) is just weird.

      • avatar ish tate says:

        I agree stateoflove_N_Trust. I just couldn’t find a way to say it as nicely as you. Sometimes we trick the dog into going outside…

      • avatar elaine s says:

        I am suggesting the husband is a jerk for objecting to having the dogs in bed.  Sounds like they were there before he was, and if not, he needs to stop being so rigid.  I bet he is equally rigid in other areas too.   Your comments are very snarky. 

        • avatar ish tate says:

          First, nothing wrong with not wanting your dogs to sleep with you. Love my pooch, but don’t want him in my bed. Considering that he often wakes from a dead sleep barking, our sleeping arrangment work best for everyone involved. Nothing wrong with wanting them to sleep with you. It’s all about how that works for your bed and the folks in it.

          It sounds like he tried to try sleeping with the dogs, hence his statement that “I find them bothersome.” So she thinks they’re awesome in bed. He doesn’t and so he’s a jerk. Judgemental much?

          But, wait snarky? You describe your ex-husband as a boring, jobless, mama’s boy and then you’re offended because someone agreed with your assessment?

      • avatar elaine s says:

        And, as far as sex is concerned, there is no reason people can’t have discreet sex under the covers, so as to not offend the dog.  If the people are acrobats of some sort, then maybe they need to just shut the door until they are through, and then let the dog in to sleep.  My anecdote was meant as semi-humorous, although I do think the husband is probably a rigid jerk.  It wasn’t necessary for you to hurt my feelings by pointing out that I chose poorly for a partner.  I know that, but you don’t know me and didn’t need to rub it in.  Hope it made your day. 

        • avatar emma manderson says:

          “…so as not to offend the dog”. Hahaha! It’s none of the dog’s business whether a couple want to have sex with each other or not. You are, I think, a bit unusual in your assessment of the situation. The vast majority of people in happy relationships think their spouse should have priority. The couple in letter number 2 need to examine their relationship, because the wife is not happy.

        • avatar jayHG says:

          elaine, you’re kidding, right?  “…discreet sex under the covers to as not to offend the dog”!!!!!!!!!!!!!”  And how, pray tell, would you know the dog is offended?  Would the god go out in the back yard and pout like yours did and you dog whispered so you KNEW he was pouting because your mama’s boy of a husband kicked him out of bed???? 

          In my house, in my bed, with my husband, I don’t have to have discreet sex…….I can have any kind of sex I want and the dog will just have to understand. 

          I love dogs, but won’t sleep with one with my husband…….or without my husband, for that matter.  I like my bed without a pet in it.  NOTHING IS WRONG WITH THIS.  You like your bed WITH a pet, but you seem to think that if someone wants the dog out of the bed, something is wrong with that.  That’s crazy.

          And finally, please tell me that an anonymous poster on a blog does not actually hurt your feelings…………

      • avatar John Lee says:

        I think the point of the anecdote was that she should have married the dog instead of her ex-husband.

        • avatar elaine s says:

          Yes, John Lee, that is part of the point. The first two peple who responded to my post haven’t got much of a sense of humor.  However,  I still maintain the LW’s husband is lacking as a human being if he doesn’t understand how much her being near the dogs as they sleep means to her.  It is a great comfort.  He seems to have dismissed this because he finds them “bothersome”.  This doesn’t sound like a person who has tried hard enough to be giving and understanding, and that is needed for a good marriage.  I realize my opinion is in the minority here, but it is still a valid opinion. 

          • avatar John Lee says:

            I’m glad you have a sense of humor as well. 🙂

          • avatar Briana Baran says:

            There is no possible way to tell from L#2 when the LW’s wife acquired her dogs. None. I also find it difficult to extrapolate quite as far as you have and label LW2 a rigid jerk in other marital concerns because he doesn’t like to sleep in the same bed with his wife and her “beloved dogs”. You state that a marriage is about giving and understanding. Too true. Marriage is about respect, honesty, communication…and compromise. He has been honest, apparently, in telling her that he doesn’t like sleeping with the dogs in the bed. She apparently will have it no other way…and that thing about giving and understanding works both ways. She can’t compromise by having the dogs sleep next to the bed in a raised dog bed?
            Also, the point of marriage is to join as partners with another person. I love animals, and my husband is my husband, whom I love dearly. No one and nothing gets between us (and don’t reach and say, “What about children?” because my love for my children is an entirely different but equally fierce and beautiful thing). Where is her respect and love for, and commitment to her husband? Why is she favoring the dogs over him, or taking comfort from them rather than from him? That is generally referred to as displacement of affection. Personally, I love having my kitties in the bed with us, they are a comfort. But my joy is in gazing on my partner as he sleeps peacefully beside me, and I wouldn’t relinquish that for anything. But LW2’s wife has clearly replaced him in her affections with her dogs. And she isn’t being respectful, or honest…because all she will give him is an ultimatum…the dogs sleep with us…or you sleep alone.
            So I question who isn’t being giving, or forthcoming, and who has shut whom out of the relationship. As for having “…discreet sex under the covers so as not to offend the dog…” never accuse me of not having a sense of humor, because I blew my tea right through my nose, and had to avert my face from my laptop to prevent irreversibly damaging it from helpless laughter. Offend the dog? O, my o my, I do believe I’ve heard everything, and I can only dearly hope you were being humorous. O, me o my, wouldn’t want to upset Rover’s sensitive feelings…though I’d be much more inclined to worry about his sensitive nose telling him it was time to join the party. Also, we are most definitely not acrobats, but I promise you we do upset the bedclothes…and, as I said, we prefer our privacy without the invasion of critters, four-legged and otherwise.
            Your first comment did not come across as especially humorous, but rather odd, and as a put down of men in general in anecdotal form. And your humorous side seemed to be a bit strained when people did not reply positively. I might also say that you don’t seem at all objective on the subject of men as partners versus dogs as companions, and that, based on your own anecdote, you may be projecting just a wee bit here. And that’s from someone who has had to animal hating ex-husbands.

          • avatar amw says:

            As usual, well said Briana! You save me so much typing! 😉

          • avatar Lunita says:

            Agreed and well said. I also found the all of the comments (about “offending” the dog and the original anecdote) odd and the replies non-snarky. Elaine, you are entitled to your own opinions but you should be aware that most people will find the suggestion that dogs can be “offended” by sex unusual, and the suggestion that people have “discreet” sex to accomodate their dogs odd.

            I like dogs. I’ve grown up with dogs. I realize there are some dog owners who let their dogs lay on furniture, sleep in their beds, etc. But I am not one of those people. I own a relatively small (25 pounds) dog who lives inside with me. Initially I allowed her on the furniture, but stopped allowing it because of her hair, which got all over and also because I read that in order to remain an authority figure with your dog, you really shouldn’t allow it to be on your “level” so to speak. So now my dog stays on her bed, on the floor. The book that advised against having dogs on furniture and especially on beds stated a case similar to the one Briana described below . In the example I read about, a man’s female Husky did not allow his girlfriend to sleep in bed with him, to the point where the poor girlfriend had to sleep on the floor until the profesional dog trainers came in and re-trained everyone (dogs and owners)! This type of situation is ludicrous.

            I agree that there is something amiss (and more to this issue than there seems) in the woman choosing to sleep with her dogs rather than with her husband. Whether this is due to anger at him, anxiety, or something else, who knows since the letter isn’t detailed enough to tell.

            But I disagree with you elaine that the husband might be deficient in some way, uncaring, or hasn’t tried hard enough just because he doesn’t want to accomodate the dogs in bed. To me, dogs in beds are bothersome. Some are hairy, some are large, many have that “doggy” smell, the list goes on. I would never allow my dog to sleep with me, and I certainly don’t want her staring at me while my boyfriend and I are having intimate moments. How uncomfortable! In fact, one time my boyfriend did mention afterward that my dog had licked his foot (a la Briana’s story below) and that it was weird. I don’t blame him for feeling that way. If necessary now, I put her in the kitchen to keep her out of the way.

          • avatar jayHG says:

            Briana………..VERY well said!!!!!!  Elaine was definitely projecting.  And I can’t even see how it’s possible she can type with the about of clothese she has to wear…….her skin being so thin and all.

      • avatar Briana Baran says:

        In the winter, sometimes we have 10 of our dozen felines on the bed. We are completely comfortable with their furry presences (except when someone decides to yark up a hairball)…but not during intimate encounters. Nothing like a paw, or a cold, wet nose, probing into very personal bits at unfortunately ill-timed moments to put a damper on things (which has occurred when we’ve either missed putting one out…or been, ahem, spontaneous). But even more disturbing is the stare of glowing kitty eyeballs in the semi-darkness. No thanks.
        But we are cat people. Yes, we keep a very clean house, with rules regarding felines, cleanliness, and certain restrictions…but it is designed with cats in mind (no carpet, tile floors, no cloth upholstered furniture, a powerful vacuum with HEPA filter and anti-allergen bags, regular floor washing, 15 very discreet and very maintained litter boxes and a policy regarding guests that keeps both critters and visitors happy and content). We are in agreement. If my husband did not want the cats on the bed…they would not be there, and the reverse would be true as well, if I did not care for their presence.
        I have slept with medium sized dogs in the bed, and I did not enjoy the experience. Yes, I do like dogs, very much (we don’t have one right now because it would disturb a few of the cats and probably cause mayhem in the house). Dogs move…a lot. They smell a great deal more than cats, and when they enter or exit the bed, it causes a much greater disturbance. If they get a drink of water and return, they inevitably slobber…on you or your pillow. They leave more of a distinct odor on fabric. And they often demand a lot more attention than cats do (we only have one actual pestilential cat, and she’s only that way when her very small and defective brain malfunctions occasionally), nosing, wiggling and whining. And…emitting flatus (see? I was polite). Thank you, but no. Most dog owners I know have some sort of pet bed in the room for their canine critters (with one exception, who has no spouse, 19 cats, and 7 dogs, most of which sleep on her bed. I love her dearly…but that is beyond the beyond).
        I think in the case of LW2 getting to a counselor might be a good start…but also that the wife may well insist that there is no problem…as long as he will allow the pooches to sleep with them. Will she want cold, rubbery noses nuzzling her naughty bits during play-time? I am willing to bet that would put a damper on things for him, and perhaps she knows that (I did say perhaps…but something is wrong when she won’t sleep with him unless she has the canines handy…and she knows he dislikes having them in the bed…which gives her an excuse not to sleep with him). Also, even neutered male dogs, and certain female dogs as well, become, well, aroused when their people are having sex (pheromones are a reality) and will attempt to join in the festivities…or, alternatively, and much less amusing, become very aggressive.
        Not a good situation. And I agree, it’s weird to let your animal friends hang out in the bed all of the time when you’re having sex. If it happens because of uncontrollable, crazed-weasel horniness…it can be really funny to look up in a post-coital daze and find them staring at you with that, “Can I has chezburger now plz?” look. Or try it in a stable full of horses (or don’t…hay, straw and shavings itch, and have spiders in them), and discover them looking moonily at you afterward. You’ll feel oddly guilty for weeks.  Animals are worse than kids. At least I remember to lock the door when they’re around.

        • avatar Rosemary Celeste says:

          Exception to the rule of beloved pets in the bedroom:  No parrots! The new second-hand (rescue) very smart little parrot  who had taken me as his new “parrot-wife” had to be taken out of the bedroom when he joined in with the audible night-noise vocalizations of lovemaking and we began laughing so hard that we could not continue. ( we were howling and about falling off of the bed  at that point it was so funny) So… we sweetly chattered with him as we took him and his cage out into the living room, tucking him in with a nice cover over his cage for the night.  Then  we went back to catch back up  with that well-known phrase: “Now where were we…?”  That particular  BF has long  since left, but the parrot and I remain truly in love. ; ) Best “husband” I ever had: always says he  loves me, readily gives kisses, steadfastly loyal and calls me “pretty bird” when he is seeking me. Oh, and he preens my hair too. LOL

        • avatar jayHG says:

          Briana, did you notice that Elaine was all but advocating sneaking and having sex, hence the suggestion to do it “under the covers” “so as not to offend the dog”??

          That was just wierd.

      • avatar Rosemary Celeste says:

        What a sweeping generalization! My dogs (smaller) lay quietly asleep on the end of the bed, used to the sounds/gestures of the humans making love. King sz bed of course. In years past, the cats lay quietly asleep on the end of the bed, sleeping through it all. One small dog was very concenred with one new BF and came up to *stare* at him for a minute  til I reassured the dog to go back to foot of bed and lay down. And you know? The dog was  eventualy found to be right, as in him saying to me “What are you thinking, being with this guy?!!” 

        • avatar Briana Baran says:

          What “sweeping generalization”? O, pardon me, I should have said “…can become aroused…”. That way it wouldn’t have been seen to have applied to every dog, and I wouldn’t have been accused of making generalizations.
          However, I am speaking from a lot of experience, and as an animal lover. I have never been in a situation that involved a man, myself, sex, and a dog that did not also give rise to canine curiosity of one sort or another. I have even been chased out of bed by an overly jealous bitch. We have had some of our cats for 15 years…and they still become exceptionally nosy when their people become…active, as they believe that, since the people are awake…it is time for “pet the cat”. They are very peaceful when we sleep. And we do have a king sized bed.
          I do believe your furry friends might well be the exception to the rule, in view of not just my own checkered past (and quite monogamous but very active present), but that of many animal loving friends of mine.

  14. avatar Mrs. Doolittle says:

    I have a son who we adopted at birth.  He is now a pre-teen.  Keeping loving, caring birthparents in the relationship is not the evil thing people tend to fear.  While ours are not actively involved we love them dearly.  We also have several friends who have birthparents with whom they are in contact on a regular basis.

    The question of “Why didn’t they love me enough” will occur whether they have a baby in the picture or not.  We have discussed with our son frequently how there were other children on both sides before he was born and there are more children since.  He understands that sometimes people are in a bad place and unable to care for a baby at the time.  He also understands that it takes a tremendous amount of love and courage to voluntarily hand your child to another and trust that they will love and care for him forever.  The most important thing in this relationship is to keep the lines of communication open, to answer every question to the best of your ability and to admit when you don’t have an answer.  Then to reaffirm your unconditional, forever love for your child.  I frequently tell my son that he saved me.  That without him I would have been lost and forever sad and that he was the very best thing that ever happened to me.  Adoption is easy for some, hard for others, but there are no hard and fast rules and love is the glue that binds it all together.

    If the LW’s son has issues it may help to get him some books on the subject.  There are support groups on the web for adoptive parents with lots of other parents who can offer a wealth of information and help in this situation, since they have all been thru it before.  I would suggest surfing until you find a group you are comfortable with and then asking for help.

    • avatar Rosemary Celeste says:

      Your post is beautiful and brought tears to my eyes. What a great mama you are!!

    • avatar Lym BO says:

      Mrs. Doolittle,
      Love your post.  You sound very wise. How did you bring up the sibs? We have adopted twins (internationally)  who are 8 & two surprise bios. The issue of the birthparents having sibs has never come up. They know they are adopted.  I was waiting for them to ask about sibs, but they haven’t & it seems like it is getting rather late to spring it on them. I was told the birthparents kept the first three kids & couldn’t afford more. Not sure if this is true or not (that they kept them). I do know that her medical record said they were her fourth pregnancy at the age of 26. Any advice?

  15. avatar Messy ONE says:

    Here’s an answer to the adopted kid’s question that’s worked for generations: “Your birth mother did love you. She couldn’t take care of you, so gave you to us so that we could love you and take care of you.”
    That’s all it takes. I’m surprised anyone would make a massive deal out of this. Remember that the adults are the ones who set the tone in a child’s life. If the parents freak out about something, of COURSE the child is going to be upset. All it takes to solve that problem is to deal with these things in a matter-of-fact way with no drama.

    • avatar AdoptAuthor says:

      Most adopted kids ARE told that. It doesn’t help heal the gnawing pain of having been “rejected.”
      Your advise is akin to telling someone who’s love done died: people die! get over it!

      • avatar Messy ONE says:

        Oh what utter nonsense! If what you say is true, the streets should be littered with the bodies of adoptees that just couldn’t take it any more. But look! They aren’t! I hate to break it to you, but I know quite a few adoptees and I have to tell you they’re just…people. A pretty ordinary bunch, actually. They don’t live in perpetual drama and hysteria. They have families, some have kids, some don’t. They have lives, they live them. Simple.
        If what you say is true, every person whose parents were nasty, mean or just plain weird should be screaming in the streets, too, because clearly, humanity as a whole can’t take the slightest hint of stress or strife. Why, anyone who’s ever had any kind of trauma, be it something like Gran dying, the goldfish taking the spiral swim, or even broke a toe should be candidates for mental hospitals because that’s just how fragile we all are!
        You know what? Sometimes it DOES make more sense to tell yourself to get the heck over something than in is to force yourself (I assume that’s what you’re promoting) to eternally navel-gaze and hunt for someone to blame for every little blip life takes. So some kids are adopted. So what? Adoption has been going on for at least 2000 years. This is nothing new.
        A whole LOT of things in life are candidates for sucking it up and moving on. Humans can’t stand still if for no other reason than they can’t afford to. People die. Friends die. People betray other people. People get fired. What are they supposed to do? There is ALWAYS a period when these things are devastating. That’s the way humans are built. Humans are NOT built to sag about moaning and whining. If they were, the species would have died out within a couple of generations.
        Whether or not someone is adopted is something that they have no control over. Each has to deal with the information in their own, personal way. They don’t need someone to tell them how to feel. Sane strategies for dealing with adoption are what we need, not the endless moaning and gnashing of teeth that you seem to think every single adoptee in the history of the planet is obligated to indulge in.

  16. avatar Kathy says:

    We had a biological child and an adopted child; my sister was adopted, I was not; my husband’s father was adopted.  So, I have some experience.  Adoption complicates family relationships.  It just does.  And trying to incorporate another family in the mix further complicates it.  If this happily married couple have been visiting for years, I’m surprised it took Ethan this long to wonder why the heck they gave him up.  I suspect that this open adoption has been much more stressful than mom and dad are acknowledging.  If they encourage Ethan to be more emotionally attached to his bio family through his new sibling, look out.  He’ll hit puberty, become a typical teenager and the first time his parents draw the line, it will be “Fine, I’m going to live with my real mom and dad!”  And it won’t be an empty threat because by then, he’ll have the means to do it.  It’s time for the bio family to ease out of the picture until Ethan is well into his teens and can figure it all out. 

  17. avatar AdoptAuthor says:

    Re “Ethan”
    This is far more than sibling rivalry. For no other siblings does a new baby brings us wondering why they weren’t kept! This is a whole different ball game. it is much deeper than jealousy over attention. It cuts deep into the heart of every adoptee: why was I given away!  Logic doesn’t cut it – especially not to a ten year old. They were “not ready” ten years ago, but are now?!  P-L-EEZE!!
    This is just one of many pitfalls of open adoption. That is not to say that secrets adoptions are better, it is just to recognize that open ones are no panacea for all that is inherently WRONG, painful and difficult about adoption.
    It’s kinda like decades ago when a newborn does at birth, they whisked them away without letting the mother see it. Then it was decides that mothers – and fathers – got more closure seeing and even holding their deceased child. Did it eliminate the pain of having lost a child? Of course not! But it is better than the old way.
    You need to view open adoption through this lens. in some ways it is harder on chidlren. Children like Ethan are dealing with things that adoptees in the era of closed adoptions did not have to deal with until adulthood. This is not easy stuff at any age and harder still for a child.
    Assure him how much he is loved and wanted by jis adoptive parents who were always there for him sicne he was born and always will be. Encourage him to talk and to vent anger, sadness, greif and loss. He has a right to be VERY ANGRY!  Validate his right to all his feeling. Let him know you understand and that you want to be there for him.
    When he’s a little older, you might have him view MTV’s 16 and pregnant to see the difficulties young mothers go through and their pain in making the choice they do.
    Even without a new baby, it is hard for youngster in open adoption to understand why a mother who is capable enough to visit couldn’t keep them. or to deal with knowing it was her “choice” to continue her education over parenting them. It was easier in the past, when adoptees were assured their mothers were simply not allowed to keep them; were forced by social mores that did not allow pregnant teens to continue to school, to relinquish. A choice to do so is hard to swallow when you are that choice. It all adds to the difficulty of adoptive parenting, and to the pain for the relinquishing mother when she sees this effect on her child….all in additon ot the pain of the child.
    Adoption is a loss and like all losses it is painful and difficult. Honesty is better than secrecy but it does not erase the pain.
    Mirah Riben, author, THE STORK MARKET: America’s Multi-Billion Dollar Unregulated Adoption Industry

    • avatar Messy ONE says:

      Wow, well I can see your agenda, aside from selling books, that is. Copping free advertising like this is really not considered kosher on online forums, you know.
      However… Why would you assume that all adoptees spend their lives in horror and misery, mourning their birth parents for eternity? Why would you assume that all adoptees are filled with rage? If that’s your personal experience, then I have to tell you that old cliche, “the plural of anecdote is not evidence”!
      Both of my siblings were adopted. I was not, but that’s another story. Neither of them had a particular issue with the fact of being adopted. Ever. Still don’t. Why? Well, as anyone who has been around kids will tell you, it’s the PARENT’S reaction that governs how kids feel about various issues. If the parents don’t harp on it, if the kid knows from the beginning that he’s adopted, then I’ve never seen that become a problem.
      Parents that don’t bother to tell their kids where they came from until they’re adults are the ones that are begging for trouble. That is a recipe for disaster. Still, their anger tends to be not at their birth parents, but to their REAL parents, the ones who adopted them. Even this is not an insurmountable problem if it’s handled in a healthy, non-hysterical way.

      • avatar Lori A says:

        curious how you know for sure what your adopted siblings are feeling? And ALL the parents are real.

        • avatar Messy ONE says:

          Believe me, we all knew. The family is nothing if not vocal. It really didn’t come up. At all. There were a couple of conversations with my mother about the circumstances around the adoption, but all we knew was in the adoption records (this was the mid-60s). There were no questions after that, and Mom DID give both of them records that they could have used to track down their birth mothers. They chose not to do that.
          I know for a fact that my brother DOES NOT consider the kid that gave birth to him (she was 17) to be his mother. He’s said so on many occasions – he considers his parents to be the people who adopted him. So does my sister.

    • avatar Lori A says:

      Cutting the first parents out of Ethans life right now is telling him that when he gets upset what ever is upsetting him will be removed. Talk to an adoption specialist. Without understanding adoption issues your money will be spent unwisely.  ALL parents are real in different ways. No exceptions.  I hope these parents don’t listen to some of these comments on what should have been done long ago in regard to this childs relationships. He is other wise happy, healthy, and very normal. You did something right, and I’m thinking it was letting him have all of his family.

    • avatar Briana Baran says:

      Ah, well, now your agenda is crystal clear. I truly despise those who come to this, or any site, to promote their product. It is very offensive.
      As to all of this angst and drama, I see no point in encouraging anger, or even rage, angst, dramatics, resentment and grief and loss in an adopted child. As I said previously, none of us get to choose our parents, and why an adopted child should have to necessarily feel rejected by his birth parents when he was personally chosen by loving people to be their own is beyond me. I can understand wondering at the circumstances of one’s birth if one was adopted…but insisting that a person who is adopted has the right to feel rejected by his parents is outrageous. Giving up an infant for adoption is often the single most agonizing and selfless choice a parent must make in her (and sometimes his) entire life.
      And suggesting that parents who were once in no position to raise a child, ten years in the past, could not possibly be in a position to raise a child in the present is judgmental and poisonous. They clearly made an error in judgment and responsibility by conceiving a child when they were in no way prepared to raise him…but, in giving him up for adoption, they gave him his best chance at success, given their own uncertain futures. Now, ten years later, they have matured, developed as people, know their own minds and hearts much better, developed a sense of responsibility, married, and feel capable of the task of raising a child together. You, Mirah, are in no position to judge their current level of competency, especially with your obvious agenda and prejudices, nor are you qualified as the reader of a short letter to condemn their choices. Both the birth parents and the adoptive parents sound like very deeply caring people, ready to do what it takes to help Ethan. There have been some excellent suggestions as to how to ease his way during this transitional period of his life by reflecting on the love that surrounds him, the joy of being a big brother, and the idea of change being a positive force in life. Yours, advising his mother of his right to rage, feelings of rejection and fury, and grief, are all negative reinforcers that may well set him on the path to allowing himself to rage at any uncomfortable changes that occur in his life. That’s the way to set him up to fail as a decent human being, but succeed splendidly as a victim.

  18. avatar Ann Hipson says:

    My career was in child welfare and child protection.  This sounds like a very successful open adoption.
    A story from a national adoptions specialist, a psychologist:  He was working with an adopted boy, around 10, who was increasingly unhappy about his mother having released him for adoption.  He was seeing it as a fundamental rejection by his first parent and he was becoming very angry and disruptive with his adoptive parents who had had him since infancy and who adored him.  The psychologist talked to him and explained, as his adoptive parents had explained since he was very little, that his birth mother had loved him very much but that she was very young and had no way to take care of him and she loved him enough to let him go to other parents who loved him and who could take care of him.  The boy looked him straight in the eye and exploded “She could have gone on welfare and kept me!”.  The kid was right, she could have.  The psychologist was speechless.  The mother had made what she thought was the best decision for both herself and her child.  It was not a totally disinterested decision with only her child in mind.
    The adoptions specialist said that this changed his whole way of looking at the grief that (some, not all) adoptive children feel about being “given up” by their birth parents.  The parents had a choice and they moved forward without their child.
    Now, this choice almost always is the best choice for both the child and the parents, but it is still a very fundamental rejection.
    For the boy in the letter, his relationship with his birth parents (which is good) is suddenly changed by the fact that they are having another child whom they will keep.  Beyond the usual issues of sibling rivalry which are obviously there, there is the issue that they have decided to keep another child, not him.  No matter how much he loves his adoptive parents and knows that they love him, and that he really cares about his birth parents as extended family not as parents, this hurts.
    This is a complicated situation having to do with grief, anger, jealousy at a difficult age when he is developmentally beginning to separate from his real (and by real I mean the people who are raising him parents.  There is no quick and easy solution and if the boy’s feelings are not handled well, the parents are looking at problems from this point on.
    My strong recommendation–it’s time to involve a profession, preferably a child psychologist with extensive experience working with adoptive children and their issues.  If the parents contact the adoption agency, the agency should be happy to give them some referrals and may even be able to do some case management.

    • avatar AdultAdoptee says:

      I agree, except for the “real” parents thing.  All parents are real…unless there are fake ones?
      At any rate, people completely misunderstand why adoptees are upset about being “given up.”  The simplistic answers “she couldn’t care for you and….” stop making sense at certain stages of development for many adoptees, as you’ve said.  For me, there has never been a logical answer to make how my heart feels go away.  I have simply had to come and accept it.  Period.

      • avatar Briana Baran says:

        AdultAdoptee: ” All parents are real…unless there are fake ones?”
        I think my parents might have been either pod people or replicants.
        But you make an excellent point. There are biological parents, step-parents, adoptive parents…all kinds of parents…but if they love, cherish, respect and care for you, they are still parents. I have trouble understanding the feelings of rejection that those who were adopted by loving, compassionate parents feel regarding those who gave them up (and am very curious as to what adoptees feel if they discover that their mother had no idea who the father was, or if the parents were never identified at all, or if they are dead). Perhaps this is because my mother rejected me at birth (but not my younger sisters) but kept me. I felt her disdain and loathing my entire young life, and well into adulthood. My father wasn’t much better. I am not having a pity party, or making this “about me”, but this may explain why I am so confused about people experiencing love and caring feeling so rejected, angry and even bitter.
        I feel empathy, but I am at a loss to understand, I confess. I always wished that someone kind would adopt me.

    • avatar AdultAdoptee says:

      (and accepting it has been my own decision to do so.  Too often people unempathetically shove things down our throats instead of, like you suggested, talking it out with a professional).

  19. avatar martina says:

    I think there’s more to LW#2’s wife sleeping in another bed because she wants to be with her dogs rather than her husband and I don’t think that he should be expected to have to sleep with the dogs.  I find sleeping with animals bothersome and could never understand how people do it but to each his own.  I would never get a good night’s rest with an animal in the bed.  When I was young I’d let the cat sleep with me but then I’d end up having to put her out of the room in the middle of the night because she wanted to wander and we sleep with the doors closed and so I stopped doing that.   I also wouldn’t want to have to worry about accidentally knocking Tilly, our 16 year old Pekinese, off of the bed – the husband kicks in his sleep – I don’t think she would survive that. I don’t mind lying on the couch with them but they need to stay out of my bed.  I’m not a fastidiously clean person but the thought of sleeping with a dog in the bed just turns me off.  I love our animals but they sleep on their own and don’t mind a bit.

  20. avatar Florafloraflora says:

    I haven’t read all the replies but I’m inclined to agree with many that LW#2’s wife is choosing the dogs over her spouse or making excuses not to sleep with him.  Note that there are dogs, plural.  My ex and I tried sharing our bed with a couple of small dogs at one point, but it was a nightmare.  After a couple of very uncomfortable nights the dogs moved to the floor beside the bed and everyone was much happier.  What the wife is asking LW2 to do is not really doable.  Either she’s really clueless and doesn’t realize that, or there’s more going on here.

  21. avatar Barbara says:

    LW#2 – the wife has chosen dogs over her husband.  big problem.  I’d suggest some counselling.  I believe animals belong on the floor.  I would never think of letting them on my bed.  ugh.  This is one of those items that should have been discovered and discussed before marriage or acquisition of the animals.  I know many let their pets sleep with them but just as many are firmly against (like me).  Those are not compatible positions.

  22. avatar Eileen Heath says:

    I concur this dog things sounds like a dodge. It’s odd with my dog. He gets up, stretches in his sleep – he’s 70 pounds of pitbull invading on a queen. Yet I wake up more alert in the mornings. I think I just have a better mood and I’ve jet to let him sleep consecutive nights. You can be tired and in a better mood.
    My husband just doesn’t like how Oscar tries to “fluff” his leg where he reset his head. teeth aren’t involved, thankfully. But either way: Dogs and Cats both squirm a lot more than humans in the bed.
    It’s basically unhealthy to not share a bed with your spouse unless the sleep quality is threatened. Get a big dog bed and let them stay in the room. (we’ll be doing this soon).

  23. avatar AdultAdoptee says:

    1 in 3 people are somehow directly connected to someone involved in an adoption.  Which still doesn’t mean they know about adoption, know what being adopted is like, or even really truly know the dilemmas their loved ones have faced as a result of being adopted.  Yet, people still feel they can speak for the adopted ones in their lives regardless.
    I don’t expect those who do not know what it is like to be adopted to empathize completely.  But let me tell you, most of my relatives would probably say “she’s fine, never has had a problem with being adopted, doesn’t talk about it” so on and so forth too.  Why?  Because I never did talk about it until recently.  It’s a phenomena of the adopted.  It just is how it is.  It does not mean we have no unique questions or struggles.  Adoption issues should never be dismissed because one thinks the adoptee they know has never had an “issue” with being adopted.
    As for the question, one needs to consider the normal developmental stages of children.  The thinking of children is magical, then literal.  Overly-simplistic, happy, adoption answers are suitable for children who do not yet have the ability to process more complicated thought and weigh paradoxes and things that conflict.  When a child develops the ability to think logically, these issues can present themselves.  “Why did they keep my brother and not me?”  Many adoptees, old and young, ask themselves this question.  It does not mean he is unhappy.  It means he is using his ability to work out a situation in his head where information conflicts.
    Lessening visits is not the answer.  He’s already upset that they are having a child they are keeping, what good is it to present a situation on top of it where they will be distancing themselves from him–which may present the issue that he will feel rejected by them.  Like it or not, adoption issues, as an adoptee grows in logic, knowledge, and gain life experience, will continue to present themselves throughout the lifespan.  Avoiding it, pretending it’s not there or creating distance from it does no good.  And at least the adoptee is talking about it; I processed many questions and concerns I had about being adopted on my own growing up because I was too afraid I would hurt someone’s feelings by telling them how I felt.
    I recommend the book “Being Adopted: the Lifelong Search for Self” by Brodzinsky, Schechter, and Henig.  It is a book that goes through the Psychosocial Stages of Development with two of the most knowledgeable adoption researchers out there, comparing development (e.g. Erikson’s psychosocial stages of development) to dilemmas an adopted person may face.  Erik Erikson, known as “The Father of Psychosocial Development,” whose work is regarded in college classrooms and by professionals everywhere, was an Adult Adoptee himself.
    The book goes over just a few of adoption paradoxes and helps those who are not adopted themselves understand why there is conflict.  Progressing past a simplistic, child-like, unquestioning view of adoption does not spell disaster.  It’s just part of growing up adopted.  I love my parents, I love my first family, but it does feel weird to have family members who were kept when I wasn’t.  It just is what it is.
    And I still am never able to understand why it’s necessary for first parents to be “aunt and uncle.”  A parent is able to love more than one child.  Cannot a child love more than one parent without having labels made up on their behalf that establish a hierarchy?  Shouldn’t the adoptee decide who is who, and know that they are free to do so, for themselves?

  24. avatar AdultAdoptee says:

    And Margo.  There are many, many benefits of open adoptions.  They are believed to eliminate or assuage many of the identity crises the closed adoption system has created for adoptees pre the openness era.   🙂  Of course, like you suggested, seeking an adoption-knowledgeable (not all professionals are) professional if trouble arises is always smart in any adoption, open or closed.

  25. avatar Jenbabs says:

    LW2 – While not your wife, I am on the other end of a similar tail. 🙂 My hubby always said he was totally fine with the dogs sleeping on the bed as long as they do not sleep on the same level of covers he does. They sleep under a blanket on top of the bed while we sleep under the sheets. This has been the norm for 9+ years. When we added a 3rd to our brood back in December (all small dogs) all of the sudden he did not want any dogs touching him while in the bed – the only dog that wants to sleep next to him is his dog. Then it was quickly no dogs in the bed whatsoever. Since I was still house training the new dog at the time it was simpler for the dogs and I to sleep out on the couch (wood and tile floors in these areas whereas there is carpet in the bedroom). The issue in our instance in my eyes was not the dogs and what we do with them, but him changing the playing field so that we have no way of knowing the rules of the game. In his eyes it was more cuddle time with me. We have since come to a compromise where I sleep next to him and the dogs on the other side of me. The new pup sleeps on top of the covers at the foot of the bed and all is good at least until summer.

  26. avatar Paula says:

    I never got the impression from the first letter that this boy is WANTING his birth parents to take him back, and my guess is that if any such thing were mentioned to him, he’d be horrified!  I seriously doubt he would want to leave his adoptive parents!

    He’s at a difficult age, where he can understand the legal and biological aspects of his situation, but is probably not yet mature enough to process the emotions.  Good idea to involve him as much as possible in the impending birth, and chances are he will be very excited when the new baby is born.  However, counseling sounds like an excellent choice, too, if he continues to have problems.

  27. avatar SAS-Can says:

    Kudos to the adoptive parents who have maintained the open relationship.  I have two adopted children and have done the same.  I would recommend that instead of backing off with the relationship, that you increase contact for a bit to make him feel a bit more secure in his relationships with his birth family.

  28. avatar Jean B says:

    LW1: No one should be surprised at this little boy’s feelings. Feeling that his birth parents like the new baby more than him are normal and should have been expected. He is confused and hurt. Kids have no concept of their parent’s lives before they came along. It’s not until we become parents ourselves that we fully understand that our parent’s lives did not start when we were born. He needs to see a professional, he also needs reassurance from his birth parents that they love him just as much as the new baby. It’s because they love him so much that they gave him up for adoption, they did what was best for him no matter how much pain it caused them, THAT is what he needs to be told, and it needs to come from the birth parents. Only he can decide if he “gets it” or not.
    LW2: When my boyfriend moved in with me I already had 3 cats who slept with me. He didn’t say a word about it until we moved from the 2 bedroom apartment to a 4 bedroom house. We set up one of the rooms just for the cats (litter boxes, food, water, toys, beds). It was then that he said it really bothered him to wake with cat hair all over his face (and in his eyes, and up his nose, and in his mouth…..) every morning and suggested we close them up in their room every evening. We also close our bedroom door during the day to keep them out of there and off the bed when not in their room. It took a while for them and me to adjust, it was hard not having my baby boy sleeping on my pillow when he had been doing it for over 10 years. But I have to say I do like not having all that animal hair in my bed. The dogs we have since adopted are another story, they are way too big. I will never have another animal in my bed.
    As for the wife of the letter writer, something more is going on. I also know this from experience. I loved my cats more than my now-ex. When he was not-so-nice to them, I would tell him that I would get rid of him before getting rid of the cats. It was a very mean thing to say but it was also true, and in the end that is just what happened. He is a mean-spirited person and I didn’t want to live with that anymore. So, the question the LW has to ask himself is how does he treat his wife? If the answer is positive then he needs to ask the next question, what is going on with her that she is not telling him? She might be willing to open up in a counselor’s office, but she might not. It can’t be forced. The final question is, just how much is he willing to put up with if she is not willing to change or even talk about it?

  29. avatar David Bolton says:

    What child doesn’t like to feel important? The birth parents should take the time to clearly explain to him that they needed help raising him, and that the entire group is a family, connected together because of him which makes him very special and unique. And now they need help raising the new baby, and they will need his help for that as well to make the baby feel loved and wanted.

  30. avatar Elaine says:

    I agree that “Ethan” might need some counseling to deal with this change in his life situation. He is, after all, closer to puberty than Mom & Dad might want to admit, and once those hormones kick in, they’d better fasten their seatbelts. But outside of that, his parents can gently explain to him about time, and how it changes things. He’s at an age where he can understand that a young couple can’t take care of a baby the way they can when they get into their 30s. They can remind Ethan that there were some things he couldn’t do just a few years earlier, and that there will be some things that come more easily once he’s in high school, then college, etc.  This is the reason why so many young people give up babies for adoption. If they want to get even more esoteric and philosophical, they can introduce the concept of destiny — him being “their” child was meant to be, and things happen for reasons we don’t always understand. There are plenty of ways to help him through this, and they should also be trying to keep the jolts to a minimum as much as possible.

  31. avatar impska says:

    LW1: It seems like a lot of people are suggesting to emphasize how lucky he is to be a big brother and how important that it, and I don’t understand that suggestion at all. He’s not really a big brother to this child and their age disparity will make it difficult for Ethan to see the baby as a positive thing. Babies are boring, they completely dominate adult attention, they receive nothing but praise for anything they do, he will not be able to play the baby, he is not equipped to care for the baby and the baby will completely take over his birth parents’ lives. Oh and if he sees the baby often, he’ll get a whole load of concrete examples of how his birth parents are able to care for a baby, so obviously it was his fault that they didn’t keep him. Why wouldn’t he be happy about that? He’s sooo lucky.
    It seems like they should actually minimize his contact with the baby. His birth parents should continue to visit him on the same schedule and they should NOT bring the baby. Visits that include the baby should be kept short and at Ethan’s request and they should be separate from the regular visits with his birth parents (preferably at a different location). Visits with the baby should be scheduled so that they end due to a commitment on Ethan’s part: dinner with grandma, soccer practice, etc; that way no visit with his birth parents ever ends because “the baby needs X.”
    If they bring the baby along to regular visits, the baby and its care will completely dominate what used to be Ethan’s time with his cadre of parents. Even his adoptive parents will be tempted to fawn over the infant, so that Ethan will be left with the idea that he really doesn’t matter to anyone and everyone loves the baby more than they love him. It seems better to avoid that. When the baby is older and has a personality and is able to engage with Ethan, he can view his sibling as an individual and perhaps develop a bond. He will also be older, and hopefully better equipped to deal with the emotions involved with seeing his birth parents with the child they kept.

  32. avatar Yooperjo says:

    Of all the suggestions here, David Bolton’s is by far the best.
    In all this discussion, I haven’t seen any reference to the similar situation faced by a great many adoptees from the closed era: reacting to a baby born to the adoptive parents subsequent to their adoptions. I’ve been involved in adoption reform for over thirty years, and have read countless accounts of adoptees who struggled with this situation. If they’d ‘had their druthers,’ they’d have been born to their adoptive parents, and as they deal with their adoptive status, along comes a baby born to their parents! It’s far more than a matter of sibling rivalry. It’s a matter of authenticity: this baby ‘belongs.’ I don’t.
    Adoptive parents who subsequently bear a child or children walk a tightrope, too. No matter how equally they treat all their children, the adopted child will often experience what he feels is favoritism. And when he sees how his ‘natural born’ sibling is being lovingly cared for by his mother, the rejection factor may intensify as he realizes his original mother didn’t lovingly cared for him like that. They can’t articulate these feelings, however, so their reaction is to act out. Adult adoptees in these situations have shared that they felt disconnected from both their adoptive families – who were all related by blood – and their birth families – who, they believe, ‘didn’t want’ them.
    I hope this family will seriously consider David Bolton’s suggestion.

  33. avatar crystalclear says:

    Letter #1:   This is a tough one.   Children at age 10 are usuailly sensitive as they approach puberty and hormonal changes.   This child needs to feel important and safe at all times so whatever it takes to accomplish this must be done.   Introducing the new baby to him as his brother needs to be done with enthusiasm so that the situation is one of pride for Ethan.  I also believe all of his questions need to be answered honestly. 

    Letter #2:   I believe some couples get into a rut.  It takes three days to break a cycle…time to start day one.

  34. avatar jayHG says:

    Margo has confused me.  The husband has “given it a try” and found it to be “bothersome.”  I mean, how would he know the dogs would be bothersome to him if he had NOT tried sleeping with them. 

    I always wonder about these people.  Did these dogs come into their lives AFTER they were married?  If so and the wife behaved this way, then I get it…….he didn’t know and had no way of knowing that she would choose these dogs over him, which is essentially what she had done. 

    If, however, she was this way about these dogs BEFORE they got married, then he’s on his own, because he knew this before, didn’t address it, made the usual mistake of thinking someone would change, and now he’s stuck with a wife who prefers dogs to her husband. 

    The husband should either call a marriage counsel or a lawyer.  This is not complicated.

  35. avatar Diagoras says:

    I wonder if the dogs have any emotional insecurities that make it difficult for them to sleep apart from the wife. We got our cat at a shelter (he had previously been abandoned and had some emotional difficulties at first) and he used to cry continuously when my husband would lock him out of the bedroom at night. In that particular apartment there was some reason why my husband wanted the door closed at night and we were worried about keeping the cat inside the door when his pan was outside. So I slept on the couch with the cat until we moved to a different place where keeping the bedroom door open wasn’t such a big deal. Of course, letting dogs sleep in the bed with you might be more difficult, especially if they are large dogs. But if there is some reason why the dogs don’t like to sleep without human company, maybe a dog trainer can help find a solution. (Like maybe training the dogs to sleep in a dog bed that is next to the couple’s bed.)