Secrets & Lies

Posted by on May 13, 2007

As I stand on the precipice of yet another Mother’s Day, I struggle with what direction I want to take in writing this post.

Do I write about my mom again and how I feel about Mother’s Day when she’s been gone for 27 years? I fear there’s not much new to say on that topic and I really hate to be redundant (except when discussing those trashy, skanky thong-clad dolls, of course) so maybe I’ll just link to last years Mother’s Day post and leave it up to you as to whether you want to read it.

Or I could skip the Mother’s Day thing altogether and write about how this past week my six year old has started to ask questions about my origins; questions that only have complicated answers that I’m not sure I can simplify for her. The truth is, I’ve grappled with how to discuss my personal and familial history for a long time. I just didn’t think she’d start probing into all of it so soon.

How do you explain to her that you have two sets of parents?

How do you explain that you didn’t even know you were adopted until you found out by accident at age 34 and that even though it turned your world inside out, certain things finally made sense?

How do you explain that during the nap times of her second year of life, you searched for and found the biological mother who gave you up and the biological father who may or may not have known you existed?

How does one explain that the tall man with the beard that she doesn’t quite remember meeting three years ago was her “biological” grandfather? Hell…how do you explain biological?

How do you explain that about 20 other people knew you were adopted and they ALL hid it from you? Like a conspiracy.

How do you explain that while your father had good intentions in not telling you the truth after your mom died, it still had life-altering implications for you?

How do you explain to her that you also forgave your father because given the same circumstances, you might have made the very same mistakes, but that you will always feel betrayed by him. By everyone.

How do you explain to her that you don’t keep any pictures of your mom out anymore and you don’t know why but sometimes you think that it might be because she was Asian and when you were a kid, you always got tired of explaining to tactless, nosy people that YES, she’s your mom but you just don’t look like her.

Will my daughter understand thinking about that reminds me of the lies and makes me feel foolish? Stupid? Embarrassed?

How do I explain to her that our little family is really all there is on my side; that the lady she calls Grandma isn’t even my mother; that she’s my step mother, my father’s widow.

Yes, baby, just like in Cinderella.

Except she isn’t wicked. She’s nice and brings lots of presents. But? Her actions make it fairly clear that while she refers to herself as my mother, those are just words. Lip service. It’s easy to see that she favors her biological children. I suppose I can’t blame her for that.

And thus, aside from my children, I am, for all intents and purposes, alone. Connected to nobody.

I have pleasant relationships with my biological parents. They’re nice people and it’s interesting to finally find my tribe, so to speak; the people who look like me and with whom I share many non-physical similarities, as well.

At the end of the day, though, I don’t refer to them as mom or dad or treat them like parents. I don’t know what you’d call what we have going but the fact is, I still feel orphaned. Rootless.

When other people are talking about the holidays with their extended families, I try to repress my envy. My four half-brothers don’t even know I exist.

When I read blog post after blog post about people’s mothers and their great relationships and how their mothers are their best friends, it’s just an unfortunate reminder of what I wish I had. But never will.

I try not to dwell on these things or give in to bitterness but it’s not always easy, particularly in the days leading up to the second Sunday in May.

Particularly when your daughter wants to know where you come from and you don’t have any simple answers because you don’t really know.

To those who made it this far, thanks for listening but please don’t pity me or tax yourself looking for the right words to comment. Just knowing that someone is listening and maybe understanding is a gift in itself.


On a much happier note, I plan to spend Mother’s Day morning eating breakfast with the people I love most in the world…my kids and huz.

Then, while they go visit my mother-in-law and deliver some gorgeous tulips, yours truly will be out shopping the day away sans kidlets, strollers, sippy cups, whining etc.

I plan to replace all those fug ass clothes that I put aside for the charity truck.

This is the first Mother’s Day that I’ve ever asked for the gift of a little down time but I think it’s going to become a tradition.

Wishing all the moms out there a wonderful Mother’s Day :)


  • mel says:

    I’m so sorry for all of the sadness that Mother’s Day brings up for you.
    Hooray for down time! Great idea. I am going to catch a few hours of that myself tomorrow. Hope you have a fabulous day. Happy Shopping!

  • Doodaddy says:

    How do you explain…

    Someday, when you know the time is right, or at least no more wrong than it will ever be… you take her hand, and you just begin. You speak your truth in words she’ll understand. You don’t hide your pain, or your confusion, though you show that you don’t dwell there. You show her that with the love and support of your children and husband, and your friends, and all your other well-wishers, you can still experience joy and love.

    I know… easier said than done…

  • margalit says:

    I remember last year talking about this, how it feels so weird not to have a mom even when I do have a mom, and how lonely and lost it feels to honor someone who isn’t in my life. It’s confusing and depressing and downright hard. I get very morose and sad even though it’s supposed to be MY Day! It doesn’t feel that way at all.

    I’ve always been honest with my kids about my family and how nutty it is. They know what it was like for me as a kid abandoned by her parents. They know how sad and screwed up it makes me at times. They understand so much more than you know. Talk about it. Tell the truth. Layer it for your kids ages, and keep adding to the story as they are able to handle more. They can handle it, really they can!

  • CG says:

    I hope you have a great day.

    You will build your own traditions and memories with your little family that your children will be able to reminisce about when they are grown.

  • Kristen says:

    it sounds like you’ve created beautiful traditions and memories with your own kids — and those won’t need any explaining at all.

    Happy Mother’s Day Iz.

  • I’m so sorry for what this day means to you. I understand. How frustrating it can be.

    Enjoy your own motherhood. You are the best mother out there for your children…they only know you and that’s all that matters to them…Mother’s day is special to them, because you have made it that way.

    Enjoy them today…


  • RWA says:

    I think it may be a bit early to try and explain most of that to a 6-year-old, but that’s just my humble opinion.

    Enjoy your day alone shopping! Happy Mother’s Day!!!!

  • New reader to your blog and your mother’s day post is the first thing I read. Thank you for sharing your story. I just wrote about how I *accidentally* discovered something about my past and from my childhood, and your post illustrates that accidental discovery is possibly a common happening for people in their lives. I know that, for me, as difficult as it is to suddenly become aware of the *family secrets,* coming out of the closet and shining a bright light on it all feels incredibly healthy. Truth does set us free…of course, that happens after all the chaos plays itself out. Good luck and I am happy to have found your blog. BabyWhisperingLoudly

  • Izzy, this was a great post. Really thought provoking and interesting. Us in the adoption triad have a lot to learn, especially from people like you who can give valuable insight. Thanks for sharing and enjoy that alone time – THAT is the perfect Mothers Day! You’re awesome.

  • mom blog says:

    Happy Mother’s Day to you!

  • mamatulip says:

    We went to the cemetery today to see my mom’s grave and Julia started asking lots of questions…the concept of going to “see” Gramma E didn’t make sense to her because she was expecting to actually see her, in a physical sense. She started asking questions that I wasn’t ready for.

    My mom was adopted and I’ll bet I asked her questions like the ones you are being asked. Life, it’s tough, isn’t it?

    Enjoy the day; you are a fabulous mother.

  • dorothy says:

    Sounds like Mother’s Day is pretty complicated for you. I’m sorry about that.

  • I didn’t know you grew up not knowing you were adopted and to top it off found out by accident. That’s a hell of a punch.

    What I do know is that you will figure out the right words to explain what happened to your daughter. That’s what mothers do.

  • canape says:

    This is one of those times when I really want to leave a comment – but don’t know what to say.

    If it were a conversation, this would be the moment when I smiled at you, refilled your wine glass, and pushed the plate of cookies closer in your direction.

    That’s the thing about commenting – you stop listening and start talking. I just wanted to say that I was listening.

  • Elizabeth says:

    “When I read blog post after blog post about people’s mothers and their great relationships and how their mothers are their best friends, it’s just an unfortunate reminder of what I wish I had. But never will.”

    Yes, yes, and yes. I have always known I was adopted at 18 months old, so I can’t even imagine finding out at THIRTY FIVE. Mother’s Day is hard for me because my biological mother died after giving birth to me, my adoptive mother died in 1997, and my mother in law died last year. I am only forty, and I have no mothers.

    This was very courageous, this post you wrote, opening up to us like that. Thank you for sharing it, and when it comes time to really answer your daughter’s questions, you’ll know in your heart what to tell her. Happy Mother’s Day my friend!


  • Bryan is adopted and has always felt somewhat lucky that he just “knew” he was adopted pretty much from birth, especially when he hears stories like that. Even though he has never felt any urge to find his biological parents.

    On 2 somewhat separate notes, I was quite shocked to find out at age 7 that the person who I thought was my grandfather was my step-grandfather. And guess what! “Today we are going to meet your real grandfather!” In that case, I was relieved, because to be perfectly honest, my step-grandfather was an ass.

    And my 2nd note is that, oddly enough, my SIL (also adopted) seems intent on duping my nephew into thinking his step-dad is his biological father. The odd thing is she hasn’t bothered to tell anyone this, so apparently I said something wrong at a family function once and my MIL pulled me aside and “let me know.” I asked her if SIL has a plan when *someone* – ANYONE casually mentions the existence of the biological father. No one seemed have an answer for that.

    ANYWAY. Not to add a manifesto to your lovely post.

    Happy Mother’s Day.

  • P.S. We have already mentioned to Declan that Daddy is adopted to Declan, in 4 year old terms, of course. He kind of wanted that same “I always knew” feeling for Declan.

  • binkytown says:

    That is really tough. I’ve read previous posts where you’ve talked about feeling disconnected but I didn’t put it all together until now.

    I’m sure this is a hard day for you. I’m not close to my mom either, and even though the circumstances are not the same, I understand staring blankly at the rack of mothers day cards and thinking “now what?”

    Hope you enjoy your whine-free day and come home with some bargains.

  • Wow. My mom didn’t tell me I was ‘at her wedding’ (if you know what I mean) until I was getting married, at 31. I can only imagine how awful it must have felt to hear your truth at 35.

    I also have an inquisitive 6 year old and am trying to decide if we should tell her some truths about my husband’s mother (who isn’t actually a blood relative, but has always acted as one). I hesitate to do it b/c I don’t want her to be confused, but I think she may be ready to hear it. Plus, I think it helps them understand that “Family” can be complicated and that love can come from unexpected places. I wish you peace in whatever you decide.

  • Mrs. Chicky says:

    I can’t even begin to know what you go through, Izzy. But I hope you enjoyed your Mother’s Day in spite of, of because of, all you’ve gone through.

  • Christina says:

    Wow, I can see how that would be tough to explain. But I think in time the words will come, and while you may never be able to understand why things happened the way they did, you may be able to make peace with it someday.

    Luckily, your relationship with your own children is far easier to explain. I hope you have a good Mother’s Day, and can focus on the love of your immediate family. And yeah, time off is one of the best Mother’s Day gifts out there.

  • Happy Mothers’ Day to you, Izzy. I hope you, as a mother, got some personal time without all of the stuff that pull on mommies. I hope you found some peace.

  • becky says:

    happy mom’s day. i hope you & your kids have the kind of relationship that you wished for with your family. big hugs on this day.

  • happimom says:

    Dear Izzymom,
    I am moved by your story. Not being adopted myself, I can only imagine the sense of rootlessness you profess to be feeling. But hey, you have a little family of your *own* now and you are sinking *new* roots as we speak! So chin up and may you have many happy mothers’ day with your loved ones.

  • TB says:

    You know I relate so much to how you’re feeling Izzy. I miss my mom even more this Mother’s Day and becoming a parent has made the estrangement from my father seem a little more sad, even though I know it’s still the right thing to do – my son will only have one set of grandparents. Thank god they are good people who will provide more love than he’ll know what to do with.

  • FENICLE says:

    Bless you Izzy & the mother you are to your children!! What you model for them will be what they remember!!

  • FishyGirl says:

    I don’t have an understanding about the adoption thing (though that is a heinous thing that you didn’t know), but I lost my mom to heart attack when she was 37 and I was 15. I never had a stepmother, and my father is and always will be emotionally not there for me. My grandmother passed away last year and my grandfather two weeks ago, so I know about the being alone thing. I so know.

    I chose to have Nemo baptised yesterday to try and get a positive thing associated with Mothers Day, instead of negative. Hope your day was Beautiful.

  • Wow, I can understand how you’d feel confused about what to tell your daughter when you aren’t yet able to define it for yourself. Who could? It’s complicated. I’m sorry. That’s hard.

    I know the feeling, in a different way. My bio dad was weird, and all the while I wanted him to be a normal weirdo, like an alcoholic, so at least it could be defined for me and then I could tell everyone who asked that “Oh, he’s an alcoholic” which is understandable, unlike what he really was, which is weird and hard to define.

    My step-dad, who I loved and was more a father to me, was adopted as a little boy. All his life he didn’t know he had any family at all, or why he was adopted. He found out all of that just two years before he died. His parents had three kids in quick succession and his mom went nuts and couldn’t take care of them. They were extremely poor. He and two brothers went to the orphanage before being adopted. Two more boys were born to their parents, which they raised. They all found each other not long ago, then dad died.

    I really miss him.

    Families are complicated, you don’t need me to tell you that. I understand the indefinable stuff, really I do. I don’t know how to deal with it, either. I think it’s out there more than we know. Thanks for talking about it.

  • kittyhox says:

    I love what a friend of mine, who comes from a very dysfunctional family background tells her daughters, when they wonder why they had to come from such a screwed up family. She says something to the effect of, “well, that’s why we’re starting our own, new, healthy family!”

    I love that we all get to be the kind of mom we want to be for our kids. We are their family, the one that really matters. We’re their world, really.

    Your little one will be as confused as you are about her grandparents. But the difference between the two of you is that she has you.

    Thanks for sharing with us. I was listening!

    Bless you!

  • I just wanted to comment on the comment that your real conversation reaction reminded me of something that Brie would do on “Desparate Housewives”.

    Izzy, I know how it is to have unanswered questions and bitterness. Hopefully you can focus your energy on giving the most positive atmosphere for your children.

  • ashley says:

    the grass is always greener isn’t it? i sometimes wish that i would find out i had been adopted. i now that probly sounds horriblel, but it would explain so much. it would explain why my mother seems to hate me, yet adores my younger sister. it would explain why i have absolutly nothing in common with anyone in my family. my relationship with my mother is non-existent other than us fighting or her coming to see her grandkids. but i am sure i would feel differently if were in your shoes. as i said…the grass is always greener on the other side.

  • Beth says:

    Sweetie. I’m an adult adoptee too. I’ve known my whole life I was adopted but I just found my first family a couple of months ago.
    My older son and I have been talking about my origins since he was three (He’s very perceptive and precocious, don’t ask).
    It’s not an easy concept to explain and it’s even harder to live it sometimes.
    I just wanted you to know that I totally get this post and I know where you are coming from.
    Even though it feels like it (especially on Mother’s Day), you are not alone in this. Ever.

  • Addie Pray says:

    That was a beautiful, courageous post.

    You’re not alone.

  • Julie says:

    (((((Izzy))))) I am so sorry. As Addie said, you’re not alone.

  • kittenpie says:

    You know, while my family situation is not nearly as weird or complex or hurtful, I have a weird ambivalence with my mom because of all the damage her mental illness did to our relationship, and it makes me feel horrible on mother’s day, when all the world is all gooey about their mothers and I’m just not. It’s hard not to feel bad about it, but I think you’ve earned your stripes here and can just concentrate on your own wonderful little family now. *hugs*

  • Theresa says:

    This post was incredible. I remember going through so many similar thoughts discussing adoption with my own son when he was small. He grew up hearing words and phrases such as reunion registries, petitions, waivers, etc. so him hearing the word adoption was always there, but the reality of it didn’t start to sink in until he was just a little bit older. I have not met my family of origin so he hasn’t seen that part yet, but I also agonize over how to approach the subject of reunion with him, worried over his feelings of love towards my adoptive mom. I don’t want to cause him conflict.

    Just wanted to echo what’s been said above. You are so not alone.

  • “When I read blog post after blog post about people’s mothers and their great relationships and how their mothers are their best friends, it’s just an unfortunate reminder of what I wish I had. But never will.”

    I feel this way too. It sucks.

  • Lisa says:

    I can sympathize a lot. I hope you had a great day, regardless.

  • IzzyStudent says:

    I hope that this Mother’s Day you’ve found some kind of peace, Izzy. Keep our name alive x

  • Oh, The Joys says:

    Just catching up, reading every word…thinking of you.

  • amanda says:

    Sounds like you have some conversations that you need to have with a much younger Izzy. Give all of you more time, in the meantime know that so many of us see your anguish and anger without judgement, just utter helplessness.

  • I read this post last night and I’ve been thinking about you ever since. I knew I wanted to comment, but everything I start to say, falls short. Although our situations are different, I understand not having the childhood you hoped for and being envious of other families. Now that I’m a mom, I’m giving my children the family life I didn’t have growing up. So, I know you said your little family is all you have on your side, but that’s more than enough. I find that my happy family life now is soothing old wounds. I hope yours does too.

  • Thanks for sharing this part of your life to us, as painful as it is for you. I’m all for the new tradition of downtime on Mother’s Day!

  • Stefanie says:

    Can I just share with your that your post brought tears to my eyes because I UNDERSTAND. My situation is different but the result is the same. My mother never did enjoy being a mother to me and we haven’t spoken in a year. She doesn’t want to bother being in my daughter’s life. I have a stepfather who is so crazy and toxic I won’t let him near my kid and my “biological father” is a pain pill addict who’s been married four times and I have 4 half brothers whom I’ve never met. Mother’s Day sucks! Here’s to starting over with what we have, making our friends our family and not comparing ourselves with the Lifetime Movie mommy daughter relationships we see on TV! also, good talking to you the other day. Another reason we need to be friends!

  • Izzy says:

    Thank you for this :)

  • thisKat says:

    My father’s family wasn’t exactly like yours, but had similar secrets. The fact that your daughter is asking shows how open your heart is to her. I never dared ask my dad where his family was. Somehow, I knew that it was not a good story. Eventually, I did meet his mother and my uncles, and it was good, but the darkness will always be there and there are questions that now, even though I’m 33 and he’s 72, I will never ask. I know enough to not want to know the answers.

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