I was hooked on the new TV series This is Us from the first five minutes of the first episode. None of the previews gave me any idea that adoption would be a major theme in the series, and so now every episode has me on the edge of my couch. If you haven’t watched yet but are interested, this is your spoiler alert! You might want to watch first before you read the rest of this blog.
I’m not sure I’ve ever had as emotional a reaction to a TV show than I did at the end of the third episode where it is revealed that Randall’s adoptive mom, Rebecca, has known the identity of his birth father, William, all of Randall’s life but kept that information to herself.
The show demonstrates how much of a betrayal that kind of secret is to an adoptee. It also shows us how other people (such as Randall’s wife) can get caught up in that kind of secret and it isn’t fair to anyone. Ultimately, no one wants Randall to be hurt, but clearly, feeling as though he was lied to his entire life is very painful.
Until the mid-1990s, adoptions were almost always closed. But after years of research, and stories like Randall’s, adoption has evolved. At LSS we advocate for openness in adoption. In our Adoption Education workshops we stress the importance of being open and honest with your children about their families of origin, even if the information is difficult. Prospective adoptive parents get to meet a birth parent face to face and hear their story about why they chose adoption. My own parents came to an LSS Adoption Education class over 50 years ago and even then they learned the importance of talking openly about adoption.
We also talk about the importance of understanding the issues of trans racial adoption. This is Us demonstrates young Randall’s desire to find and relate to people who look like him. I loved that his dad, Jack, took him to a karate class that was entirely African American. Jack would do anything for Randall to find some sense of identity.
People often speculate that open adoption must be really difficult for adoptive parents and even for the adoptees themselves who may be too young to fully understand who this “other” parent is. Some believe they are protecting their children from painful truths. But strong, positive, supportive parents can find the courage to guide their child through tough questions. Being open with your child, and making them feel comfortable to discuss anything about their adoption will make the parent-child relationship that much stronger. With open adoption, the birth parent is there to answer questions when they arise, which can provide peace of mind for everyone involved. No adoptee should feel too afraid to ask or talk to their adoptive parents about their adoption. Rebecca’s reason for not sharing what she knew about William stemmed from her fear of losing Randall. When fears lead to secrets and lies, it is time to reconsider exactly who it is you are really protecting.
Imagine how different Randall and Rebecca’s mother/son relationship would be if she could have found the strength to share this information with Randall when he was younger. But instead, in the last episode when we see her reach out to hug him, he takes a step back. She has become someone he can no longer trust. He said to her, “You kept the secret for 36 years. That must have been incredibly lonely.”
It will be interesting to see how the Pearson family works through these struggles while teaching us all a little more about adoption and the importance of openness.
If you are interested in learning more about adoption, the next LSS Adoption Information Meeting is Tuesday, January 3, 2017, at 6pm in both Rapid City and Sioux Falls. The next LSS Adoption Education Workshop starts in January 2017, registration is required.
Come meet US! To find out more about LSS Adoption Services, or to RSVP for the information meeting, contact Hayley Van Den Brink at 605-221-2418/888-201-5061 or Hayley.VanDenBrink@LssSD.org.
-submitted by Joyce Twite, Administrative Support Specialist