How do I tell my child her father signed his rights away when she was an infant?

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Ledia - posted on 04/17/2015

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Maybe I can help. I am an adopted child--I was found abandoned in the basement of an office building when I was about 3 years old (I have no memories from before that moment, and they never found out who my parents were, so I have no idea who I am). The man who found me and his lovely wife took me in as a foster and were eventually allowed to adopt me. Unfortunately, his wife passed away from cancer just before the adoption was finalized. I'd lived with them for almost 5 years at this point and consider them both my parents. My dad did go through with the adoption, even though he knew it meant raising a troubled little girl as a single father.

So, I struggle with two of the same things your little girl will struggle with:
1. Why did my parents (in her case, dad) not want me?
2. Why do most families get a mommy and a daddy, and I only have a daddy (or in her case, only a mommy)?

My real parents were very straightforward with me from early on about why I was not with my bio parents. They never let me feel like my biological parents didn't WANT me, but rather they were not meant for me. They were not the right parents for me, so Fate, or God, or whatever deity or life force you believe in, put our family together. I was meant to be in their lives, and they were meant to be in mine, and together, we are the perfect family for ourselves. HOW we got to be that family doesn't matter at all. All that matters is that we are together. I'm an adult now, and I do fully believe that. I don't hold any ill will toward my bio parents. I don't believe any short coming of mine, or any negative aspect of ME made them give me up--I'm a great person, but I am a great person because the RIGHT person raised me, and they just weren't the right people.
For your daughter, her father was meant to be with his wife and their children. They needed him, and he needed them, but you and she do not need him, and are, in fact, better off without him. In your case, he would have been a complication, a distraction, so fate, or whatever you believe in, took him out of the picture.
Before my parents could adopt me, there was a long process of trying to find my bio parents. It was pretty involved, so I think if my bio parents had wanted to be found, they would have come forward, but they didn't, so I don't really have any desire to know who they are. IF one day, they do come to me and want to know me, I will accept them, and I will thank them for having given me up all those years ago because my life has been wonderful due to that decision. (Although I will tell them I wish they had pinned a note with my birthday on it to my dress, and ask them when my real birthday is. Not sure why--I know it is totally unimportant--but it has always bothered me not knowing when my real birthday is....)

As for the missing parent, that is getting a little easier now as families are growing more and more diverse, but she will still ask you one day (probably hundreds of days over the course of her childhood) why she doesn't have a daddy. I know I asked my dad countless times why I don't have mom. My mom died of cancer, so I knew the technicality of why she was gone, but I didn't understand why she was taken from us after all the trouble of having put us together. My dad never had the perfect answer for that--I still hate that she died--but he did emphasize two important things to help me cope. First, the same concept that helped me come to terms with my bio parents leaving me: We are a perfect family, just the way we are. And second, all families are different--some have a mom and a dad, some have two moms or two dads, some have only mom or only dad, while others have only grandparents. Some families, like those forged in group homes have no mommy, daddy, or grandparents, but only loving adults caring for children. Some families have siblings raising younger siblings. Some families have two mommies AND two daddies, along with step siblings and half siblings, and so on and so on. There are endless ways to make a family, and if they were all the same, there wouldn't be a place for everyone to belong, because not everyone belongs in a traditional two parent family. Just like me and my dad made the perfect family for us, you and your daughter make the perfect family for you. Extra people added in just to fill traditional roles would only complicate it.

Raye - posted on 04/17/2015

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If she's young and asks questions, you can just keep it very simple. Explain that there are many different kinds of families. Some kids have a daddy and mommy. Some have only a daddy and some only a mommy. Some have two mommies or two daddies, some live with grandparents, and some are adopted and live with people who are not related to them by blood but love them like real mommies and daddies do. There are also books out there (search Amazon for "different families") that can help explain things. You could read it to her or just read it yourself and use some of the information to respond to her questions.

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Martha - posted on 04/17/2015

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When she was 3 months old he made the decision that he didn't want to be her father because it would harm his relationship with his fiancé and child they had together a month after my daughter was born. (They were not in a relationship at the time of my daughters conception) I agreed with his decision after explaining to him what thoughts may come to him later when he's mature enough to understand the decision he made because I can almost guarantee that he will eventually live to regret it but that's the decision he made and understood that once hesigned his rights away he would not have a chance in hell of trying to resume his rights. Sooooo... When she was 5 months old we went to court and it was settled. I left with soul custody and that was it. I personally didn't want y daughters father to just give her up.. Simply because I lost my father at the age of 3 and knew what it felt like to grow up without him around. Family and friends wanted me to not allow or agree with him wanting to sign his rights away because they felt that he should as well as owed it to me and my child to pay child support but I felt that it would be selfish of me to do that. My child is now about to be 3 and it has really been hitting home with me that I have not a clue as to what to say to her if she asks where her daddy is or why does that child have a daddy but I don't... I don't want her to feel like she wasn't good enough... I would never bad mouth him in front of her I am not that type of woman. I also was asked by him and his fiancé to never reveal to her the truth... I'm at a loss as to what I should do in this situation...

Raye - posted on 04/15/2015

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How exactly how did the father sign his rights away? Was your child adopted by another man? How old is your child now? What brought this all up? Was the child asking questions?

Depending on the age of the child, there could be different approaches. The child should never know all the details, and you should not bad-mouth her father. You could just say that the father felt the child would be better off without him in her life. He had things going on in his life that prevented him from being there in your lives.

Keep it simple. Try to be honest, but not TOO honest.

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