Facebook-Stalking My Birth Son
Of course I stalk my birth son on Facebook. How could I not? His barely-open adoption slammed shut fifteen years ago when his mother suddenly took ill and died far too young, and all communication with his family ceased. I spent years hoping for information but listening to cricket chirps -- until two years ago, when a cynical Facebook search turned fruitful: he had a limited public profile! I've been checking in on him ever since.
In the two years since I found him, I've watched his profile picture update, known the names of his schools, and seen who and how many his friends are. That may not seem like much, but I've learned more than enough to keep me happy.
He went to school in his multi-generational family's home town. His friends list revealed a high school experience as wonderfully diverse as my own was. He dabbled in alterna-pop culture and lefty politics, like me. And seemed to be as moody as my high school self -- his number of friends waxed and waned, sometimes plummeting to zero (drama!) before slowly climbing back to the 30s, then 50s.
Initially, he kept his face hidden under a scarf or digitally doctored into unrecognizability, which was frustrating as hell for someone who'd been waiting to see what he looked like for more than ten years. Then, during the 2008 presidential election, he Photoshopped himself into a picture with Sarah Palin, defiantly making rabbit ears behind her head. His face was totally visible. There were my eyes and eyebrows, there was my natural hair color. There was no doubt that cheeky Democrat was my kid.
His profile updates also reflected his big milestones: I got to celebrate when he graduated from high school. I got to WTF when he went to a state university -- his dad had always insisted that his small, intense son was Ivy League material. I got to cheer when, at college, his friends list topped one hundred. I got to WTF again when his profile picture showed him dandling an infant -- my gods, was I a 38-year-old grandmother? There was no way to find out, and I already knew a lot more than I was supposed to, so I told myself to be grateful for my privileged position.
And then, last week, his account opened up after Facebook clustertweaked its privacy settings. I became privy to his profile and his wall, his status updates. It took me a few beats to realize the internet had handed me Pandora's box. I couldn't not open it. Maybe Gandhi would've had the self-control to back away, but not me. I looked. And what I discovered made me even more pleased and proud than before.
He's an amazing young man. He's dating a cute musician girl, is studying abroad, and is majoring in heady and difficult subjects. He never mentions kids, and so is most likely not a father (exhalation). He doesn't post much on his own profile, but he likes to chat on his best friend's wall. And it's there, from his ramblings and salty jibes and posted pictures and videos that I found the most precious revelation yet: He is totally one of us! He is a geek! A funny geek! He wears snarky t-shirts! He's a snob who adores his snobby major! He enjoys silly bantering about pop culture and etymology with his friends! He is as gleefully pretentious as I am! IT IS SO AWESOME!
I tell myself his interests must be hard-wired, since his parents had always seemed fairly mainstream in their own interests. (His father obviously loves his son a great deal to support his entirely intellectual, totally impractical academic pursuits.) But I wonder, would my birth son be so much like me if he'd actually been raised by me? Wouldn't he rebel? Or would he chortle over Lady Gaga/Christopher Walken Poker Face mashups? Would we be tweeting back-and-forth about Pomplamoose's videosongs? Would he join our entire family as we whoop whoop along to the Christian Side Hug? I like to think so, but unless his Facebook profile remains exposed and he links to those items, I'll never know, because I may never get to talk to him.
And that is why I have no interest -- none -- in watching the birth-families-reunited antics of the TV show Find My Family. My antipathy isn't just rooted in sour grapes. I have other discomforts, and they're shared by Jenna Hatfield (Firemom):
These six stories and those yet to come don't speak for all adoptees, all birth parents or all adoptive families. They represent their own members, their own journeys and their own emotions. Not all adoptees search. Not all birth parents are wonderful people. Not all adoptive parents are supportive. These six families also, perhaps, represent a cross-section of those most desperate to find their biological families or relinquished children. It takes a special sort of person to agree to reunite on television. (It probably also involves a smooth-talking producer with further promises of rainbows and butterflies, but I digress.) I wonder if people watching realize those facts.
Dawn at This Woman's Work is also not entirely approving, and has some solid advice:
I won’t be watching “Find My Family” because reality television will never be my genre of choice but I do hope that it opens some minds out there and gives those adopted people and first parents who want to search the impetus to do so. I also hope that the participants have some support post-reunion ‘cuz as any reunited person will tell you, it doesn’t get easier after the cameras stop rolling and there’s a whole new complicated and emotionally-heavy relationship to manage.
There is no way in hell I'm going to watch Find My Family. Why would I torture myself with several variations on that which remains outside my realm of possibility? I doubt my birth son was ever told that he's adopted, even though he's the only outlier in a uninterrupted line of deep brunettes. Besides, I've already found him, even if he's not aware of it.
I'd rather daydream about a birth mother/birth son reunion like the fictional one on Ugly Betty (spoiler alert) in which Claire Meade tracks down her birth son but doesn't tell him who she is -- instead, she finds a public place to casually chat with him, delights in the knowledge that her son seems to be well adjusted and a good egg, and refrains from disrupting his contented life. (Don't fear, I won't follow suit, as I am an emotional powderkeg who could never maintain Claire Meade's "pleasant stranger" facade.)
I wish there was some way to find out if my birth son knows his real story. Facebook makes it tempting to try: I could friend him at any time, or even message him on the pretense that my mother is a computer-challenged former friend of his dad who is looking to get back in touch (not entirely untrue; they were friends of friends, which is how our private adoption arrangement came into being). But in the meantime, my heart aches for the young man unaware of his maternal spare, and I'll remain on the other side of the computer screen, ever-vigilant and very proud of the remarkable person he's become.
[Edited on 9/11/13 to be slightly more optimistic, which is how I'm feeling these days. Fingers crossed. -SR]
Shannon Des Roches Rosa usually writes about parenting her son with special needs both in this space and at Squidalicious.com, even though she spends 66% of her parenting energy on two feisty neurotypical girls. She fiddled with 95% of this story's identifying details.