The Geometry of The Triad

adoption learning partners webinar speaker Kevin Hofmann

Kevin is an accomplished writer and public speaker who enjoys sharing his experiences as a transracial adopted person to help other adoptive families. He is one of the panelists for our Inside the Adoption Circle webinar on Tuesday, January 22.

The following was written by Kevin after he presented with Judy and Patricia, our other featured panelists.

This past weekend I was fortunate enough to be a part of a powerful discussion at an adoption conference in Chicago. I was the adoptee representative of the triad and was joined by an adoptive mother and birth mother and for approximately 45 minutes we sat in front of about 300-400 people and had a conversation. It was our chance to ask the questions of each other that we have wanted to know personally or questions we thought others in the audience would want to know. It was a unique opportunity to have a unique conversation. Since I never met my birth mother and I didn’t really talk about adoption with my parents, I used this as an opportunity to further try and fill in some blanks for myself. Yes, at 45 years old, I still have blanks that I need filled from my adoption experience. I have recently come to the conclusion, that as an adoptee, I will never “just get over it,” like some people may assume. So my journey now is to address the issues and struggles to find closure and peace, and pass along these lessons to those who come behind me. From this conversation, on the ride home for Chicago, a powerful image came to me that I wanted to share.

It is my understanding that many adoptive parents look at the triad in the shape of an isosceles triangle (Mr. Fridge, my 10th geometry teacher would so proud of me!) where two points are closer together and the third point is a considerable distance away. This way the adoptive parents and adoptee are in close proximity to each and the birth parents are at a distance. One of many unspoken thoughts is that if we can keep the birth parents at a distance than the relationship between adoptive parents and adoptee will remain intact and close. Having an open adoption, may be scary for some adoptive parents because it’s seen as threatening to their relationship with the adoptee, therefore, it’s easier to keep the distance between adoptee and birth parents at a comfortable detached distance, if at all.

But what if the triad was diagrammed in the form of an equilateral triangle (look at me Mr. Fridge!) where all sides are equal. This way you can’t push one point away without all points growing further apart. Then I wondered, how can we adoptees have a close relationship with our adoptive parents if we have unresolved issues with our birth parents?

Upon further reflection it became clearer and raised more questions. If adoptive parents work with adoptees and help them work through their relationships with birth parents and teach the adoptee how to love birth parents, won’t that also teach the adoptee how to love the adoptive parents? If, as an adoptee, I am taught to keep my birth parents at a distance doesn’t that also teach me to have a distant relationship with my adoptive parents?

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6 Comments

Posted by gina on October 13, 2014 at 5:13 PM
I searched for (& was successful in finding) my birth father back in '07. I had been looking online for a few years but nothing had turned up. I finally caught a break when I accidentally misspelled his name in a google search and, low and behold, there he was! I was 34 at the time. I created http://www.findfamilyafar.com to help others who are in the same or similar circumstances. I know all too well the pain that accompanies "not knowing". FFA is unique in that it creates a great "exposure" piece that is very useful for those persons (ie parents) that may be searching for YOU right now. Use of the site is totally free and there is no obligation. Hope this helps and perhaps will see you on http://www.findfamilyafar.com. Good luck!
Posted by c on January 26, 2014 at 6:42 PM
My bmother passed away a long time ago (I have now met her siblings whom I am very fond of) and thus wll never know the full story. From information I now know, I do beleve that she did what was believed to be the best decision given the advice she was given and the options presented to her at the tme (mid 60s) The quality of the advice and options presented to her is uncertain - interestingly, she would have had more options 20 years before i.e. in the mid 1940s. I do think that whatever choice she made would have been a brave one - whether parenting or adoption - so I tend not to like the use of the word "selflessness" for choosing adoption as it implies the choiceof parenting would have been selfish and thus can be a coercive phrase when used in counselling a woman trying to make a difficult decision.
Posted by c on January 26, 2014 at 6:37 PM
I think when it comes to telling one's child what one one knows their story, one needs to keep within the facts (age appropriately of course) - by that, I mean to tell them what you know without placing one's own spin on it. Also, if one doesn't actually know the bparents but instead knows about them from information received via a third party, I think it can help to have that preface one's conversation, eg "We were told such and such" - I say that because sometimes the actual facts are different.
Posted by Gaby on January 16, 2014 at 11:03 AM
Hi Brenda,
I sent your question through to Kevin and here's what he said:
I sat in on a panel of all adult adoptees once and we were asked a similar question and the 5 of us all answered the same. We wanted the age-appropriate truth. We had the strong desire to know our stories, good bad or in-different. We just wanted to know the truth. You can still tell them the standard answer that it was a selfless decision... but in no way should you shield them from the truth and their story. I can own my story. I am the result of an affair my parents had and the knowledge of that causes me less pain than the fact that my parents didn't share any details about my beginning until I was 20 years old and asked.
Posted by Sharon on January 14, 2014 at 6:00 AM
Hi Kevin.
I am an adoptive mom and I love to hear from folks like you in an effort to understand my son better.
Thank-you so much for sharing your experiences. This is very personal stuff and you could certainly choose not to share. I thank you.
What you say hear maks a lot of sense I will have to think about it.
Please keep sharing.
Have a nice day!
Posted by Brenda on January 8, 2014 at 3:14 PM
What if our concern is to know all the details of your adoptive parents decisions would cause you more pain and we want to protect you and allow you to believe that it was an extremely selfless decision to allow you a family that could provide for you better?
Discussion, advice and a few of our favorite experts. All for families formed through adoption.