Monday, September 22, 2008

Trying to Avoid "Feeling Different"

One of the phrases I see a lot in stories about the moment that a donor conceived individual learns the truth of their conception is that they always felt different in some way from the man they always knew as their father. It's a comment that haunts me at times. It's not a comment I have heard from donor conceived individuals that have always known that their dad was not biologically related to them (as my kids "know") but still the comment haunts me.

I am not haunted by the knowledge that I expect my children during some argument we have once they hit their teenage years to say that I am not their real father. I am not haunted by this as I know it will happen and it will be the by-product of their reaching for something to hurt me during a normal parent - teenager argument. It will hurt, yes, but I will know it is as merely the equivalent of just trying to fight back.

But the "different" statement worries me as I wonder if I am subconciousnessly saying or acting in a way that my now young children would ever sense. As a dad I sometimes react too fast. I have said on this blog in earlier posts that I am not as patient a parent as I had expected or hoped to be. At times my son just does not listen and I tend to react, after asking him to do something several times something which he ignores, by stating I will take a favorite toy away (yesterday it was a chess trophy) when the act in question does not deserve such escalation.

On hindsight I wonder if he or his sister will bury these exchanges in their psyche and later interpret them as daddy treated me differently than he would a biological child. I know I am over thinking this but it is something I wonder about. Especially on a day after I have reacted too fast and a six year old now keeps stating that he wants me to throw away his chess trophy and doesn't care about it even after I have apologized and told him how proud I was to see him be presented with it.

I guess I am the one feeling different based on my own shortfalls as a parent.


annacyclopedia said...

Wow. What a great post. I worry about this, too - not sure if my husband does, as he tends not to worry in general. Wish I could get some of that "non-worrying energy" that he has so much of...

Anyway, I do hope that having children who will always know that they were donor conceived will help to mitigate this somewhat. I do think that being told from a very early age can help it just be a fact of life, and not something that marks a child as different or alienated.

I have some fear that this will be an issue for us, because my husband has a biological child who is now an adult. His son looks very much like him, and they share a similar sense of humour and a lot of interests. I wonder whether our future child(ren) will share the same interests and personality, or whether the comparison will be hurtful. I guess I try not to worry about it too much yet - it's all hypothetical at this point anyway!

As for your own feeling of being different - I think it's very brave to own up to those feelings. But among the many parents I know, it does't sound like you're that different. Parenting is some of the hardest work on this earth, and I don't think anyone does it as patiently or gracefully as they imagined they would. So I hope you can be gentle with yourself in all this.

I think I will ask my husband to read this post and hopefully it will serve as a good discussion starter.

Midlife Mommy said...

I'm a DE mom, and I don't have the patience I would like either. I work at it, mostly unsuccessfully. My husband and I usually compliment each other, each demonstrating patience when the other has lost it. But I can honestly say this has nothing at all to do with a lack of a bio relationship. I would be just as bad in the patience department if my own eggs were involved.

If my daughter chooses someday to believe that my failings are due to her beginnings, there's not much I can do about that other than to tell her to just wait until she has children and see how she does with her very own shortcomings. Seriously, all those complaints I had about my bio parents? Disappeared when I had my daughter. And sincere apologies for my jerky behavior followed. Not surprisingly, they understood, having walked that road themselves.

Vinnie said...

Yes, several times I have told my parents how grateful I am for the trouble they took raising me, and for enduring the troubles I created. And my son's only 2 -- I am sure there are more thanks and apologies I'll want to convey as he gets older and I find out what else I did to my parents! I am a DI Dad in pretty similar circumstances to Eric, except a few years younger and still with just one child (on the cusp of yea-ing or nay-ing a second). My DI-related worries about the father-son relationship were significant but pretty much disappeared after my son's birth; and at 2, my only fear is that if I ever have another child, bio or not, how will I ever love that child as much as I love my son? I do think that raising the child always knowing about the DI (obviously at a level of sophistication appropriate for each age) is the way to avoid DI-related father-child relationship problems. You cannot necessarily avoid DI-related problems altogether (like if my son decides he wants to find the donor and can't), but it won't be a father-son problem. So, I participate in these discussions out of interest, to help others, and in anticipation of learning about issues I haven't recognized yet. But not out of a current need to come to terms with anything. I only wish we had more than 3 remaining vials of my son's donor's sperm -- if we try again, we'd love a full sibling!

DI_Dad said...

OK, "haunted" was probably too strong a term for me to use.

damianhadams said...

Hi Eric,
I knew all along that my dad was not my father. I also always felt that i did not fit in as well with his side of the family as I did the maternal side. I did not feel that way with my dad though. Could that have changed if he was still alive when i was a teenager - I'll never know.

Unknown said...

Supposedly, I "always knew" about my DI origins, but my first conscious realization of my origin still shocked and confused me. It hurt me and did drive a wedge into my relationship with my father for a short while. (That was the intention, my mother brought it up during my parent's divorce.)

Thankfully, I recovered and now I'm closer to him than I am to my mother.

Just thought I'd share. As noted before, I'm a bit odd, even for a DI kid.

Bea said...

Well, I'm going to give my opinion even though it's relatively unqualified for a number of reasons ;) but it sounds like you had a bad parenting day. (Meaning, a day where you felt like a bad parent.) You've focussed on the DI aspect, but take that out, and it sounds like something any other parent could have written. Hope you're going better today. And well done your son on the chess trophy!