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You’re Not My Real Mom! Your Son’s Teen Years

Teenage boy looking out of the window

Adopted child acting out? Experiencing adopted child temper tantrums? If so, there’s a chance you’ve heard the words “You’re not my real mom!” What do you do when your adopted child hates you? Adoptee Keith Cousins provides reassurance for adoptive parents and shares his unique perspective about surviving the teen years with your adopted son.

It was always the nuclear option.

I never hit the red button as a teenager and said those five words in the middle of a heated fight with my mom.

But I screamed it so many times in my head that it feels like I did.

“You’re not my real mom.”

Being more than a decade removed from my teenage years makes those fights feel almost comical.

I laugh at 16-year-old me, screaming at the top of his lungs because he couldn’t go out with friends, or got caught doing something stupid, or brought home a bad grade in math.

Why would I ever even contemplate saying those five words to my mom?

Because at the time, trivial things like going and loitering at the movie theatre felt like the place to be. That’s where life was happening at the time and my mom was actively keeping me from breathing as a brooding teen.

Any ammunition I could acquire to use in the fight against authority was hoarded and saved. Authority figures being my parents, who were always wholly responsible (it feels weird to admit that aloud to myself).

The one piece of ammunition I didn’t use was that combination of five words.

“You’re not my real mom.”

It scares me to this day thinking about what my mom’s reaction could possibly be to me telling her she wasn’t my “real” mom.

It scares me so much that I had to ask her about it. Because that’s what this whole journey of learning about my story and identity as an adoptee is all about. It’s about running toward something that scares me.

“I expected you might say it, but you never said it,” she told me in a phone call. “Even at the maddest you’ve been you never said it, never even once.”

“If you weren’t my adopted son, you would just have been saying something else.”

She went on to say that even prior to my birth and adoption, she knew it was a distinct possibility I would choose the nuclear, “red button” option. That possibility though didn’t bother her as much as I thought it would.

“I never thought I wasn’t your real mom.” It’s that trust, she said, that confidence in the relationship between mother and son that left her unfazed by the possibility.

“Besides, if it was a different situation, if you weren’t my adopted son, you would just have been saying something else.”

And when I asked her “what if I did say it?” she gave me a simple answer that served as a reminder of why my life as an adoptee, as much of a roller coaster as it’s been, is a blessing.

“I would have just kept going,” she said. “I would have said that everything is going to be ok. I would have continued to love you and trust in our relationship.”

If I’m being honest, the nuclear option would have ultimately failed. Trust, love and my mom making the slow play would have won out.

Because more and more I’m realizing my mom was just being my mom, as much as I didn’t get that at the time. As much as I thought her parenting was the worst, most suffocating, thing in the world, she was being my mom.

Our relationship and the trust we have ensure that at the end of the day, we will always be a family. And that will always be longer lasting than any argument.