Problems with adult adoptive sons


New Member
I haven’t been on any forums in a very long time, so please forgive me for not knowing the acronyms that would simplify my post. Quick background. I am Mom to four sons, the oldest three of which are adopted by me in 2010. I was previously their stepmother, having raised them with their father since they were ages 4 and under. Son1 is now 20, living on his own, Son2 is 18, living at home again after a short time of living with friends as well as some major legal problems, Son3 is 17, still at home and set to graduate this year, and Son4, my only biological child with my husband, age 12.

As I said, I adopted my stepsons a few years ago, but I had always been their full time parent. BM was in and out of their lives and on her final summer visit with them on 2007, she basically kidnapped them. Her visitation rights were suspended, court regarding the kidnapping charges was settled, but she never fought to regain any visitation rights. She eventually contacted us about signing away her rights in early 2010, and the adoption was finalized a few months later. There was no contact from August 2007 until September of 2013, when Son2 contacted her behind our backs, although he was still underage.

BM was always a very volatile person and still is. Very unstable. I could tell a million horror stories of her involvement. I had hoped that was enough to keep my kids from wanting contact with her, but that hasn’t been the case. At the very least I had hoped they would wait to contact her until they were old and mature enough to handle her personality. And also that they would establish some boundaries. Wishful thinking on my part….

Sons 1 and 2 maintain relationships (thankfully there is distance as we are 700 miles apart) with her, but refuse to defend the honor or their father or me. She continually runs us into the ground as she did in the past and has even sent me ignorant messages on facebook (we are NOT friends) until I blocked her. She makes cracks about us to the kids on facebook where their friends can see the comments, but the kids do nothing. We have mentioned this to them as tactfully as possible, but it seems that short of forcing them to do something, they have no intention of telling her to stop.

I accepted that they may eventually seek her out but I never expected that they would tolerate the disrespect or dish it out themselves. Son1 barely speaks to us, hardly comes around, calls, texts, etc. We saw him the day after Christmas for the first time in four months. Not even a phone call in between. husband and I think he had a motive for coming by as we have a property that is vacant and he is looking for a place to rent for himself and his girlfriend. He received a phone call from BM in the presence of my 12 year old, calling her “mom” and when my son asked what I had called for Son1’s response was “That was MY mom, not YOUR mom.” 20 years old and that’s how he responded to his little brother’s question. My son was disturbed enough by it to tell me and be visibly upset. I had to console him. He had more concern for my honor than the 20 year old did. Son1 has also been volatile to us in the recent past, coming in and out of our lives, stealing from my 12 year old, telling us to $*@& off last Christmas eve, etc.

Son2, who started this drama by contacting her then telling Son1 about it, is only staying with us again because he had a falling out with a girlfriend, was acting recklessly, stealing, popping pills, etc. He spent two weeks in jail for burglary, felony gun charges, and traffic violations for wrecking the girlfriend’s mother’s car and totaling it. Before this he had little to no contact with us for the roughly 6 months that he had been living away from home. husband and I feel like he will leave the minute his legal problems are dealt with. Right now he is working for his dad, but slowly falling back to old habits.

So my problem is this….. how do I remedy my feelings for them and for the situation? I am considering counseling, but have no idea where to start with this mess. My two oldest kids toy with my emotions, they abuse my love for them, show me no love, respect, or honor, and have pretty much decided that their BM is more worthy of their time and love than I am. I’ve sacrificed everything to raise them and I feel like it was all for nothing. If I had known they’d be such poor excuses for adults and would just run back to their crazy BM like nothing bad ever happened (and bad DID happen!!), would I have done all I did for them? Of course I would have, but now I’m left holding the bag and I am out of ideas. Any advice???


Well-Known Member
Oliveoyl, I welcome you to this site and I'm so very sorry you have to be here. I must say, I don't have any words of wisdom or comfort, though many who will be here soon will. All I can say right now is I feel your pain. I'm sure that your sons do love you, though I'm equally sure it feels as though they do not. I've felt that way about my own son from time to time.

The board does get quiet at times. Others will be by soon.


Scent of Cedar *

Well-Known Member
I am Mom to four sons

So my problem is this….. how do I remedy my feelings for them and for the
situation? I am considering counseling, but have no idea where to start with this
mess. My two oldest kids toy with my emotions, they abuse my love for them,
show me no love, respect, or honor, and have pretty much decided that their BM is
moreworthy of their time and love than I am. I’ve sacrificed everything to raise them
and I feel like it was all for nothing. If I had known they’d be such poor excuses foradults and would just run back to their crazy BM like nothing bad ever happened (and bad DID happen!!), would I have done all I did for them? Of course I would
have, but now I’m left holding the bag and I am out of ideas. Any advice???

I think you are making a great start. Naming the feelings is the hardest part, and you have done that in detail without leaving out or dressing up any of the hurt parts. I would be angry, too. You have reason. Now that you know how and why the anger exists, you can work on accepting it until you can just say, "Oh. There is just my anger roaring around in here."

And then, you can practice just letting go of it.

Just let it go.

There is nothing else to be done.

Angry feelings roaring around in our heads or telling ourselves again and again how unfair this or that was is self-destructive. (I am intimately familiar with self destructive anger. That's how I know this.) We have been hurt enough. Wherever we can, we need to stop justifying hurting ourselves because we are disappointed in someone else. No one can say what the boys are thinking, which are the issues they are resolving, or whether they are just jerky, selfish kids. Ultimately, none of that matters.

You matter.

I have to work so hard to identify and let go of my anger, too.

Sometimes, it's the only thing holding me up.

The pain of what is has to be acknowledged before we can heal it. I think you are doing well with that. I am glad you are here with us.



New Member
Thanks for your responses. I am going to not give anymore of myself to my two adult sons. No renting out my property to either one. No financial help or gifts of clothing, etc (as my husband gave up some of his own work clothes to Son2 when he began working for him). husband is going to insist upon Son2 sharing in other work expenses, such as gas. Let's see how they respond when they realize that not only will they not be able to use us but that they will also be more responsible for carrying their own weight. I think that will be very telling as to whether they just want something for nothing or not. If they are loyal to their family, it will not be because we have something they want.
As far as my feelings and anger, that has always been my downfall. I have to learn not to take things personally. I feel so rejected, so betrayed. I would never tolerate anyone treating my kids badly or talking down about them. It baffles me beyond belief that they allow it to be done to me. I guess I have to accept that they accept that behavior from others and even engage in it themselves. I can't make them treat me any certain way- as much as I want to! I feel like my whole world would be complete if I had their respect and they would defend me like men are supposed to defend women. And not just when I am around, but always, even when they are 100% certain I can't hear them or see what's going on.
I'm still considering counseling and I'm still open to other advice! :)


Well-Known Member
I think putting those boundaries in place and making them earn what they have is a good idea. As for the sons having contact with bio mom there isn't much you can do other than say you won't tolerate the comments in your house. You can't stop FB and the best thing to do is just ignore it. The more you react the more control bio mom has.

I would let the 12 yr old know that BM is their mom and that even though you love them as if they were your own that biologically you are not. Let him know it is ok for the boys to want to know their mom and for them to call her whatever they want. Now I know that's not what you want to say or hear but they are grown adults and can make those decisions if they want to. You can't make them respect you but you can retain the respect of your other kids by being the bigger person. They know you raised them and they know how much you care.


Well-Known Member
I have adopted kids. I refuse to say I'm not their mother. That's insane. I raised them. But I do tell them they ave another mother who gave birth to them and I have respect for that relationship, even if the birthmother was a loser in my eyes. In no way would I ever tell the twelve year old you are not her mother though. It's not true.

As for the behavior of your grown sons. They are abusing you. Period. And I think you are thinking right when you decided to stop doing for them. It's time for them to grow up and stop abusing you. I wouldn't blame it on bio. mom. I'd blame it on who is doing it...them. And I'd get therapy to detach as it is very painful, even if it is obviously deserved.


New Member
My 12yo knows that his older brothers have "another mom" and I think his reaction was just that he was offended on my behalf that his brother would make a distinguishment between "your" mom and "my" mom. It would have been more tactful for him to say something like, "not Mom (or our mom), I was talking to my birth mother" and I think my 12yo would have felt better with that statement. As would I. I don't feel I should be de-ranked because he turned 18 and welcomed her back into his life. He was just barely 4 when I came into his life. I have been there for everything.
The detachment thing sounds like my best option. It will be hard, but I will try my best. I also need to get husband on board, as he tends to be wishy washy, esp with Son2. :/


Well-Known Member
Staff member
Welcome Oliveoyl, I'm sorry about the situation which brought you here, but I'm glad you found us. You've been given good advice. You may want to read the article on detachment at the bottom of my post here. Also, if you are interested, Codependent No More by Melodie Beattie is a good book as well.

Your situation is a tough one, but not an unfamiliar one, it does seem there are situations where adopted kids will seek out their bio-parents no matter how unstable or unfit those parents are.......still looking for that love and approval. And, in some cases, they blame the step parent, as if it is that persons fault the bio parent abandoned them. That does not give them a reason to abuse you. Boundaries are the answer. It sounds like you're putting boundaries in to place now, which will likely change the dynamics considerably. Sometimes when we place boundaries where there were none before, the kids act out badly and begin a blame game. Recognize it as a manipulation if it does come to pass and don't give in.

It's hard when you've devoted so much to your step sons and they treat you badly, it's hard not to take that personally, but it behooves us to not take it personally, to set boundaries and to let go of as much as you can. Your peace of mind and your serenity are worth a lot, and the way most of us here get there is to learn how to detach from what we can't control, to let go of any perceived guilt, to set strong boundaries, to get a lot of support for ourselves and to begin the process of acceptance.........acceptance of what is, whatever what is, is.

I would recommend you follow through with your counseling idea, that has been a lifesaver for many of us. It can be so helpful to guide us back to normalcy and for us to get a reality check so we can heal from the hurts with a professional who can listen and provide a safe place for us to recover.

It really sounds like you've done your level best to be a good mom. Through no fault of your own, these boys have a path they need to follow where their bio-mom is concerned. That's okay. What is clearly NOT okay is for them to disrespect you, to in any way presume that you need to put up with the disrespect and reward it by offering them advantages.

Yes, you and your husband will need to be on the same page about all the boundaries, wishy washy means nothing will change and the son will have all the power. Your home, your power. Your home, your boundaries. Your home, your rules.

Stay the course. Hang in there and keep posting, it helps. I'm glad you're here with us.


Active Member
Oliveoyl, I am so sorry for the shoddy treatment you are receiving from these sons. I also have adopted grown children and have heard similar mean things from one of them, my difficult child, who is the reason I am on this board. She put me through living h--- even though I was always there for her, so I truly can relate to the hurt you are experiencing.

Right now we are going through a very difficult time in the midst of a nightmare crisis that she has brought on herself, & when she has a mood swing (she is bipolar), she becomes very cruel and says horrible things to me.

In the past, she'd moved hundreds of miles away and it was easier to detach. Now she is only 30 minutes away and it's harder because being a typical difficult child, she reappears wanting support, money, etc. We have had to learn to form boundaries. The only way that I have been able to survive it has been to let go mentally. In fact, a mantra of mine is the Zen proverb "let go, or be dragged". Just forming a mental picture of myself letting go of a wild horse dragging me along is helpful.

The people on this board are among the most compassionate, kind souls I have ever had contact with. They have helped me through the really dark times when my difficult child tried to commit suicide. You will find some great advice here from battle-worn souls who understand.


Well-Known Member
Ok, I read this again and see you were stepmother first. Under those conditions, I would probably acknowledge the other mom as "birthmother." She is obviously still there and very much in their lives, even though you adopted them.

I always tell my adopted kids that they have two mothers, if the subject comes up. I try hard not to devalue their role in the child's very creation, but I also don't devalue my role as the caretaker in their life.


New Member
Thank you Cedar, for asking how I am. I am doing good today! I have new life, finding this board and committing myself to this new challenge of putting my kids' responsibility for themselves into their own hands. I am hopeful that husband is as willing to be firm, as he insisted to Son2 today that he was no longer going to fight to get him awake for work in the mornings. If Son2 isn't up, he won't be going to work that day!
I'm glad to be here and hope to get more time to read through other posts to lend my support. You all have been so helpful thus far. I always thought detaching was a bad thing, that I was essentially giving up and letting my kids sink or swim. If they sank it would be my fault, and if they swam they'd still blame me for standing there doing nothing. It might get tough, but I think I can do it.
To clarify a bit on my story, I entered the boys' lives in late 1998 when they were 3, 2, and 1. (yes, I know! LOL) I married their dad two years later and that's about the time BM came back and was granted once monthly visitation as well as phone calls- between certain hours, any day of the week. It was another 2 years before they began calling me Mom. BM caused nothing but trouble, made abuse allegations, manipulated anyone and anything she could, etc. In 2007 she decided to not return the boys after her 3 week summer visit. She hid the kids for 2 months before we found them (out of state no less, where she has always lived) and that's when all visits and communication stopped. She sent me an email in early 2010 asking to sign away her rights and be let off on her back child support. We agreed and I adopted them later that year. As little as she was in their lives, it was enough to cause major damage. I sat with them through numerous therapy appointments, talked to them, tried to get them to open up, all to no avail. The minute they thought they were old enough and the opportunity presented itself, they sought her out. Which in itself was devastating enough that Son1 followed her advice on how to get out of the Army. He had just gotten out of basic training. He never gave it a chance once she was back in his life.
I know I can't protect them anymore and I have no control over the two "adults" having a relationship with her. I do still insist on no contact for the 17 year old. I am hoping he learns from the other two to stay away from her. I would happily support them reconnecting with her if she was stable and everyone recognized and respected that I am their mother. After all, she willingly gave me that privilege. But maybe that's running my agenda. So I don't support their relationship, unless something were to change, and if I'm selfish for doing so then I'm just going to be selfish for a change.
Oh, could someone please define difficult child? I know it means gift from God, but who does it apply to? Difficult children? Adopted? Bio? Any combination of these things and/or others? I'm not sure what it means ;)


Well-Known Member
Olive, my youngest adopted daughter, who is as much of a easy child as any child could be, never knew her parents, although we did. She was usually fine, happy, mature and stable, but for a while in middle school, she had a problem about being "given away." She told me, in one of our frank, I-am-not-offended talks, "Being adopted should be a special need. It's hard." I did connect with her easy child mother and she wrote to my daughter and that seemed to help...there have been no issues since.I did love her mother dearly so that helps, but birthmother still did not want to keep corresponding with Daughter because she had married and the husband didn't want her too and she had three other kids. My Daughter didn't seem to mind that once she saw FB pictures and finally knew her identity. Now her birthfather was in prison and she looked up his mug shot. That bothered her a little, of course, but her main interest was her birthmother. She has been ok.

Being adopted, abandoned by the person who gave birth to you, is very hard, even if you have a wonderful life. Your kids knew their birthmother all along and knew she had rejected t hem yet a second time. I'm not so sure I'd have let her get out of custody or the child support. I am wondering how they felt about their mother, useless though she is/was, actually telling the courts that she didn't want them anymore. Your adopting them was kind and caring, but I'm not sure they saw it that way.

It is NOT uncommon for kids who were adopted older or as stepchildren to children to seek out their birthparents and feel a connection to them that they plain don't feel to us. One thing I learned in my adoptive parent group that I've attended for twenty some years. DNA is huge. Most of the adoptive kid reunions in my group were known to the adotpive parents and they would express shock at how much their child was like this birthparent they never met, from the same voice, the same interests, the same inclination to drug use or mischief of other sorts, or even hand and facial gestures.

We can give them stability and love, but we can't change their inherited personality traits.

Your older sons have a lot of bio. mom in their DNA. They can't help it, but they CAN stop abusing you and their father. That choice is on them. As for what bio. mom's role is in their life now, or about talking son out of joining the Army, they are free to talk to her for her advice and she is free to give it. All parties are over twenty-one. Bio. mom did not decide that Son would not join Army. He made the final decision. Nobody can make decisions for somebody else. It is a hard concept to realize that we have 0% control over others and 100% only over one But that's the truth.

I assume your younger son is your biological child. So he is more like you and has no divided loyalties. It's different ballgame for the younger one.

One day your older boys may see birthmother for who she is. I think the best way to let that unfold is to not speak about her in a negative way, except in private to your husband, and not to comment to them about her lifestyle. They will decide they don't like it or they won't. It is now up to them.

As for the rest of your family...since your oldest two are adults, you don't owe them $1. Do only what you feel they deserve or that you WANT to give. Some of our difficult children think we are only The ATM. That isn't good for them and can devestate our bank accounts.

You can not expect or force biological mom to think of you as the real mother, even though she surrendered them. She is a difficult child too and she will never say that. And the boys don't think so either? Well, they have that right. We adopted one child at six from another country. He was given everything plus abundant love and did not meet his birthmother, but he decided we were not his family and left, except for my ex, his RICH father. Nothing I can do about it. He did go to Hong Kong (he is very financially successful) and meet his "real" family (shrug). I can't make him think I am his real mother. He clearly does not. The kids I adopted in infancy feel I am their real mom. My older adoptions were big fails. Two don't live with us anymore as one was dangerous and scary. The other was a victim of this kid so we let him go to a foster family he really liked...long story. It is much easier to adopt an infant. The bond is there. That doesn't mean they won't wonder, but you have that VERY EARLY CONSTANT bond and THAT can't be shaken either.

I am sorry for the garbage you are putting up with. I hope you cling to your blessings and start taking really good care of YOU. YOU deserve a good life surrounding by loving, non-abusive people. HUgs for your hurting heart.
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New Member
Thank you MidwestMom! Very insightful and all so very true! Another thing I have to do is to accept that I feel differently about our relationship than my kids do. I have grown to hate the word stepmother, which is so silly because I was one for so long and I know many awesome stepparents. I have told my kids I am no one's stepmother and that I won't tolerate them calling me as such or by my first name, which Son1 has done, and that if they do not want to call me Mom they may call me Mrs. (fill in my last name). I am not perfect and I cannot expect them to be. I have to fight my own issues, the things that burden me and let the past hold me captive. I get that. I thank you LucyJ for the link, I will look at the site. I have been to many pages, hoping to find answers and advice. I've made a couple very good friends, and we've tried supporting each other through various things, yet I am still struggling. I think this group is what I needed way back when. Better late than never!
I do feel like the late adoption (even though I came into their lives in their toddlerhood) has been a disadvantage. I also agree 100% that the abandonment by BM has been a life long struggle for all three boys. (Yes, my 12yo is my biological child and he's all about defending his mom and dad! Bless his heart) I cannot imagine their pain. I have spent many hours grieving for them and the loss and rejection they have suffered. I wish I could change it for them, but I cannot. I've supported them the best I can. I know they have jealousy towards their youngest brother because he has not been rejected by a birth parent, esp Son2. They are getting better with that. They are also not blind to BM's faults and are seeing that she has not changed at all. I do think part of the draw to her is that she has other children that they would like to get to know.
Ultimately, learning to give up my wishes for them and their future and letting them take the reins, even when I know they're not doing it the way I would... that's what I have such trouble with, but yet it's so important. I have to learn to be ok with their choices, yet not compromise my values. In the few days I've been on this board, I already feel I'm gaining confidence in what I'm doing. I can't thank you all enough


Well-Known Member
Olive, you are a wonderful person who took on a lot. I also expected my older adopted kids to love me the same way my biological son (I have one) and my infant adoptees did and I was shocked that my unconditional love and support did not have the same effect I thought it would have. To be brutally honest, I thought love would cure all and that we'd all feel grateful to have one another and we'd be one, big, happy family. I thought love was the answer, stability was the answer, opportunity would turn their lives around. We'd go on to be a forever loving family. It didn't happen.

My adopted son from abroad did not feel like a part of our family. He had spent his first six years in an orphanage and was aloof when he came, and, although he was charismatic, brilliant and able to connect with his peers, he said many times he did not know how to connect with us as parents...since he was so bright he thought about it and understood it, but he still left. The two other children we adopted at age 11 and 7 were a mess from their past. It was far worse. One was a complete psychopath already and had no conscience. He was darling and sweet to all adults, to the point where his psychiatric profile talked about how he had not psychiatric problems and he was a great kid, but he had just fooled adult after adult. He was a young pedaphile who also liked to set fires and kill animals and he did all those things. And he scared the younger kids so much that they didn't tell on him. The other child had just come to our home right after this one and once we figured out that our two youngest (both adopted very young) were being sexually abused, we weren't sure which child had done it or was the ringleader so both were put into residential treatment and the other boy eventually turned out to be another victim of him and went to foster care. We let him stay there. He loved it and had only been with us a year. Poor kid. He had been through daily sexual abuse with his foster mother before us, although nobody knew it (he told me) and now this new brother of his did it too. He was a nice boy, not without problems, but fixable, a nd we wanted to give him a good chance. He thrived in the new foster home. We let them adopt him. We gave up our rights. The whole story is very hard.

Kids who are adopted older have "stuff" and "issues." They knew other caregivers and were rejected and eventually sometimes they just don't attach to us the way we want, although we DO attach to them that way. It has nothing to do with YOU. I'm sure you gave them a wonderful life and a chance to do better, but they could not let go of their past.

Our two adopted daughters, both infant adoptions, have talked about feeling abandoned as well, but because we adopted them so young, we are still really bonded. I have a son, on the autism spectrum, who is not mentally slow, but is different and he came at age two, which is actually older, yet he truly loves us and never wants to know his birthparents. But he had only one foster family and was not abused there. That matters. He learned to trust while he was in their care. The other ones had no reliable caregiver and could not learn how to accept love from us when they were adopted. Too much had happened to them.

Your situation was crazy with dysfunctional birthmother coming and going but never REALLY going, setting early memories of neglect and possibly abuse to your children. That isn't a good start. You did a heroes job of all you could and they right now are choosing to be like their birthmother. It happens A LOT. It puzzles us. It still puzzles me. To us it seemed like the older adopted kids just liked the stuff we bought them, not really us.

Feel proud of the person you are and the gallant effort you gave and focus then on your husband and your sons who are kind to you. And don't take it personally. You truly, truly did an over-the-top job of being a mom when they needed it the most and now it's up to them to sort out what they want to do with their lives.

Hugs for your hurting heart.


Well-Known Member
I'm still considering counseling and I'm still open to other advice!
I think it would be wise of you to find counseling for yourself just so you always feel that there is one person always in your corner - these are all boys you are talking about and sometimes just having that one person that has the time for one on one with you can make all the difference.
I would recommend you follow through with your counseling idea, that has been a lifesaver for many of us. It can be so helpful to guide us back to normalcy and for us to get a reality check so we can heal from the hurts with a professional who can listen and provide a safe place for us to recover.
My eye spies from what you are posting is that perhaps you are (unconscionably or not) still having feelings of competition (especially when she is a POS) with the BM. (As in why would they be mean to me and treat the POS good) Even some of the most abused children want to have a relationship with their abuser. Doesn't make any sense but so it goes. Since she in reality, is no competition to you and the dedication you have given these boys, I would encourage you to find ways to rise above these mean an hurtful things they are doing. Maybe this is a situation where they are feeling divided loyalties oh, and let's not forget all children love to play the "divide and conquer" meaning nice about you to her and mean to you with her, and round and round it goes, seeing who they can "get" the most out of. I don't think that this is something that they do on purpose, actually they may not even be aware (immaturity) of how painful it is. Also, from the child's perspective, think how it must have felt to them when essentially, their BM gave them away when they were old enough to understand what she was doing. What a slap that must have been to them, even if they never communicated it to you. Perhaps now they are jumping through hoops to regain BM's love (what they think it is)
Join us here to talk your heart out, it must be very painful to be caught up in this situation.


New Member
Been super busy the last few days, so thanks for the new responses. You're right 2much, I do feel sometimes that I am competing with her. Maybe it's not even with her, but instead FOR their loyalty. The selfish part of me wants them to be as loyal to her as she has been to them... not at all. I want them to tell her where she can go and why she should never utter a bad word about myself or their father. I can't make them feel the same way I do and crazy as it is I do know that what they are doing is 'normal'. I think they are trying to decide if it was something they did or just the way she is that made her do what she did. Yes, it was a BIG slap in the face to be adopted out at ages 13, 14, and 15. Even worse than being up and left in the middle of the night at ages 8 mos, 1 1/2, and 3. Ouch. I hope one day they truly understand that it was nothing they did or could control and that they are happy with whatever (if any) relationship they have with her.