I struggled with the issue of whether and how any parent should write about a child. I don’t think there is any one correct position, but something that each parent has to face and resolve. When a son or daughter is an adult, I think they should be involved in the decision. My son Marco was in his late twenties when I started writing Creole Son and from the beginning I told him what I was doing, He approved in principle. and gave his permission to an early article I wrote. Not all offspring, whether adopted or not, would feel the same way. They may be more private or have a variety of personal reasons why they don’t want to see themselves in print. A few may want to tell their own stories. But adult adoptees or any adult offspring face the same issues in writing about their parents or other family members.
Marco was always very open with me from the time he was a small child, so I learned a lot about his experiences from him. I too am an open person who does not like to keep secrets and I’m not easily embarrassed. When Marco finally read the whole manuscript, some years later, I was relieved that he liked it. I wouldn’t have published if he had objected or I would have changed a lot. He said I got most things right and he only wanted a few alterations in revelations he felt were too personal. I readily complied. Other incidents that he found embarrassing he left in, saying that they led to who he is today. He read the behavioral genetics research with interest; for he said it helped him better understand his life. Marco agreed to write an Afterword to Creole Son, twoexcerpts from which I published earlier here in Adoption Diaries.
I think Marco was pleased that I had spent so many years trying to understand him and wrote a book with him at the center. It increased his self-esteem. He saw that I loved him and that I didn’t think he was to blame for his addiction. All these factors, I believe, led him to choose to use his real name, even though I had written using a pseudonym for him as for almost everyone else in the book. I even considered using one for myself. When copies of the book arrived, Marco was delighted, as he proudly showed it to the neighbors and his friends. To repeat: Not all adult adoptees, nor adult offspring, would feel the same way. But I reject any rigid position on this topic.
This essay originated as part of a conversation with Bella DePaulo which was published on her blog on Psych Central on July 19, 2020.