The other day I posted a link to an article about some families who discovered the children they adopted from Ethiopia had not been orphaned as their adoption agencies had told them. When I read the article and the comments that followed, I was truly disgusted by the completely awful comments directed towards the families profiled in the story. Most of the worst offenders – no, I should say almost ALL of the worst offenders – were from other adoptive parents. My heart was breaking for the families in their stories. Not only are they dealing with one of the worst imagined scenarios – that their child might have been fraudulently placed for adoption – but then their own community turns on them.
This article has generated a lot of hits on the blog and I've been following some of the thoughts adoptive parents are expressing on their blogs and forums. One thing I saw really struck at me.
An AP blogger wrote about how reading this article made her look at her own daughter (adopted from Ethiopia) and made her realize that she hadn't been really dealing with the reality of her birth story. That she had fallen so in love with her child that she sometimes forgot that she hadn't given birth to her. That she realizes the pitfalls that being an internationally and transracially adopted child will affect her daughter and she's scared. Yet, despite the fears, she was going to face them head on and, as she wrote, "open the floodgates."
I was really heartened to read this. I felt like this made everything I do worthwhile. And since I have so many adoptive parent readers, I wanted to pose a challenge and some future scenarios.
The fears are often: What if:
- my child resents being adopted?
- my child grows up to be critical about adoption?
- my child grows up and doesn't love me or consider me her "real" parent?
- my child rejects me
- my child has a life of pain because of the adoption
These fears are often what makes adoptive parents cling tighter to living in dichotomies, burying their heads in the sand, and putting on the blindfolds. Which can be easier to do when they're younger.
But what if you think of things less in terms of what you can control in order to shelter and hide the truth from yourself and your adopted child and to avoid the pain for right now, and more in terms of what you can begin to discover together now that might strengthen the relationship in the future? Plants don't bloom when they're suffocated and sheltered. Especially when they've been re-potted or re-planted to a different place. It takes a lot more work to take a plant native to Zone 2 and have them successfully thrive in Zone 4.
I've said it many times before but I think it's always worth repeating. Adult adoptees eventually find out if their parents hid the truth from them or tried to shelter them from the truth about their histories. We also learn pretty quick when parents can't deal with racism. That makes us wonder why in the heck we were adopted if our parents were so afraid to deal with racism and issues of birth families and birth countries. I think it's pretty clear that a relationship that seems built on lies does not bode well for the future.
Think of it this way. You are emotionally investing in your future relationship with your child. Be honest with them. Don't hide information. Deal with the ugliness that comes with adoption. One of the things that bums me out the most is how much our society just can't deal with the truth that adoption is about LOSS, LOSS, LOSS. That doesn't mean all adopted people are emotional wrecks. But it does mean that the child's first family was torn apart for some reason and everyone involved will have to deal with the ramifications of that.
Most parents are so overwhelmed and focused with the day-to-day parenting issues that it's convenient to leave these big ethical issues pushed to the side.
I'm challenging you to push them back in.
Don't just nickel-and-dime your way into these issues. Remember, you are investing in a more honest and healthy relationship with your child, who some day might stand there, arms on hips, staring you down, demanding answers. Invest now so that those answers are about why you won't let them borrow the car on a Friday night, rather than why you lied to them about their adoption history or why you didn't deal with racism.
I rarely comment on adoptive parent blogs, but in this case I did. I encouraged the parent to open those floodgates. She was worried about all the scary things that might come with that; but then again, I saw it differently. I saw it as a way to open the gates to more honest and trusting relationship in the future.
If any of you were wondering, I did not link to the blog I mentioned because I did not want to inundate her with hits on her personal blog.