Adoptee Begs for Nonjudgmental Compassion for Birthparents

The comments I received on a blog a month or so ago titled Do I Have to Pretend to Respect My Child’s Birth Parents were insightful and sometimes questioning. How, some people wondered, do you respect people who aren’t worthy of respect?

We received the following comment from an adult adoptee explaining why it is so important for adoptive parents to have nonjudgmental compassion for their child’s birth parents.

I’m an adoptee born to a teenaged first mother who was, even from the minimal information I had growing up, very obviously not married. My Catholic parents never directly spoke ill of her or her choices. But the strong doctrine against pre-marital sex in the Catholic church, and their harsh judgment of other people who engaged in anything they considered “inappropriate” definitely impacted me. If my biological family were hell-bound sinners, what did that make me?

Adoptive parents need to be aware that adoptees know that we have another set of parents. We know we are not with them. And if you are judging them, we will know that, too. We learn a lot from your attitudes towards people in difficult circumstances, and if we tend towards our first parents’ issues, we will feel and fear your harsh judgment of us.

One of the best things you can do if you want to become an adoptive parent is to really honestly work towards non-judgmental compassion towards first parents, all of them. Don’t ignore neglect and abuse, but understand that “choice” isn’t the end all and be all of actions we make in our lives. Choices are not made in a vacuum.

But for the Grace of God

Take just a moment to glimpse back to your teens and early 20s. Can you honestly say that you didn’t do some pretty stupid, and likely dangerous, things… at least once?

  • Maybe you tried drugs (a little or a lot) but were fortunate not to become addicted because you don’t have the genetic predisposition, or you wised up in time, or you were fortunate to have parents that cared enough to catch you.
  • Maybe you got totally smashed at a party and woke up in someone’s bed (or backseat) with little memory of the night before but were fortunate not to get pregnant or have a sexually transmitted disease.
  • Maybe you got behind the wheel after a few too many, but by the grace of God, didn’t kill anyone.
  • Maybe you did something you knew wasn’t right because you wanted to please your boyfriend, but the “something” was a relatively tame stealing a beer and box of Cheez-Its, rather than carrying illegal drugs to the street corner.

I’m always amazed at the selective amnesia of many adults about their own youthful misdeeds. I’m not saying that your mistakes are on the same level as those made by our children’s birth parents, but luck plays a huge part in how our lives turn out. Luck to be raised by parents who care, even if they weren’t perfect, and could model good parenting; luck to be raised with the expectations of education and middle-class achievements; luck to have escaped the genes for addiction, ADHD, or mental illness; luck to have not been caught (or luck to have been caught early). As the adoptee above stated so well: “choices are not made in a vacuum”.

You may not be better than your child’s birth parent; you may just be luckier.

Show the compassion you hope others would have shown for you if your screw-ups had been discovered to your child’s biological parents. Let this compassion shine through when you talk with your child.

Allow for Change

Just as you have grown past the things in your past that you would rather not remember and certainly won’t tell your child, your child’s biological parents will also grow and change—and often for the better. Humans are not static beings. Thank Goodness!! Allow room in your mind and life for your child’s birth parents to improve.

Do you think it is important not to judge our children’s birth parents? How do you do this when they’ve done bad things?

Image credit: Fr Lawrence Lew, O.P.