We are such an all or nothing society. It feels like too many people miss the parody when Steven Colbert says: “You’re either for us, or against us and America and all that is good. It’s just that simple.” Maybe it’s human nature, or maybe it’s our culture, or maybe I’m generalizing because I’m sick of the political sound bite ads, (heaven help us, it’s a long time until November), but there sure seems to be a lot of one dimensional thinking going on, and the world of adoption is far from immune. It’s not just that simple.
Adoption doesn’t lend itself to such all or nothing thinking. It is entirely possible, even probable, that all members of the adoption triad might both love and hate adoption. It is entirely possible for adoptees to hate adoption, but love their life and their family or families. Amanda, an adult adoptee who blogs over at The Declassified Adoptee said it beautifully in a comment she left on my blog “Is There Such a Thing as a Happy Adoptee?”
One thing about “happy/angry adoptee” … is how very small of a box these labels put a person in. “Happy/angry adoptee” says that “adoptee” encompasses the entire identity of who a person is and then says that this one-dimensional person is “angry” or “happy.” This just isn’t so.
I am an adoptee. I am also a wife, mother, sister, student, and daughter. I am a person. I am a happy person. I am a well-adjusted person. I have positive relationships with those who are my families whether it be by nature, nurture, or law. I do not like being adopted. I am not a fan of adoption in general. …
Me not liking being adopted has nothing to do with thinking my life would have been better *here* and not *there*. It is because I have been involuntarily been put into a world of complex issues at a very young age. I was born to a traumatized young woman who deeply suffered from losing me to adoption. I was adopted by a couple who was suffering deeply from not bearing biological children and having the enormous family they had always dreamed of. I grew up with no genetic mirrors, no family medical history, and no ancestry to call my own. I am in a minority group that is unequal in the eyes of the law; a group that suffers immense stigma in society. I have dedicated myself to the uncomfortable work of appealing to society and legislators for change and hearing the same old, same old abortion comparisons, “be grateful,” and “you’re insulting your ‘real’ parents” nonsense, over and over again.
I don’t like adoption because I think it is a flawed institution. It needs to be changed. While open adoption may assuage some of the problems we closed adoptees have spoken about, there’s little data about it, it stands to have its own unique issues, and some of the core issues that adoptees struggle with are identical.
One’s decision to adopt should not be contingent upon the guarantee that the child will be in love with being adopted. If a child needs a home, a child needs a home. Providing for a child’s needs and allowing them to grow to have their own thoughts and opinions on their life’s circumstances is part of what being a parent is about. IMHO, the best thing someone can do is to support the rights and needs of children. Help mothers and children and families stay together whenever possible so that loss does not have to occur. And when loss does occur, love and cherish that dear child with all of your heart. No expectations; just love.
I couldn’t say it better, so I won’t try. Amanda does not speak for all adoptees; no one person can, but she speaks eloquently about her experience, and we would all benefit from listening. We will be better parents to our kids by opening ourselves up to what adult adoptees have to say.
As is obvious, I’m a big fan of The Declassified Adoptee blog. Let me also recommend an essay she wrote for Adoption Voices Magazine. She titled it “A Letter to My Prospective Adoptive Mother”, but it could have just as easily been titled “How To Be an Adoptive Parent”. It brought me to tears. I hope my kids feel that way about me when they are older (and consider me less annoying).
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I hadn’t seen your response earlier when I posted Michelle, but that makes sense. I admit, it’s not that I never had those thoughts, it’s just that my husband was adopted as well, and that helped me with some of my concerns. Add in to that, we decided an open adoption would work for us, and it helped me deal a lot more with any worries I had. Only time will tell, but at least for now, I feel fairly confident my fears are resolved for now at least. It makes a lot of sense tho, and I know the pain of infertility all too well – some scars never heal, even when you have children (either adopted or bio, I have both), even if my scars are different from hers. I haven’t yet read her letter – but I need to. I saved the page for later, but I’m super emotional and have a nasty head cold and super stuffy head so anything that’s gonna make me cry right now is being avoided if I can help it lol – talk about avoidance!
I hope she explains why too. I find the article very interesting, but not sad. I admit, as an adoptive parent, there’s part of me that kinda felt a twinge of ‘oh no… what if, one day, she…?’ early on in the article, but upon conclusion I get what she means by it all. Perhaps this other woman is a birth mother – or an expectant mother thinking of adoption for her child and is simply stuck in that fear that her child will hate it someday – hate her, hate her adoptive parents, hate her life and that’s what she got out of it? I hope, regardless, the woman who is so worried about it, finds peace somehow about it all.
I have a honest question for adoptees. This feeling of “being involuntarily put into a world with complex issues at a very young age”, is that come from being “different” than your peers or really truly from being adopted. Let me explain. As a child I had cancer, I lost my hair. I hated that I was different it wasn’t fair. I couldn’t play like the other kids. For year and I mean until my early 30 I refused to tell anyone but the people closest to me because I was afraid that they would view me differently. My four year old has a friend in her dance class that has a deformed arm and hand. One day my daughter explained to me that that was the way her friend came from heaven and it made her friend special. Then she started to cry because she wanted a special hand from heaven too. I told her she was adopted and that made her special but she still wanted a special hand. Lol. I know there is a difference because adoption there was a choice that was made but it wasn’t the adoptee choice. But how much of this “unfairness” is any different than other challenges that other kids that are difference face? Yes it’s hard and as a parent I need to know that and understand that and be able and willing to help my child with that. But this comes from the really really hard thing of just accepting ourselves for who we are and are differences. It might be more pronounced or focused or specific in an adoptee but is it really that much different thatnwhat we all face? Am I being too simplistic and naive? It’s totally unfair that I can’t natural convience my own children that I don’t get to be genetically related to them, that I don’t get to swap pregnancy and labor stories. Is it really so different being an adoptee??
Also to the adoptive one. To say that adoption is merly and simply a legal matter to me is simplistic and naive. It’s about creating or un-creating a family so yes relationship are important. If I were to complain about how my parents conceived me (rape, condeum broke, planned etc) would you not be at least a little curious about my relationship with them now? Especially if I were complaining about the way I was conceived?
This really brings to words what I so often feel. My 3.5 year son is madly in love with me and I with him and he adores the rest of his family. But even as a baby, he had this feeling about him, like he was an “old soul” in a child’s body. At the age of three, we have already had conversations about things that most other kids don’t really learn about until much, much older. There has never been a time I could look in his eyes and see the innocence I often see in other children’s eyes. We have now entered counseling because, 3 years after his adoption, he still struggles to believe that this is really forever. Adoption is the absolute best thing that happened for both of us but it always feels like it comes at a cost that neither of us asked for. There are times I just wish I could give my son the peace in his heart that most kids and parents take for granted.
Tammy, beautifully said. I will point out that not all adopted kids would fit the description of your son, but different kids have different temperaments, and thus process the complexities of adoption differently.
“It is because I have been involuntarily been put into a world of complex issues at a very young age.” I understand this completely and appreciate her view point. I am struggling now with my just turned 3yo who is the happiest lovingest (usually) little person who thinks the world of his family. He has seen pictures and we talk about when we met and when we became a family but he as yet does not understand adoption. He can see himself in our family makeup – he looks like us and his brothers so from a physical standpoint he doesn’t know anything is different. It literally breaks my heart to know that we have to introduce this complexity at such a young age to ensure he can come to deal with being adopted. I want to protect him – we will make sure he knows on a level he can comprehend when he’s ready but oh I so wish I didn’t have to do this. I love adoption. It gave me my son who I’ve seen in my mind for 25 years. I hate adoption because it will affect his own world view at such a very very young age.
Jen, as you so eloquently pointed out–it is not just adoptees that can love what adoption gave them, but hate what adoption is.
Adoption is a completely different subject than what your relationship is with your family. Adoption is the legal severing of your familial ties to your family of origin, and legally attaching you to a different family.
I have a couple of questions for the prospective and already [adoptive] parents. How long have you lived outside of your family home? A decade, two decades, more? Now ask yourself when you state an opinion on adoption – whether it is amazing or angry or constructive – do you include a description of how your relationship is with your mom and dad? How much you love them? Most likely you don’t – there is no reason because they are completely different subjects.
So why, when an adult adoptee states his or her constructive opinion on adoption, is it required to note the type of relationship with the parents? Is it not valid without it? Why is it necessary to even go there? Certainly you cannot question that an adult adoptee has indepth understanding of exactly what adoption means, after all, it has shaped their entire life story, the good and the bad. Does their decades of experience mean nothing? Are new to adoption compared to the adult adoptee more knowledgeable?
Why does the adult adoptee need to provide you with info for you to judge whether her opinion is valid – if you don’t have to do the same – but expect your opinion to be accepted as valid?
For the record, I read Amanda’s comment and she ensured the required relationship status was included.
I see so much of my 8 year old daughter in Amanda’s words..both regarding her feelings about adoption and in her “Letter to her Prospective Adoptive Mother”.
It seems odd to say an 8 year old can have an opinion on adoption, but 2 years ago she started asking questions and stating her opinion that it isn’t fair that babies who are adopted (as she was) do not get a say in if they want to be adopted or not. We were talking about older children being allowed an opinion on their own adoptions. When I asked her if she had an opinion on her adoption, she responded that she is happy we are a family, but that it wasn’t fair that no one asked her before she was adopted.
I think that’s an example of a younger adoptee who loves her family, but sees the injustice in adoption.
According to Amanada’s letter, and what many other adults who were adopted often write/say, it’s important for adoptive parents to listen to our children. It’s really not all about us. We need to step away from ourselves and our own emotions and needs. We need to be willing to face that fact that adoption is not all positive.
I am happy to know my daughter’s opinion on infant/young child adoption. In many ways, I agree with her opinion! It’s so important for adoptive parents to step back and look at the world through our children’s eyes and then to be comfortable in moving forward with our lives together.
Did you read Amanda’s “Letter to her Prospective Adoptive Mother” that I linked to? When you get to the end, it sums up so beautifully the love between an adopted child and her mother.
She explained herself a little, but feels very self protective right now so would rather I not post exactly what she said. I respect that. She is infertile, and doesn’t want to adopt because she is sensitive to rejection, and feels like adopted kids might have a built in reason to reject their parents. As Michelle said, I think that is a fairly common concern with prospective adoptive parents.
I can not speak for the poster but I think this scares a lot of potential parents. It has always scared some foster to adopt parents who were adopting older kids but as more adult adoptees adopted as newborns speak out about adoption in a non positive light, people are scared that the love they give to the child will not be reciprocated and perhaps they will be hated for it. PAPs do not want to be resented by their children. I have heard this from many PAPs. And often when adoptees write how they dislike adoption , they forget to mention anythign about their relationship with their adoptive families, rather positive or negative. Thus, PAPs always assume negative.
I just rec’d a comment on this blog over on Twitter that surprised me. Given the nature of Twitter it was short and said “This is what scares me about adoption.” I found this blog to be uplifting in many ways, so her comment surprised me. I’m hoping she’ll comment further to explain why. Does this scare you about adoption?