Adoptive Parents and Adoptees: Hearing the Message Behind the Anger
I’ve been contemplating lately on how in the world we reached this place of animosity between some of the adult adoptee community and some of the adoptive parent community. Now, in truth, I don’t actually think it is all that bad in general. I know plenty of adults who were adopted, we all do, and most are supporters of the institution of adoption, although plenty would like to see some changes. But the internet is a whole other world!
I don’t know if it’s the virtual anonymity provided by the internet, but often discussions degenerate into monologues with each side typing, but not reading, and neither side being any the wiser for the discourse. I will add that I am immensely pleased that this hasn’t happened often in the discussions on this blog. (Check out some thoughtful and respectful discussions on my blogs: Book Review of the Adoption Memoir “Found”, A Dialog Between an Adoptive Parent and an Adult Adoptee, Is There Such a Thing as a Happy Adoptee?, and The Future of International Adoption). Unfortunately, other adoption bloggers haven’t been so fortunate.
With strained relations I’m a firm believer, if not always practitioner, that you can only change yourself. I’ve concluded that we adoptive parents and professionals have to really really try to hear behind the anger. It’s easy to let the stridency of some adoptee blogger drown out an important message that we adoptive parents need to hear. But, let’s face it, that’s easier with some adoptee bloggers than with others, and I recently stumbled across one of the best at getting the message across.
I was so excited when I found this blog that I immediately sent the author a fan email—something I rarely do. I love this blog for some many reasons, not the least of which is the name: Diary of a Not-So-Angry Asian Adoptee. Her self description: “I was adopted transracially into a wonderful family when I was two years old. I am a mother of two amazing children. I am a wife to a great husband. I am an advocate whose main focus is on adoption issues.” Her sons are half Korean/half Latino, so she’s also in the midst of raising biracial kids.
She write about life in general, as well as about transracial adoption from her perspective (such as this post Transracial Adoption: It’s Not Easy Being Green, But You Can Make It Easier for Your Child) and raising biracial children (such as this post “Parenting the “Other” Race Child“). But it was this post on the impact of being adopted, that blew me away—Loss. She writes: When I think about the first two years of my life, I envision a deep, dark abyss—a sea of nothingness. There will always be a void in my life…one which no amount of love will ever be able to fill. That void – that feeling that something is missing – is part of being an adoptee….
It’s easy for us adoptive parents to dismiss the message of pain from the more vocal online adoptee bloggers because we assume they had “bad” parents. Viewing it this way protects us and our children. “My kids will be fine and grow to be more or less happy, healthy adults well connected to us because, well, I’m going to be so close to perfect that they’ll have no choice but to ‘turn out right’.” Come on, admit it, on some level you’ve repeated something close to that in your head. I know I have. But a “perfect” adoptive family isn’t always enough.
My adoptive family is amazing. Growing up, no conversation ended without an “I love you.” There wasn’t a night where I went to bed without hearing those three words. We hugged often, and my siblings and I never wanted for anything. As with most adoptees, my brain has always been wired a little differently, due to the losses I experienced early in life. No matter how often my parents told me they loved me, the fear and the feelings of doubt were always there. My birth parents loved me, but they let me go. What if I do something wrong? Will my adoptive parents let me go, too? …
For me, the fear of abandonment developed into a perfectionist child mentality. I worked hard to be a good daughter. I worked hard to do well in school. I worked hard to be everything I thought my adoptive parents wanted me to be because I had convinced myself that if I was good enough—if I tried hard enough—then they wouldn’t abandon me, too. Nothing my adoptive parents did caused me to feel this way, but the mindset instilled in me at a very young age that people who love you will leave you, became an integral part of my childhood and teen years.
As a mother, my feelings of loss now involve my children and the things I will never be able to pass on to them. I mourn the loss of not being able to pass my Korean culture onto them and cope with the knowledge that I will need to depend on strangers to help teach my children about who they are. I feel guilty about the blank pages in their medical records where their maternal family medical history should be. I know these things are beyond my control, but the fact that they will always be missing those pieces of the puzzle because of me, can be somewhat overwhelming.
The losses I experienced will always be a part of me, and they’ll, unfortunately, have an impact on my children, as well. No amount of love or reassurance will be able to fill the void of those losses, but the love and support I received, and continue to receive, from my adoptive parents mean the world to me, and helped shape the person I am today. I will be forever thankful for every hug, for every “I love you”, and for every time they showed me they weren’t going anywhere.
See what I mean? Didn’t the eloquence of those words take your breath away? Sometimes just walking the walk with our kids and not going anywhere is all we can do. Thank you Not-So-Angry for speaking in a way that makes it easier for us to hear.
Image credit: spunkinator