Childhood

Recently I attended a dinner party in which a panel of speakers came to address a group of adoptive parents. It turned out to be a very informative and well received evening. It was interesting to observe these parents. I learned so much by simply watching their body language. Several parents sat forward in their chairs, listening intently to what we had to say. They asked questions and seemed genuinely pleased to have the opportunity to understand some of the issues their children might face both now and in the future. Then there were the parents who sat back in their chairs, arms crossed in front of their chests (psych. 101 protective posture) and when they did speak it was defensive.

One mother said her daughter talks about being adopted often. It is a casual questioning about her country (she is from Korea), her first mother etc… This adoptive mother said in a laughing gesture that she is amazed at how outspoken her daughter is for her age. I replied that I thought that showed what a wonderful mother she was for being so open that her daughter feels comfortable sharing the questions running through her mind.

The mother sitting back in her chair, arms folded, says “well my daughter NEVER brings it up and I don’t think that means there is something wrong”. Now I have to say again that I don’t think a child needs to be bringing it up all of the time to be considered healthy. Nor do I think a mother needs to be bringing it up all of the time if their child doesn’t. Forcing an issue in an attempt to normalize it will probably have the opposite effect. However, I can’t imagine this woman’s child NOT picking up on her mother’s body language, an aura of defensiveness surrounding her like a wet blanket. Kids are not stupid. No wonder adoption is never mentioned in her home! Kids don’t want to hurt their parents. If a child brings up a subject and picks up on the discomfort it brings to their parents how often do you think they are going to bring it up?

Every time I hear an adoptive parent say that being adopted doesn’t have any effect on their children it makes me cringe. I am not implying that every adopted child is in dire need of counseling or anything but to assume that they don’t ever think about it simply because they don’t bring it up is naive.

Feeling threatened by the subject of adoption is a problem for the PARENTS to fix, it’s a problem for society to fix. It’s not the child’s responsibility. Being adopted isn’t going to go away. It is what it is. You can’t adopt a child and expect everyone to act as though they were dropped on the doorstep by the stork. No past, just the present. Origin is taboo. Yet that is exactly the sort of attitude many adoptive parents and society in general displays. Friends, family, the lady at the grocery store, all pretending the subject of origin simply doesn’t exist. Even WORSE than quietly ignoring origin are those who go out of their way to ARGUE that it doesn’t matter which is the same thing as pretending it doesn’t exist.

Listen, all the love in the world isn’t going to change reality and it doesn’t NEED to. WE (adoptees) are fully capable of loving and appreciating BOTH realities. To be denied the right to do so is just cruel. How can you expect a person to not feel affection for the people who brought them into this world? It’s just selfish and cruel to expect a child to see a picture and pretend there are only two people in it when they can clearly see four.

I have always known I was adopted. It was a subject I would bring up on occasion. My mom would handle it by creating elaborate stories as to why I was given “away”. Here is my favorite- “Your mother and father were very poor. They had eight children and couldn’t afford to keep you”. Can anybody say……….THERAPY? I honestly believe in my mother’s eyes she was telling me these things to make me feel better. Of course lie piled on top of lie never works out like you intend. She knew nothing about my first parents so instead of talking about it honestly with me she assumed I needed the elaboration to feel better about the situation. It didn’t work. Looking back I know that honesty and open communication about how I was feeling would have been much better. My mom now denies ever telling these fabricated stories but I clearly remember. So even though the subject wasn’t necessarily taboo I could sense something was not quite right and thus open, honest communication was definitely discouraged.

I remember hiding in my closet during particularly bad blowouts between my mom and dad and praying that my real mother would come and save me. I know this may make some adoptive parents squirm in their seat but if I can just continue to be honest for a moment it’s not that difficult to understand. All kids get angry with their parents at one time or another. I think it’s just natural instinct for an adoptee to think about their family of origin during such an occasion. Non-adopted kids have the knight on the white horse-we have our other parents. It would have been nice to have someone tell me that I wasn’t a freak for thinking about my first mother and father. It would have been nice to know it was a natural thought to have on occasion but instead it remained in the closet because my mom could never have dealt with that sort of thing. Talking about my first mother in a past tense is one thing but bringing her into the present as a real, living, breathing human being that mattered to my present self would have been too much for my mom so I remained silent as so many adoptees do even into adulthood.

Then there is the issue of looking different, feeling different, acting different but trying to blend. “Yea, you blend”. NOT. Diversity is rarely celebrated in our world, in fact it is most often discouraged and that’s sad. Pretending we are something we are not is what I’m getting at here. It sucks. It would have been nice to have had someone I felt safe talking to about feeling different. Someone (namely my mother) who would not instantly tie it to her own issues with needing loyalty. Instead of feeling safe talking about my feelings I just picked up and carried her bags.

So many things cross the mind of an adopted child that I would be here for a week or a month trying to list them all. I am just trying to say that keeping all of this stuff inside hurts. Kids should feel safe talking with their parents and not bear the weight of grown up issues upon their shoulders. Adopted kids should feel safe and comfortable verbalizing their feelings to their parents and not fear hurting the people they love. If you adopt a child it is what it is……they are ADOPTED. You can’t wave a magic wand and make them not adopted. Deal with your emotions, see a therapist if you need to but make yourself available to your child without handing them your baggage. If I could say one thing to fearful adoptive parents it would be to uncross your arms. Open them up and embrace truth.

Those of you who’s arms are open~thank you. Keep questioning, keep learning, keep growing. And don’t be surprised if your kids grow up feeling safe and secure in your presence, honored as an individual, self-assured, confident, more like a cherished daughter or son than a possession. Of course they will still have some issues. Who doesn’t have issues? But how wonderful it will be to know they will feel comfortable coming to you and talking about how they are feeling….the sign of a healthy parent/child relationship. That’s a huge payoff don’t you think?

Advertisements

36 Comments

Filed under Adoptee Family, Adoption Politics, Adoptive Family

36 responses to “Childhood

  1. I LOVE this post!! I wish that every adoptive parent would read this post and really “listen” to what you are saying. I really wish that communication with my parents about my adoption would have been encouraged, open, and honest instead of this big secret I had to keep. That was a heavy burden for me to carry. I had a lot of things to figure out without the help of my parents. I could have used their help and support. I wish that adoptive parents would understand that adoption IS different but that different is not bad. Wonderful post.

  2. What a great post. If only adoptive parents would stop by and read it in droves. Honesty is always the most healing and loving way to deal with anything, including adoption.

    Pretending we are something we are not is what I’m getting at here. It sucks. It would have been nice to have had someone I felt safe talking to about feeling different. Someone (namely my mother) who would not instantly tie it to her own issues with needing loyalty. Instead of feeling safe talking about my feelings I just picked up and carried her bags.

    Oh how right you are. The awful fear and defensiveness that some adoptive parents carry around and inflict on their children could begin to melt away with just a little honesty, with themselves, their adopted children and their families. The only relationship I ever had with my adoptive mother was that I carried her bags. I suspect this is true for many adopted kids. And these adopted kids grow up to be resentful adults.

    As you imply, the problem is that we all live in a system that encourages repression, denial, and dishonesty to protect the status quo, whether in social strata or in families. And only honesty and love combined can turn things around. In some ways, I think this has begun to happen, but we still have far to go.

  3. Thank you for that.
    I have many friends who were adopted and I have many friends who have opted for adoption as of late, this entire blog has helped me understand another part to a very complicated topic…

  4. kim.kim

    Why are the people with crossed arms allowed to adopt?

  5. Mia, this is awesome. You’ve made me think about many things with this post. Thank you – it will be in my next “don’t misses.”

  6. suz

    Wow. Yeah. Powerful. Wish my daughter and her parents could read it.

  7. Very powerful post. You are a terrific writer Mia.

  8. Thanks everyone. I appreciate the comments so much.
    Kim I started to reply to your comment and decided it deserved it’s own post. It’s a great question.
    Margie, thank you for having open arms. I mean that from the bottom of my heart.

  9. reunionwritings

    Mia, I might be wrong but I think you write Famiglia Prima, and Famiglia Adozione, it feels right but I could be wrong.

    Like you write casa mia instead of la mia casa, again I might be wrong. Mia means mine isn’t that cute.

  10. I am going to switch them around when I have time. Thanks!

    Ciao Bella

  11. While the county I adopted through wasn’t perfect, one of the things they did right was lots pre-adoptive classes with topics about stuff that was new/not comfortable. They only had one adult adoptee speak though.

    I appreciate this post, as you know one of the things I grapple with while BJ is so small is that fine line between bringing up adoption enough so that it is always a comfortable and relaxed topic, but not so much that I am forcing my own thoughts on my daughter’s developing sense of self.

  12. I can only imagine what a balancing act that must be Marlene.

    I guess we all just do the best we can with what we know and leave the rest up to God.

  13. Amy

    I honestly figured that you had read those “transcripts.” I know a few that have posted here had. Since I am getting all kinds of new faces at the blog, I guess republishing it made sense. A few adoptive parents have told me that that type of thing is their greatest fear. That their child would be hurt. Yes I am hurt but I am stronger for it in many ways. Ways that I don’t want to be but realize I have to be. I am one of the many voices that gets heard just like you and all of those that have responded. Hope you like the current post. I found a new book that I quoted from. He makes so much sense. Just got to check him out further. She is lucky that my sisters didn’t get a hold of her. Would have ripped her to shreds.

  14. I had read it before but reading it again just brought it all back for me emotionally.

  15. Mia, thank you for such a thoughtful and important post. I hope you don’t mind if I link to it?

  16. Sure Abe no problem. I think it’s important too. The more readers the merrier. Thanks!

  17. Great post, thanks. (I think all the articulate people have already said what I wanted to say!)

  18. Sue

    Third Mom sent me and I am glad I clicked in. I like to think of myself as an open armed parent, but sometimes the feelings of defensiveness, and overprotectiveness well up anyway. I try not to let my body betray me to my daughter, but I can’t imagine that I am 100% successful. So I need to keep hearing this stuff. It must be f-n exhausting to keep saying it over and over–but thank you. You really do impact individual adoptees when you are willing to talk to us, in spite of the closed arms you have to deal with.

  19. Great great post. I really got a sense of how youfelt as a child. Especially when you said you sat in your closet hoping your first mom would come save you.

    I’m going to link to this post on my blog too if you don’t mind.

    Ryan

  20. It is exhausting Sue but not in the way you might think. It’s frustrating to have my feelings about adoption disregarded as unimportant (as so often happens in my day to day interactions with others. Fortunately not here, which is why I do this). It’s exhausting in the sense that sometimes it feels like I will never be at peace with certain things and I want to be. So I keep writing. It brings a sense of validation to very real emotions that have largely been ignored until recently. Positive change on the horizon!

    Ryan you are welcome to link to this post. Thank you for listening. I know this stuff isn’t always easy to hear.

  21. A very HUGE payoff for bparents I would say Mia (to have a healthy parent/child relationship). Thanks for sharing and also for visiting my blog as well. This is truly a learning experience for anyone willing to listen to people like yourself and parents. And I do think people are listening. I just hope someday it translates into something meaningful like more rights for bparents and children who are adopted – and more importantly a greater emphasis on providing resources and assistance to parents so that their families can remain intact.

  22. My being adopted was not really a secret…but nobody talked about it. I didn’t feel like I wanted to talk about it. I never thought very often about being adopted…..I wasn’t any different than my brothers.
    What bothers me about adoption is that we, as adopted parents are tested, poked, prodded and questioned (which is a good thing) but total idiots can have their own children with no tests to see if they are any good and will be good parents. I want to protect all children….not just adopted ones.

    I don’t know about people born and living in orphanages, or taken from their their families and adopted out after months of being with their mothers…..but adpted at three weeks all I knew, all my baby knows is her adopted parents…those are parents for life. We don’t remember our biological mothers….so I don’t know how we can be so affected….I wasn’t but maybe others are, i don’t know.

  23. joy

    Petunia said:

    My being adopted was not really a secret…but nobody talked about it. I didn’t feel like I wanted to talk about it.

    Interesting, that is EXACTLY how I felt when I was little, only now as an adult to I wonder, WHY didn’t I want to talk about it?

  24. I think as adults we are able to construct meaning from events that occurred to us in our childhood – meanings that we did not have the capacity to comprehend as a child. In other words, we did not have fully developed cognitive or emotive abilities to understand what we experienced. Examples of that abound when you think back to your childhood at some of the unsafe and dastardly deeds we did, yet at the time we thought nothing of going 90 miles an hour down the road at night with our headlights off or jumping off a cliff into a river without knowing how deep the water was. Now we look back at horror (and perhaps some amusement) over those things. The same occurs with adoption. The children adopted as infants knew no different – just like a girl sexually abused by her father for years thinks that this is what happens in all families. Why? Because no one told her it could be or was different. So, adoptees think all families might be constructed this way and, if not, somehow their difference makes their family “special”. How that is interpreted is important. These are just a few of my thoughts for what they are worth…..

  25. BTW petunia, you will get no argument from me about what we require from bio-parents vs. adoptive parents. I have believed for a long time we hold adoptive parents to a higher standard than bio-parents….if not higher, certainly more invasive evaluation & scrutiny. I don’t think that is a bad thing but, like you, I wonder why we don’t hold bio-parents to the same criteria. I need some to get a license to cut my hair (what is left of it) or operate a bingo parlor yet all I need is five minutes with someone of the opposite sex to have a child complete with parental rights….hmmmm something just doesn’t seem right!

  26. Great post mia, thank you so much. You said, “Diversity is rarely celebrated in our world, in fact it is most often discouraged and that’s sad. Pretending we are something we are not is what I’m getting at here. It sucks. It would have been nice to have had someone I felt safe talking to about feeling different. Someone (namely my mother) who would not instantly tie it to her own issues with needing loyalty. Instead of feeling safe talking about my feelings I just picked up and carried her bags.” This reminds me of the “Black Baby, White Hands” book by Jaiya Johns that I just finished and posted about today on my blog. He says similar things… that not being acknowledged and accepted and listened to and valued for his total self was the thing that hurt him the most. You have reinforced that for me here and I hope I never forget it.

  27. Petunia I discuss here the change I see as necessary regarding adoption. There are plenty of things in this world that need to change but I do what I can to make a difference where I will be most effective. I don’t think anyone would dispute the need to find a way to make all children safe.

    You say- “We don’t remember our biological mothers….so I don’t know how we can be so affected…”
    Also another take on the same subject by LeRoy here- “In other words, we did not have fully developed cognitive or emotive abilities to understand what we experienced. ”

    Although it may be true we have no cognitive memory of our first mothers we most certainly have a deeper and possibly more meaningful memory of them. A baby cannot put words to loss but it has been proven they can in fact feel loss in a profound way. There are scientific studies to back this up and I would be happy to provide you with resources if you like. However Petunia I suspect you will choose not to read the information but instead remain firm in your beliefs that adoptees have no reason to feel loss if they come from happy childhoods. Which I whole heartedly disagree with you on.

    I hope that you will consider that your adopted child may or may not fly through life as untouched as you have been by being adopted. I hope that you choose to be open to assisting them on their own very personal journey into adulthood even if that journey does not mirror your own.

  28. Cloudscome you wrote-
    “that not being acknowledged and accepted and listened to and valued for his total self was the thing that hurt him the most. You have reinforced that for me here and I hope I never forget it.”

    This is super important for everyone isn’t it? What a great lesson!
    You won’t forget. I hope I don’t either. I have four children who deserve this too. I am going to really work on it. Thanks so much!

  29. As an adoptive mother of three I truly appreciate this post. I know I have insecurities but I have always tried to be open and honest with my children and make them feel they can discuss or ask me anything. I will not lie…there have been times that the questions are very hard to hear and answer. That is just my own issues but I try very hard never to let that show to my children (I have not always been successful.) I am growing and learning each day and reading things like this really do help. It is wonderful when all sides of the triad can work together to make our children grow up happy and healthy!

    BTW…got your link from Ryan! Great to meet you!

  30. Isn’t it great Gwen? I love the idea that our children can always be our first priority. Even if we make mistakes the fact that we keep trying is awesome.

    Great to meet you too!

  31. I clearly remember crying and missing my mother on my 4th birthday. In fact, that memory is my earliest childhood memory. I was sobbing and I kept waiting for my mother to come and get me. It took her nearly 16 years.

  32. I was not adopted, but when my mother would go into a rage, I would curl up in a corner and ask for my “real mother” to come back, too. For me it was two halves of one person. To you, it was two people. It complicates things, but it is a natural growing up thing.

  33. I read this post with an open heart and I am doing my best to keep my arms and mind open as well. I want Snuggle Bug to feel safe and comfortable coming to us to ask questions about his birth parents. I’m happy that we’ll have some answers to give him. There will be no fabricated stories, only the truth.

  34. Pingback: Where Should I Live? « Crafty Mommy

  35. Superb post however , I was wanting to know if you could write a litte more on this subject? I’d be very grateful if you could elaborate a little bit further. Appreciate it!

  36. Currently it sounds like BlogEngine is the preferred blogging platform available right now. (from what I’ve read) Is that what you are using on your blog?
    woolrich outlet http://www.edizionipiagge.it/wp-content/themes/woolrichoutlet/

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s