AP Question

Here is Abebech’s question:

How can we find a balance between challenging the institution of adoption and adoption as it is currently practiced without undermining the security of children? How to make adoption less “normal” — which is clearly a concern for many adult adoptees — without making adopted children feel, as people, abnormal and, by extension, bad? (My daughter is already aware that the norm is not adoption, but should she be made to feel alien? Or, should she be made to feel that nothing is personal? That we’re YOUR business?)

My Thoughts:

Looking back on my own upbringing I can tell you what would have made a positive difference for me. I am sorry to say that when it comes to adoption I don’t think normal is achievable to any degree. I do however think content and comfortable in ones own skin is. My answer is based on achieving the latter. Normal is overrated anyway.

Honesty. Age appropriate response of course but not sugar coated. Simple honesty. And I think it’s important for the adoptee to be bringing up the questions whenever possible, which would maybe avoid an over zealous approach to openness by parents who would try bringing up subjects surrounding adoption that the child isn’t quite ready for. I realize we can’t always wait around for our kids to come out with questions we can tell are swimming around in their heads, I am just saying we should try not to do much assuming and not force the topic. In a nutshell- adults tend to complicate things more than necessary.

Teaching your child that when it comes to the subject of adoption they are neither required nor expected to reply to other peoples questions unless they are completely comfortable doing so. No pre-programmed responses are necessary and this includes not only to the outside world but to the parents themselves. I know a lot of AP’s who ask questions (maybe subconsciously) expecting to hear a certain response. Children are not stupid and will give you the answer they sense you desire. I know I did. I became a proficient liar. So good in fact that for many years I even convinced myself that I felt a certain way about being adopted.

To let them know that most people have a very ignorant idea about what adoption is and what it is not. That others ignorance is something they only have to address if they choose to (a lesson that would take some years but well worth working on). So even if they are approached by 1000 people saying 1000 stupid things they remain solid knowing they are not only entitled to feel and think differently but they are right to. If and when they decide to “educate the ignorant” it should be a choice they make freely. No child should ever feel it necessary to explain anything about adoption unless they choose to. It’s OK to say “I would rather not talk about it thank you”.

To make sure they are very clear about the fact that most people ARE ignorant about adoption so they can move those inevitable hurtful comments right into the trash icon in their brains. Other children can be very hurtful but it’s the grown ups comments that confuse a child because adults are supposed to know everything. We should make it very clear that just because someone is grown up doesn’t always make them smart or right.

When it comes to discussing the topic of being adopted a strong sense of security comes from learning that we can effectively protect ourselves when necessary by NOT talking about it. It doesn’t hurt to know that those we trust will do their best to offer that protection as well simply by allowing us to exercise that right. It comes from living in an environment where self preservation is encouraged and allowed regardless of what the world around us is saying to the contrary. Being adopted does not make us fair game for curiosity hunters and we are under no obligation to comply. Just knowing this can make all the difference.

One final thought- if and when our children choose to talk about it they absolutely MUST feel completely comfortable being honest. That is not having them voice what we expect their truth to be…that is us being open to what their truth actually is. They must feel it is safe to be honest. If they can’t achieve this at home they will never feel safe doing so (when they are ready to share) out in a world  that desperately needs to hear their truth so it can shift it’s ignorant perspective. It would be very helpful some day to have their honest voices join the choir.



Filed under Adoptive Family, Truthful Musings

8 responses to “AP Question

  1. suz

    I don’t think normal is achievable to any degree.

    Mia – I completely agree. I think that is the first step – admitting adoption is not “normal”. Babies are not supposed to given away by their mommies. Mommies are not supposed to be abandoned or unsupported or forced to give away their babies. Trying to make something that is not normal BE normal is a huge mistake.

    Honesty, as you so clearly note, is critical IMO. Acknowledge that the child has two families, respect the childs intelligence to know that and NEED that. Respect the childs wound, loss and realize it is about the child – not about the family that couldnt have a baby, not about acting “as if born to”, not about lies, secrecy and deciet.

    Adoption as it exist in most cases today is a huge insult to the adopted child/adult. They are adopted – not stupid.

    I could go on (as I usually do) but just wanted to say I agree with you.

  2. I really should have noted that the AP who posed this question has it together more than any other AP I have ever met. She is absolutely amazing. I think her question was geared more toward outside influence. I included the stuff that starts at home as a general inclusion because how we deal with things begins at home. But honestly I think Abebech is way ahead of the game in that regard.

    Thanks for your comment Suz!

  3. suz

    Understood. I see Abebech around (maybe on Dawns blog?) and know that she has it together. Frankly, by even asking the question, that shows she has it together. But yeah, thanks for the clarifiction.

  4. Ronnie

    “Normal” Oh don’t we wish that meant growing up in a loving caring family were Mom and Dad provided all the love and care that is due any innocent child. With the children being the focal point of everything that was done. Where the child didn’t feel singled out in any negative way having to explain how or why they were different or even feeling uncomfortable by not saying anything.

    Sad thing is that “normal” describes kids that are put in that position so often. You are so right about the ignorance also…….people don’t know how to respond or what to say even if they have all good intentions. It doesn’t make the kid feel any better though.

    I guess one good thing about it, I would think us adoptees can at least teach our children to be sensitive to others who aren’t “normal” and help them deal with things like it when they are faced with the same types of things.


  5. Mia, thank you so much for your thoughtful response (as always!) and thanks too for your compliments and esteem of me. I am still so glad we were able to meet and think of that as one of the best experiences to come from all this!

    I wrote a really long response, but then I was concerned that it seemed as if I was asking you to speak for adoptees everywhere . . . I’m going to send you an email instead.

    Again, thanks and love!

  6. Mia, thanks for this post. It’s helpful to thinking through some of the issues at hand.

    And really, I think teaching our kids to privilege their own feelings/safety/whatever over other people’s comfort is good advice in parenting generally. It’s just even more important for kids who are adopted and who get all kinds of intrusive crap.

  7. I am a little nervous to post here, but I just wanted to say thanks for this post and wanted to know if it is ok if I link to it….

  8. You are welcome shel. I am completely OK with you linking.

    I’m sorry you feel nervous commenting here. I truly wish for this to be a space in which to discuss things in a respectful and positive environment. I am not always completely successful at that but I do try. ;o)

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