Sunday, December 03, 2006

Adoptive Mother-Daughter Dress Alike

Found a bunch of pictures of me and my adoptive mom in matching outfits.

Funny, I don't remember wearing them.

And there are quite a few of these outfits: ruffled white blouse, long black skirt. Ruffled pink top and long gypsy skirt. Yellow halter top and navy blue bell bottoms and so on.

In the pictures I am around 13 to 14, the age in which I longed for Levi jeans. My mother never let me buy them, saying they were too expensive. Instead, she bought J.C. Penny brand jeans. Apparently, the money was needed to fill our closets with matching outfits.

This was a rocky time between us. A difficult time between mothers and daughters without the complexity of adoption. With it, while denying its very existence, a not-so-silent war was declared. The very first signs of independence must have been seen as a betrayal and an abandonment. The more I gravitated toward my friends, the more she clamped down. She went from being a loving but overprotective mother to an angry, domineering one full of bitter recriminations: "You have to have your own way or no way at all," (my refusal to wear J.C. Penny jeans) and "You care more about your friends than us" and, the one uttered most often, "How can you treat us like this after all we've done for you."

I never had an answer for that one because I never really understood it. But now I do. My adoptive mother had expectations. That an adopted daughter would stay even closer to her out of gratitude.

And those matching outfits? It was a way of reminding me and the world that we were mother and daughter.

Today, I can't imagine asking my 14-year old to dress like me. Because she has her own style. Preppy meets skater. Yesterday, I even let her get some extra ear piercings because expressing herself is important. I delight in her growing independence. I am not threatened by it. But I have the comfort of knowing that, no matter what, she is my daughter. Would I - could I - be so confident if she were somebody else's child? What sort of unspoken fears would I harbor every time my child pulled away from me? Being an adoptive parent during the teeange years must be difficult. Does open adoption and adoption education make it easier? And all these foreign adoptions that aren't really open, but closed, their birth parents and histories thousands of miles away? What will it be like for them?


Blogger suz said...

very good questions. good post.

6:44 PM  
Blogger Celera said...

Very good questions indeed. As an adoptee and a parent of children who were once 14 -- it is difficult to see your children pull away from you, although at the same time it is a normal process of maturation. The problem is when some normal feeling has a circumstance (like this not being your "real" child) to latch on to. Something that might have been transitory now becomes a substantive issue, if not an obsession.

If your mother had given birth to you instead of adopting you, I think she would have had the same struggles with letting go. Whether we are good at that is a fundamental part of our personality. And I think that if your daughter was adopted you would still be encouraging her to express her individual personality. Our degree of independence is a very fundamental (and largely inherited) part of our personalities. But, adoption does take natural feelings and compound them, doesn't it?

9:27 AM  
Blogger LeRoy Dissing said...

How well a child separates from their mother as a young child will be indicative of how well they separate as a teen. I have always felt that if parents invested heavily in the front end (early years) with their children, it pays huge dividends later on. Spending time with pre-school children and then as they separate when they go off to school is probably much harder for moms then kids....I sometimes wonder who is learning most. I think moms go through the same kind of separation anxiety they did when they were children. It is as though you live it all over again with your own children but hopefully with better results for them and us.

A good post Nina.

9:06 PM  
Blogger HeatherRainbow said...

You ask some very good questions. I often wonder what it is like for my daughter.

12:06 AM  
Blogger Joy said...

I love this post but I have a cold and can't comment coherently.

5:41 PM  

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