Saturday, December 30, 2006

Adoptive vs. Biological Parent Smackdown

For those catching up, an update: Seven months after finding my birthmother, I'm told she allowed her husband to sexually abuse a child in her care over a period of years. My mother is still in denial. This child, now a woman, never received family help.

There's nothing like some wine tasting followed by long soaks in hot mineral pools to work out the kinks. Thank you, Calistoga!

That impending feeling of doom with the undercurrent of dread and revulsion at the above-mentioned "bio family news" is pretty much gone. In its place is some distance and a more realistic point of view. Leroy, your suggested strategy of limited contact sums up what I've been working toward.

In short: my biological family has some pretty big problems, none of which involve me. There's sexual abuse, drug and alcohol addiction, addiction to men, etc. While I can offer sympathy and support to the sexually abused relative who turned to me after all the women in the family let her down, I believe I can do so without direct involvement. After all, only she can decide how to handle this situation.

My "blood" family did without me for 46 years. I am the one who initiated contact. No one searched for me. While they have accepted the surprise of my existence with more openness and, in some cases, warmth than could be expected, I have no obligation to make this family my own. I wasn't a part of it for the past four decades. I am only a very small part of it now, like a comma after a very long sentence.

Which now puts my adoption in a new light. If I hadn't been "put up" for adoption, chances are, I would have been sexually abused, too. Chances are, I would have been neglected by my birthmother so she could have pursued her bar-hopping, nightclubbing, man-searching ways. Various birth relatives have tried to tell me this without coming out and saying it.

Here's the "smackdown" part. Okay. Let's say I would have been worse off staying with my biological mother (not that was ever a possibility-she was determined from the start to relinquish). That I was better off being raised by strangers.

What did I gain instead? A self-centered, histrionic mother and a child-like narscisstic father with a stable blue-collar job. The funny thing is, as far as "matching" goes, the social worker did a pretty darned good job. She found me an equally dysfunctional family, minus the sexual abuse and alcohol.

And here's food for thought.

Just got off the phone with my adoptive dad. He said when he and my mother had visited Napa they cut short their trip after one day (!) because my adoptive mother was bored stiff and demanded they drive to Reno. Why? Because there were no casinos, nightclubs or fun bars in Napa and there was nothing for her to do. My a-mom was in her early fifties at the time. My a-dad went on to say she also hated anyplace that didn't have a beach or nightclub where she could have a Martini and dance. Not that my a-mom was an alcoholic. She wasn't. She was just a party girl. She wanted to be entertained. If she couldn't be entertained, she wanted to shop.

As my husband said, my adoptive dad seemed to stop maturing around the age of 13 and my a-mother around 19. Luckily, my grandmother seemed pleased to have company. My a-parents left me with her most weekends so they could hit the dance clubs. My a-mom had two older sisters and I was also often left in their care so my mom could go about her business unencumbered. After going through all that trouble to adopt, it strikes me as odd that my a-mom wasn't ready to leave behind her party girl ways, to act in a more mature manner and compromise by staying home a bit more. After all, my a-mom was 35 when I came home, a little too old to act like a teenager.

It seems I was destined to have a selfish, immature mother...biological or adoptive. Instead of a series of low-life men, I got my adoptive dad. A sober, hard-working guy who desperately needed attention and parenting. I guess that beats being sexually abused. I suppose I could blame the (damn) social worker and (the fucking) adoption system as existed back in 1960, and I have, but to continue to do so would be a waste of energy.

Is this, big sigh, a move in the direction of acceptance?



Blogger Joy said...

Interesting, there are striking parallels between my first and second families too.

12:39 PM  
Blogger LeRoy Dissing said...

If you were to ask me Nina...I would say "yes". And I think you are on a good track and speed.

7:05 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Nina,

I've been reading your blog for some time now but this is the first time I have commented, I just want to are amazing.

Happy 2007!


2:54 AM  

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