Monday, November 05, 2007

Really Bad Adoption Stories

In the old days, it was that awful Chosen Baby story.

Or hearing that you were "special" (another way of calling somebody retarded, even back then. For a while, I actually thought I was "special" in that way).

Either way, it placed an uncomfortable emphasis on the fact that you were different. And who wants to be different when you're a kid? You just want to fit in. It was also confusing. The whole Chosen Baby tale conjured up images of one's adopters sauntering past rows and rows of cribs filled with babies holding out their chubby arms, begging to be picked.

And now, I've read, some adopted kids are being told by well meaning adoptive parents that they "grew in their mommies heart."

In my opinion, not such a good idea.

In fact, a really BAD idea.

First, think back. Kids are pretty literal minded. I was no dummy, but if I'd been told that when I was young, I definitely would have thought I developed in my adoptive mom's heart. And that was the difference between being adopted and not. Biological kids grow in their mommies tummies. Adopted kids grow in their mommie's heart. Also knowing me, I wouldn't have asked follow-up questions to clarify this alarming news. I asked few questions. Many kids don't ask questions. After all, they haven't yet developed interviewing skills and pretty much accept what they're told.

Also, I just watched Alien Resurrection. And guess what happens? Some evil-doers decide to recreate Ripley from her 200 year old blood and then use her as a surrogate and implant an alien fetus in her chest. Imagine her horror when she figures out the irony of her situation (old Ripley hating aliens as much as she did, she is technically the mother of an alien) while grappling with some pretty serious identity issues, like is she Ripley...or not. Well, anyway, Baby Alien is surgically removed from Reconstituted Ripley's chest cavity.

You know the FIRST thing I thought of?

That "You Grew In My Heart" adoption story. (Actually, I alarmed my teenagers by screaming "Oh No!")

If something grows in your heart, at some point, it's gotta be removed. Otherwise the heart is gonna burst. Analogies are pretty much lost on kids.

I totally understand the desire to explain adoption in as painless and positive a way as possible to one's adoptee. Honest. But it doesn't take forced and painful analogies. One doesn't have to make potentially misleading statements. One doesn't have to say God spent a lot of time getting rid of one set of parents just so another could benefit. One doesn't have to call the kid a Blessing...which is just as burdensome as being Chosen. The adoptee just needs a simple, clear, no frills explanation and, of course, lots of empathy and gentle answers to questions as they arise.

Being told you are adopted is an unpleasant experience. Okay, it's traumatic. There's no way around it. It's like the kid is staring at a really disturbing picture by Picasso - trying to make sense of it - and being repeatedly told how pretty it is. I argue it's the beginning of our disconnection from ourselves and reality. We know how bad it feels. Everybody else insists it's wonderful.

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39 Comments:

Blogger jbennett said...

WOW! Thanks for your honest and insightful post.

Meredith Hall posted at our blog this week about her experiences sharing her own adoption story, and how people react to her honesty. I hope you'll come take a look: http://www.beaconbroadside.com/broadside/2007/11/breaking-the-ru.html

Thanks,

Jessica Bennett
Editor, Beacon Broadside

8:42 AM  
Blogger Eve said...

Excellent post; I could not agree with you more. As you noted, kids are developmentally quite concrete in their thinking. I think the truth (as in the facts) is the right story to tell. One tells the truth the child can assimilate, and then lets the child ask questions. I think back in the old days, this was called "having a relationship." Too bad some adoptive parents don't seem to be able to do that.

I think that so many adoptive parents have to tell a romantic story because they're projecting their romantic stories. This romantic story lasts until the adopted person starts to be so unromantic (colic, anyone? toddler fits and rages, anyone? how about a sizable serving of adolescent rage? or maybe your young adult adoptee personage decides not to go to college, and your romance is that she will; or he decides hell will freeze over before he goes into the family auto repair business, and damn, your romance is dashed to pieces).

That's how it happens. And it happens in biologically-related families too; it's just so much more of an insult when adoption occurs ostensibly in the "best interests of the child."

1:02 PM  
Blogger Nina said...

Eve, One of the great things about blogging is getting left such an interesting comment and discovering somebody else's fascinating blog..such as yours.

Mmm. "I think that so many adoptive parents have to tell a romantic story because they're projecting their romantic stories."

That's REALLY interesting to think about. If you are not the one who is adopted, then I can see that others - including adoptive parents - can put it in a romantic framework. The media does this ALL the time. On some level, some of adoptive parents not only seem to want a child, but also a bit of a story to tell...one that shows them in a good light. Not all, of course. But some. Recently, I saw a pretty good example of AP projection on a forum. Some a-moms were mulling over the comments of a 3-year old. I saw the comment as one expressing confusion. They interpreted it as the child expressing an inner desire. Who knows. This might have been true. Only the kid knows. But I doubt it. Three is awfully young.

3:39 PM  
Blogger Esther said...

Great post Nina. I wanted to come over and thank you for responding to my comment on Possum's blog. I appreciate the feedback.

I wanted to know if you could please check out my post today over at my blog, and let me know what your opinion is on the question I pose. And please feel free to ask as many adoptees to come over and share their opinion as well.

We adopted to older girls in September (age 2.5 and 4.5). So, they know they were adopted. No pulling the wool over their eyes on that one. ;o) So with your post today, what would you suggest to adoptive parents as an alternative? Perhaps we don't need an alternative as the truth really suffices in and of itself.

I'm looking forward to finding many adoptee blogs, and would appreciate if you let me know your favorites so I can check them out. I want to see all angles and opinions to adoption so I won't end up with my head in the figurative sand.

Thank you again. Best wishes, Esther

5:34 PM  
Blogger Esther said...

Sorry typo. We adopted TWO girls.....(not to)

5:34 PM  
Blogger Eve said...

Nina, I have some adoption posts on a mothering blog I discontinued, namely because I wanted to focus on issues of individuation and wholeness rather than "only" mothering or adoption. However, you might find them interesting, because it will give a more robust view of some of my thoughts.

About the three-year-old: I would go with the adopted person's perceptions rather than that of the adoptive parents simply because of the adoption romance. I'd put money on your take being more realistic, and the child being confused. I worked as a therapist for many years with many adoption triad members, and the level of delusion of birth and adoptive parents was staggering. Adopted children, teens, and adults had fewer illusions but a lot more anger and depression (there's the bite).

Anyway, I love your blog even though there is so much pain and anger here, the loss, the... unbearable ass-hole-ness (that's a professional word, I think, *cough cough*) of people playing parent for the first time. I am just so sorry for your suffering and the suffering of so many people who are adopted. It's tough enough to individuate without dealing with abandonment from Day One. This is the terrible and awesome task of the orphan.

I hope you don't mind my becoming a fixture here. I'm so glad I found you! :o)

5:47 PM  
Blogger Nina said...

Esther, Will visit your blog and post there. I suspect adopting children of that age strips away a lot of the pretense that often - even unintentionally - goes along with adopting infants. So talking about adoption with your children may be easier because there was a VERY definite "before" that simply can't be ignored or minimized.

EVE...I welcome and thank you for your EXTREMELY validating words. Actually, I was so moved I would have done a boo hoo if my teenagers hadn't got into an argument and wrecked my emo mood! In real life, not so angry. In fact, that's probably the last thing anybody would call me. So blogs are great for releasing all the pent up anger and pain that a nice, compliant girl held in for four decades!

8:12 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

And why is there nothing posted about a loving, nurturing, supportive parent whose grown child turns ugly and abusive to the point of both lying and stealing? (for example)
What about when a parent does absolutely everything within their power to provide the best of all possible lives for children who grow into monsters in return? I was adopted and I adopted a baby, thirty-eight years later,
I have never been so sorry I did anything in my life.

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