Tuesday, June 08, 2010

I Know You Were Adopted But...Part II

Don't be angry.  This is not a post against adoptees but against the broad generalization that I've been reading lately on some adoptee blogs that characterize adoptive parents as naive.  It is insinuated that although we are "well intented" in our quest to expand our families through adoption we really don't have a clue and should confess as much.  Admit to the world that we are woefully unprepared to take on the challenges that come with adopting and accept that our "love conquers all" (so implied) attitude is both antiquated and misplaced because the transformative issues associated with adoption are too complex.  Love is only a band aide. 

To me it implies that there should be shame in not knowing how to best parent an adopted child.  That we should wear t shirts that read "I'm Well Intended But..." or "My Kids Adopted Which Means I Don't Have A Clue".   When I read adoptee blogs that go on and on that adoptive parents think this and adoptive parents say that I think to myself so what's your point?  What is it really that you're trying to say because from where I stand (over here on the side of raising children) I hear judge, judge, judge.  And from what I've seen the harshest critics of adopted parents are by adoptees who are. not. parents.

I don't care if you are adopted, biological or sprouted from a bush alongside leprechauns, unless you have walked a mile in my parenting shoes don't pretend to understand my motives or my heart. 

I don't mean to sound patronizing (I actually may be past that point) but isn't it clearly stating the obvious that as parents, biological or adoptive, we have no idea what we're getting in to when we take on the responsibility of children?

I have two children.  One biological and one adopted and I thought they were both going to be a ray of sunshine because they were mine!  How do you explain to someone that half of the time parenting is like swimming in a kiddie pool of pirhannas?  You can't!  You look at that first picture of your newly adopted child or feel your baby moving inside of you and you think perfection.  Sweet, baby-faced perfection...

Of course we had no idea what we were getting into-especially when we adopted our children.  Yes, we read, we obsessed, we furiously became a member of adoptive forums and blogs and we really did try and prepare ourselves to become the parent that our future child needs.  I have met very, very few adoptive parents who have been naive enough to think that it will be lollipops and roses once they are home with their adopted son or daughter.  And I have met fewer that didn't go to even greater lengths to educate themselves after their children were home in order to guide them on their journey of grief and abandonment trauma. 

What do we have if we don't have a "love conquers all" attitude because the root of that purposeful, determined emotion is hope.  Didn't you have that kind of love when you married? Weren't you swept away in a love that you believed could carry you through the rest of your life?  Wasn't hope the core of that promise you made on your wedding day and because of love itself you believe it will carry you through any trial? Sickness and health.  Better or worse.  Richer or poorer. 

Can we all say that we knew what marriage would bring?  Could we predict that in the midst of love there would be hurt and sorrow?  Were we wrong to believe on that most important day that by saying yes to forever we were acknowledging that love would indeed conquer all?  I don't think so. 

I believe that love can conquer anything.  I believe that the heart can heal and become renewed because of love.  I know that my daughter can overcome her adoption trauma because of perfect love.  But hear me clearly when I say that I recognize that my love will never be enough.  I am talking about a redemptive, grace filled love from our Creator Who can heal any wound, mend any soul and redeem any wrong. 

Jesus walked this Earth so that we could learn what perfect love looks like.  You see, we are bound by our limitations.  God is not. We are promised that we can claim victory to any burden, any sorrow through Christ.  I believe that for my children.  Can I do it for them? No.  But I can teach them how to receive it-God will do the rest.

The next time you think about questioning the motives of an adoptive parent-ask yourself this question first.  What is it in you that makes you point a finger and say you're not good enough, you're not well intended enough, your eyes are not opened enough??  Life is all about on the job training and sometimes you just don't get it until you live it. 

I wore rose colored glasses before becoming a parent.  I said "HELL YEAH! Sign me up!"  and thanks goodness for my naive optimism because this parenting thing is tough.  I couldn't have forseen the angst and anguish that comes with raising another human being and nobody could have told me different.  I had to do it to believe it. 

I don't think adoptive parents need to justify why they choose to adopt.  I also don't think adoptees need to justify why they choose to find their birth families.  All of us were born.  None of us were asked to choose our parents beforehand.   At some point we all have a choice.  Maybe for a million different reasons it didn't start off that way but it certainly ends up that way. 

I keep my rose colored glasses tucked neatly away in a drawer.  I don't need them anymore.  But, they are a good reminder that I jumped in with both feet, propelled by love and hope into a great unknown *



Jay and Chandra and Penny Regan said...

I totally understand where you're coming from. Thankfully, our adopted daughter doesn't complain about naive adoptive parents. In fact, she says she wants to adopt, too, someday. So, I guess that tells me that she sees the value in adopting children and is not stuck in her trauma about being an adoptee.

Christina said...

I don't think that it's a matter of whether an adoptive parent is naive or not.

I think it's a matter of the adoptive parents understanding that regardless of how much love there is in an adoptive family..perfect or not..that child has endured a trauma, and it's not something that can be easily swept under the rug.

I was great at pretending that I was okay as a child..and that being adopted didn't affect me. But the truth is, it did. As an adult adoptee in reunion, I can honestly say that it affects me more today than I allowed it to as a child.

And for the above commenter, I hope that you can recognize that your daughter may someday feel that she needs to deal with the trauma too.

April said...

Thank you so much for your comment! I appreciate your perspective and thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts here.
I think what I have a hard time with is constantly hearing that in general adoptive parents pretend away our child's trauma.
The point I was trying to make is that you can only prepare yourself for another person's trauma so much ahead of time. So what is perceived as 'pretending our kids will come to us as that one in a million not affected by adoption trauma' is REALLY hope. Hope that God will prepare you both for the journey ahead. Hope that loving as Christ did will help heal a broken and abandoned heart.
We confront our daughter's adoption trauma head on. Is it done perfectly? No. There have been moments (as you can read here) when I have thought "what is going on here?" only to realize later on-and with the help of a trained professional-that I was looking at the face of trauma. I kick myself because as a mother I should have known that screaming for another glass of milk at dinner was adoption related, not four year old drama. But I'm learning too. I have learned to love in a way that I didn't think I was capable of. I will say this a million times- my daughter has changed my life. It wasn't her job to do so, just an amazing bonus of being her mom. Learning how to parent her and earning her love in spite of my mistakes is a gift I could not have anticipated.
The adoptive parents I know don't try and sweep our children's trauma under the rug. Does it happen with some. Sure. But to generalize is really to demean parents who feel called to adopt.

Wendy said...

Loved this. I'm confused about Christina's comment, though. Nowhere in your post do you say that you fail to understand that your daughter has experienced trauma. To the contrary, you have honestly shared in this and other posts that she has and that you have taken every conceivable measure to meet her needs head on. I'm troubled by the generalization that "adoptive parents" feel or act one way or another. As if we're all in the same boat raising the same kids the same way. Just as adoptees are unique individuals with their own stories, so are adoptive families. Where does anyone get the idea that we all "easily sweep (our children's" trauma under the rug?" To suggest, as Christina seems to, that all adoptive parents behave one way and all adopted children feel and/or act a certain way, is rather short-sighted.

I've been doing this parenting thing a long time. Each day brings its challenges and its rewards. You only really find that out by actually being a parent, though.

Kudos to you for, once again, being so honest in your feelings!

April said...

I think this is the pitfall that many of us can fall into whether it's adoption related or not. We make A TON of assumptions based on our own personal life experiences. I think to a point it's normal but you can't generalize and stereotype each and every situation. There is this woman that constantly makes snide and rude remarks on Grown in My Heart after many blog posts. It drives me crazy because she has taken her (awful) adoption experience and projected it onto each and every individual that becomes an adoptive parent. It's ridiculous and insulting. Not only does she stereotype all adoptive parents but she does it in such a way where you can get past her rudeness to understand where she's coming from. I read a lot of that. I'm not implying that Christina feels this way, I just think that, like you said, you can take each adoptee and assume they will feel this way or that and you especially can not assume that adoptive parents are going to ignore the trauma they have suffered.
I have cried more tears than I care to share over the hurt that my daughter has and will continue to experience. It hurts my heart because I love her so deeply but I understand that she has to go through it, she has to be allowed to live it and I think I've shared that plenty here.
Thanks for the comments and keep them coming. I love hearing everyone's point of you and invite the sharing regardless if I agree with it or not.

April said...

oh my gosh sorry for the word typos and errors in my comment-i was typing so fast and didn't reread what I wrote!

Anonymous said...

April: You are brilliant! Your family is just plain gorgeous. (And, when I read your post about feeling inferior for not having a college degree, I was thinking that I know plenty of people with masters degrees who write nowhere near as eloquently or intelligently as you do... Um, like me, the queen of typos and spelling errors. By-the-way, don't mind any spelling errors, that I didn't even notice, in your above comment.)

Thank you for posting on this topic. It has been one that I have been dealing with lately. I hope you will possibly write more. I have been wanting to adopt from Thailand for as far back as I can remember and began researching the process since before I was even married. Now as the time gets closer to start the journey of becoming a parent, I find myself more confused than ever before. My heart desperately yearns to bring home a son from Thailand, much more than I have ever yearned to give birth to a baby, and yet, I find myself questioning if it's the right thing.

I read about anti-adoption and have no choice but to consider the arguments, to ponder other options. I have tried to ask other adoptive families in person, on blogs, on forums and most have been offended or defensive. They acknowledge the gigantic loss that their children have endured and have to endure every day, but rarely do they ever admit that they sometimes fail as parents or that they are not equipped to deal with everything that their children will have to deal with. Your post here was a different response and it gave me hope.

I know that I am prepared to give 110% percent to my child and I also know that that will never, ever, ever be enough. How can I sleep at night knowing that nothing that I say or do will ever be enough, knowing that he deserved so much more than me as his mother and that he is only mine because he had to endure such a profound loss. Then I think that there is no way I am qualified. Can I really do this?

KO said...

This is my first time visiting your blog, and I really enjoyed this. It reminds me of the book in our current study - Parenting is Your Highest Calling ...and Eight Other Myths that Trap Us in Worry and Guilt. Which talks about parenting and all the challenges.

None of us know what we are getting into. On our hardest days, I remind myself, I would never trade our adoption related trauma for many of the birth related issues that could have just as easily happened. We are so incredibly blessed with 2 healthy and perfectly imperfect children.

Mei Ling said...

"What is it in you that makes you point a finger and say you're not good enough, you're not well intended enough, your eyes are not opened enough??"

Being through the trauma of separated from one's biological parents (Yes, I know many children are abused/neglected by their biological parents - not talking about those cases).

I can't tell you how many times my perspective has been dismissed by outsiders - not necessarily adoptive parents IRL - but just outsiders in general.

And maybe you're right - maybe Adoptee A won't feel pain and think adoption is the greatest thing since sliced bread.

But I'd hate to think that Adoptee A will end up being like me - dismissed, ignored, silenced, and being told his parents had the best of intentions.

Actually, that came off wrong. *sighs*

What I'm trying to say is that while a parent saying the best of intentions is a truth, it does not erase what happened and it does not erase the adoptee's feelings. The adoptee has the right to feel what they want DESPITE the good intentions. And I think that is where adoptive parents and adult adoptees clash - because as you rightly noted, good intentions is what gets a parent through adoptive parenting. And then to hear adoptees say "Well that is never going to be enough" is like a balloon deflater.

So I would say that while saying you have good intentions is your truth and nobody can dismiss that, it also shouldn't be used to attempt to "brush away" the pain associated with adoption or the adoptee's feelings.

It's not that I personally don't think love isn't enough. It's that it implies love from the adoptive parents is enough, but any [fulfilling] love from the biological parents was never going to be good enough either.

There was a quote that someone once wrote out in the blogosphere a while back, maybe it was from Betty Jean Lifton's book about adoption journeys? I can't remember, but it said something like:

"If good intentions were enough, we'd never have to try harder."

Mei Ling said...

I am also under the impression (after talking with adult adoptees who have birthed their own children AND adopted) that the connection with a biological child compared to an adopted child is different.

They say that the love is not different, but the parenting is different. And because the biological child came from the parent's uterus, it's different type of bonding.

Chris said...

I had not visited your blog before either. I love your post.
If I would have know how hard child birth was, I would have not had children...went on to do it twice more. The good outweighed the hard stuff. Same thing with adoption... imperfect parents will never get it right and it is hard to hear us dismissed as "not good enough". With God's grace we just keep trying harder.

LucisMomma said...

i really liked this post. Hope is a wonderful thing, it keeps me moving on when things are tough. I love what you said about God's redemptive love healing the child's heart.

What made me laugh: this sentence: "parenting is like swimming in a kiddie pool of pirhannas?"

Stefanie said...

So glad TM linked this post.... really, really well said!

anymommy said...

I really, really appreciated your thoughts here. I am open to my daughter's trauma and her pain and, I hope, her opinion on adoption. But, I agree with you 100%, people without children are often incredibly harsh about parenting choices. It's easy to parent when you don't have children. I think that is true of adult adoptees in many cases too.

Tanya said...

Hi April - here from Creme. Powerful post! I don't know anything about adopting or being adopted. But as a child of abusive biological parents I would have loved to have parents who just loved me like crazy not matter how naive they were. Biological parents also cause children lots of trauma as mine did.

Finding love from my friends, husband and his family is the only thing that has healed that trauma.

Love is the answer! I am proof positive of that, as I am sure your children will be.


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