When adoptive parent’s divorce, despite this being common, it is often painful for the child – at any age. My parents separated when I was twenty-one. As a young adult with some maturity behind me to see reason, I tried to accept their decision in as rational a way as possible. I considered their perspectives and their needs. If they no longer are happy together, it is wasteful and hurtful to remain unified in marriage. However, there is no doubt that their decision led to deep self-reflection and personal considerations too.
My sense of security in the concept of the family – the idea it gives us the ultimate sense of belonging; the concept of family home – the idea it represents our sense of historical self – became fragmented and set in doubt. What new ways would I have to re-orientate my sense of belonging and sense of where I come from? This of course, has always been an issue due to my skin colour indicating to others that I ‘come from somewhere else’ separate from my white family.
The new definition of family had to expand to my parents being in separate locations, with new partners, in new homes. The selfish side of me gave in to indulgent but brief thoughts of a promise being broken. Not the promise of marriage between my parents but the contract of me being adopted into an environment where they came as a stable package. This contract or promise of course, is only a sentimental illusion and of course, it was broken.
The second indulgent but perhaps validated concern was, how are my new stepparents going to treat me – as a strange foreigner juxtaposed in their western lives? Was there any xenophobia that might lurk beneath their pleasant enough exterior? Or would they unconditionally accept me as ‘one of them’ in the warmest, sincere way that my parents had done so? I imagine all children meeting step-parents must go through issues of trust. I feel I experienced many doubts children have when their parents go through a divorce and settle in with someone new, only there was a fear of how they construct their concepts of ‘race’ as well. From society often treating me as different, I felt particularly sensitive to having that feeling replicated within the safety of the sphere of family interactions.
Ultimately, what I had to fight briefly but painfully was my deep fear of losing some parents all over again – after coming to terms that I ‘d lost my biological parents first time around. There was that terrible fear of being alone in the world. The fear of being rejected by step-parents also reverberated against a long time hurt that maybe I was rejected by my birth parents.
Of course, the power of dealing with parental divorce is to put things into a rational perspective and to reduce self-doubt and self-reflection to an awareness of what other people’s needs and experiences are. My parents needed to be separated, they needed to be loved and accepted by new people – they had the same fear of being alone and fear of rejection as everyone has in one way or another. I then felt more balanced and ready to face change and to hope for the best – which is all that divorce is about too.