Dear Adoptive Parents ….
I shared my thoughts below on another adoption list serve but felt like I could also share here – for whatever it’s worth, another adult adoptee’s perspective …. on being adopted.
I thank you for the invitation to share with adoptive parents my experience as adult Indian adoptee. This experience is deeply personal. Some of us feel as if we are the “exception” or “on stage” especially when we are in a family/community that may not look like or reflect us through out our childhood … so, I share cautiously … because being rejected or misunderstood by persons within the adoption community is great – regardless of the pain, anger or happiness being expressed about the adoption journey as adult adoptees.
I was adopted by a single mother and raised in a small northern MN town – without any diversity. I share that because my experience may not be the same environment your children or others on this list serve are in.
I have been asked – What did my mom do right? She was a parent who provided love, shelter, etc. She wanted us to be happy, stressed education, etc. She taught me values and a strong work ethic.
The things that could have been different would have required a lot of changes on my mothers part … to live in a more diverse community – provide access to Indians that I could admire/look up to. Initially, we went to Indian culture camps once a year — but as I entered middle school/high school, I didn’t want to go anymore. Because it was not a natural part of our “everyday” life, it felt unnatural for me to participate only once a year. And it reminded me that I was different – and I was desperately trying to fit in with my white peers. Hopefully today, more focus is placed on the socio-cultural context of the families that children are placed – meaning that adoptive parents understand the importance of learning, incorporating and providing access to their child’s birth culture in a way that is “normal” as much as possible.
Each child experiences their adoption differently as they grow. However, adoption loss, in particular can not be “fixed” quickly. Being a parent myself – I know how hard it is to see your child be in pain and not be able to “fix” it. My daughter sometimes says, “mom – just listen” because the minute I try to give advice or answers, I lose her. Becoming a parent has been the most wonderful thing for me – but it also raised even more questions about my birthmother, birth story, etc.
It is a hard life-long journey – adoption loss – depending on your child, may be a lifelong grieving process – yet at the other end of the spectrum, some adoptees do not appear on the surface to experience the same amount of grief. On one hand adoptees seek to be “normal” on the other hand, we have a deep sense that we are “different” – so many paradoxes. Just like we are told we are “special” because we were “chosen” – yet, we were also “given” or “taken” away from our birth families and birth communities/cultures.
Advice … now that’s a hard one – there are always exceptions to everything, but:
Follow our lead: When we are hurting, support/love us; when we are angry, listen; when we withdraw; don’t pull away – but don’t smother us; Some of us are hurting deeply … some of us feel lost and alone. Love unconditionally – it’s what we need most. At the same time, recognize that “love” is not enough at times to heal, sometimes the pain remains … and the road to healing is a process.
Tell us the truth about our adoption story; If we want to return to our homelands or search, as difficult as this may be seem, know its only because we want to know our own beginnings and are seeking a deeper understanding of ourselves – who we are. Also, recognize to return to our homeland, especially as adults – if we have not gone before – is a huge emotional risk/undertaking — we may wish to share that journey with you – we may wish to experience ourselves.
Acknowledge that our adoptive families aren’t perfect and take ownership for mistakes/ biases/assumptions as adoptive parents: Adoptees are told we should feel grateful, appreciative, etc. Families are not perfect – adoptive families have issues too. Also, the construct of adoption is not 100% perfect either – there is room for continued improvements and changes. We must engage in honest dialogue to address this also.
I hope that this is received in the manner in which it is given – to share with those whom are sincere and genuine in understanding the adoption journey from one adoptee’s perspective. Many of you may have younger children in the adoption process … my perspective comes from 32 years of reflection. I also acknowledge that my perspective does not reflect all adoptees – we are each very different – yet uniquely similar.