Always an Adoptive Family?

I have to confess, something has been on my mind a lot lately that has really been weighing on me regarding the idea of adoption…

It’s about being different.

I can’t speak for other adoptive families, but all I want is to be normal. Some think that being normal is a bad thing. They fight their entire lives to be different, or outstanding somehow. I believe God has created each of us unique enough… I don’t need to fight for fame, or notoriety or attention. I just want to be normal. To blend seamlessly into society. To sit on a plane and not be noticed. Anti-social? Perhaps. Wrong? No.

Adopting outside of our race is forever going to mark our family as different. At the grocery store, I’m prepared for looks and questions. Well, at least I’m trying to prepare myself. I’m preparing myself emotionally for the fact that our child will not come from my body, but rather will be born to us in spirit. But the idea that we’ll forever be different because of our choice to adopt is not something I swallow very easily.

Some families who choose adoption become impassioned by their choice. They live in this post-adoptive state forever and fight against the world to make adoption the norm and to clear up any ignorance or misconceptions surrounding the adoption process. They make it a point to regularly discuss with their children and family members that which makes their family different (or “special”). They wear the t-shirts, slap on the bumper-stickers, and proudly proclaim their “I’m an Adoptive Mama” badges at all little league games.

But I don’t want to. I don’t want to share our story with every stranger at the supermarket. I don’t want to explain to every wandering eye that “yes, one of them is adopted.” I don’t want to make it normal dinner discussion to talk about our adoption journey, or to spend countless hours reassuring our adopted child that he/she is -special, chosen, important, a miracle, a gift, a blessing, whatever- because they came to us by way of adoption. Because honestly, I believe all children are special gifts from God. I believe they are all blessings in our lives, and I don’t think how they came to be in your life should matter as much as the fact that they’re here now, and they need your love.

This concern was sparked after I stumbled upon an article online discussing how to travel with your adopted children. At first, I thought maybe the article was specifically geared towards parents of older adopted children, adopted through the state system. Sometimes these children come with emotional or psychological hurdles, and I can see in some instances how a break from routine such as a trip out of town might be an emotional setback for these kiddos. But upon closer reading, I realized that nope, this article is for adoptive parents of any kid.

I was offended. Traveling with any kid is a challenge. Why in the world would it make a difference if our child is adopted or not? Why do I need a separate article altogether explaining how to take my adopted child to DisneyLand? Please bring on the article explaining how to get Little Bug there too, then!

So why do we -if we just want to slip into familial anonymity- have to constantly wear the scarlet A of adoption? And why do I feel so wrong for just wanting to be a family unmarked by labels or distinctions?

We plan on keeping adoption talk as a natural and regular thing in our home. There will never be a day in our child’s life where we sit down and “TELL THEM.” This is psychologically and emotionally damaging to a child. Always be honest. And, if the child is of a different race, eventually it will be obvious, and I want the issue to already be normal family discussion before they wake up one day and realize they aren’t white. If our child comes to us with questions, we’ll be more than happy to answer them. If our child comes to us at an age of understanding and maturity wanting to know more about their birthmother, we’ll happily aid them in this information search.

But I don’t want to live the life of an “Adoptive Family.” I don’t want to buy my kid t-shirts that say sweet things like, “Born in our hearts,” or “We chose you.” Not that I judge parents who dress their kids in these shirts. I don’t know… I guess I feel like our child’s adoption is part of their story, and it’s their story to tell when they are ready to share it. Shoving them off to church or school in a t-shirt that screams, “I’M DIFFERENT!” feels forced to me.

I also want my child/ren to find themselves on their own. By this I mean, I want them to define themselves based on their strong faith, or their musical or athletic or artistic talents, or their love of math, or whatever else they may desire. I want them to discover the gifts and talents the Lord has blessed them with and not get lost in titles and labels and distinctions. I don’t want them to look at Little Bug and think, “Not adopted,” and at the same time tell themselves in the mirror, “Adopted” every night.

I get that some families talk about it a lot because to them, adoption is a proud badge of honor. If that’s what works for their family and feels natural to them, more power to them. Some though, I have to wonder… Is it overcompensating for some kind of unrecognized guilt? Some adoptive parents take on the guilt of adopting like a sponge. They soak up the heartache of the birthmother and spend the rest of their lives subconsciously flogging themselves for “taking” the baby.

I don’t have this guilt. I think it’s a beautiful blessing, and I’ll forever have a place in my heart for my child’s birthmother- she is the very one who gave him or her life. But when all goes legally and morally according to plan, the adoptive parents play absolutely no role in a woman’s decision to choose adoption for her child. We are simply the recipients of this beautiful decision.

I don’t think I need to over-explain to my child how they came to be a member of our family because frankly the only part that really matters in our day to day life is that we are indeed a family. In the quiet of our home, I look forward to explaining where they came from, and how they came to us… but not daily. And not out of guilt.

Like a family trying to show that they really are “okay” with their newly outed homosexual teen, some adoptive parents will tend to draw too much attention to the fact. They mean well, and they’re hoping to instill in this child a sense of comfort and confidence in the fact that they are adopted. But I have to wonder if this is really necessary. Shouldn’t an open and honest home life, with stable routines and loving family be enough to create that confidence and comfort in all of our children?

I really hope so. Worrying over this idea that once we adopt, we need to always keep adoption at the forefront of our existence has been concerning me all week. I realize that we’ll forever be an adoptive family, and that is something I will be proud of… but I don’t feel the need to always relate adoption to everything we do.

So I’ll be skipping out on the sweet outfits that cleverly allude to adoption. The best onesie for our little one will say, “Gift from God.”

Kat

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10 Comments

Filed under Adoption General, Faith and Adoption, Parenting

10 responses to “Always an Adoptive Family?

  1. You won’t see me with a bumper sticker or adoption T-shirt. It will come up in our family as developmental stages morph and there needs to be conversations about it, but that’s just my take. Of course I’m also going to be way more frank about other topics such as sex, friends with benefits, raves, drugs than I think my parents were with me.
    I could be wrong, but I think in cyberspace/blogosphere land, adoptive parents can be more vocal for adoption reform so that the public is aware, however, from what I can see, it stops at the computer and usually they are family as usual behind the scenes.
    Of course it’s easier for me as a single parent because most people assume I became preggo with a BF or am divorced….since they don’t see the other half and I live in a city where approx 75% of the population is in an interracial family, race really doesn’t stick out with me…..I can see how being a transracial family when the outside world can see both parents can be cause for “will we ever be normal?”
    The struggle is what will make your family a good family! Stay strong.

    • Thanks for your thoughts, Dannie. I think for me, I already struggle with handling society in general. I look like I’m maybe 17 years old. Some strangers have told me I look as young as 15 when my hair was pulled up in a ponytail and I was wearing a t-shirt and sweat pants. While some would feel flattered, I get offended because in the past I’ve been treated terribly by nurses, strangers, store clerks, etc. They assume I’m a single teen mom, and they treat me with severe disrespect. I’ve had elderly women at the mall “tsk” as I walk by with my son and roll their eyes in disgust. People openly point, and have no qualms about staring me down- I guess in an attempt to force me to feel shame. But I’m not a teenager, and I’m not single. Therefore, I don’t find it flattering at all when people make rude comments or gestures. I fear that out in public with both of our kids- of different races- the comments and stares will be even worse. I need to prepare myself for this. I’ve heard other adoptive parents say that people on an airplane once said out loud, “You know those babies have 2 different daddies…I wonder if the poor father realizes it. How humiliating for him.” Well, yes, our children will have 2 different biological fathers, but they’ll have the same daddy… and Travis will be WELL AWARE of that fact. Lol. I’m just bracing myself for the societal reactions to our adoption. I don’t want that to bleed over into our private home life though.

  2. I hear you! I remember I wanted to look older when I was 20…..and at that time I had long hair….so I cut my hair and had bangs…..yeah totally screwed that up and was made fun of for now looking 14. So while no baby or marriage in tow, I could see where that would hard.
    Hold your head up proud! Unfortunately, we can’t be other people’s concious or nice button.

  3. “Gift from God”. I like that.

  4. Kat,

    As an adopted child now in my 30s, I have to say I disagree with some of what you are saying. From my experience the adoptive parents putting limits on what they will and won’t talk about or when regarding the adoption is damaging. It is utterly necessary that you sit down and tell them, in my opinion. Not telling your child immediately is utterly damaging. However, it doesn’t have to be some serious discussion at every turn. It can be done in a very nonchalant way…but it needs to be done My mom’s social worker gave her the most amazing advice…especially given that it was in 1979. She asked my mom when she planned to tell me I was adopted. My mom replied that she planned to wait until I was old enough to understand, maybe 5 or 6. The social worker struck that down immediately and said she needed to start telling me I was adopted immediately and all the time. But she’s only a baby, my mom replied. Yes, the social worker said, but by the time she’s old enough to ‘understand’ she will have heard it so many times that it’s no big deal, and you, as the mother, will feel so comfortable with talking about it that it won’t be a big deal to you either. That is some of the best advice I’ve ever heard about adopting a child. Because the automatic assumption of a child growing up is that they are biologically the child of the person/people raising them unless they’ve been told otherwise. So by the time your child starts to ask questions about birds and bees and so forth, you will have missed 1000+ opportunities to talk to him/her about how he/she came to be. And depending on the age, every one of those days may be seen as a betrayal because a lie by omission is still a lie. Children can handle and understand a lot more than people give them credit for. I’ve always known I was adopted and from my first memories (around the age of 4), I knew it, understood it, and knew it made no difference to the love in our family. The other piece of advice I would say is to completely let go of all expectations and what you want out of it. Let your child guide you instead of the other way around. My mom and I talked about it a lot because it was and is important to me, and you should prepare yourself for that as well. And we didn’t talk about it because it was a badge of honor or how proud we are of ourselves that we love each other, but because it is part of who we are and part of the process of growing up is trying to understand that. Be open to every possibility – lots of wanting to talk, never wanting to talk, so on and so forth. Any discomfort you have about it will be picked up on by your child. And at least from my experience, my adoptive family will always be an adoptive family. The adoption process goes on far beyond the signing of papers and the giving over of the child. But that for me is not a negative. We were meant to be together…a conclusion I reached on my own. Each child comes to place of understanding on his/her own and at his/her own time…It’s just like any child growing up trying to figure who they are and where they fit it…just with an added layer.

    Anyhoo…I could go into LOADS more detail and would be happy to do so if you or anyone has questions, and I am pretty sure my mom would be willing to do the same. I certainly don’t want to be discouraging. You certainly don’t have to keep adoption in the forefront of your mind or in your interactions with your child. Just be prepared that there will be times when your child IS thinking about it all the time. And that’s not a bad thing. 🙂

    Ok, I’m rambling at this point. In sum..maybe you should lay off the internet articles? Even as a person who is happy with how my family turned out, I still get super dismayed by what I read sometimes.

    Just keep your heart and your mind as open as possible, and the light of your love will signify that your family is special…no need for shirts to advertise it. 🙂

    Respectfully,

    Anonymous Me

    • Kat

      Anonymous,
      I appreciate your comments, especially coming from an adult adoptee! However, I wanted to clear up some of the things that you expressed concern about, because I don’t think we disagree as you think we do. I absolutely believe that we should talk openly and honestly about our child’s adoption from the earliest age possible. There will never be a moment in our child’s life where they don’t know they are adopted, and I never want them to feel uncomfortable about their adoption or their place in our family.
      This entry was sparked by reading an article that talked about guarding just about everything in your adopted child’s life for fear of offending them. The article suggested not watching “The Wizard of Oz” because it can bring on feelings of abandonment or feelings of “not finding home.” It suggested avoiding the movie “Annie” because of the treatment by the alcoholic house-mom at the orphanage portrayed by Carole Burnett. Honestly, I think this walking on eggshells is ridiculous. That’s what I meant when I expressed a dislike for living like an adopted family forever. They suggested that we prepare our adopted child days or even weeks in advance for a family vacation and over-explain to them that we are all going as a family, and they will not be left where we go. I just don’t see this as necessary, and to me it feels forced. However, I completely understand that for some children who were adopted from foster care, these movies and experiences actually COULD trigger something awful for the child, and so it should be considered. But adopting from birth as an infant in a healthy private adoption scenario? I just don’t think so.
      I also agree with you that the adoption talk should be child-led. But that doesn’t mean I’ll never try bringing it up myself. I want to be able to spark conversations throughout the child’s life, but I don’t want us to constantly dwell on it. I realize that they’ll have lots of questions as they grow up, and they’ll be very curious about their adoption and their birth family. I look forward to these discussions together, because I want them to always feel confident and comfortable in who they are and where they came from.
      I’m sorry that you took something from my entry other than what I intended. On the forum where Dannie and I frequent, a moderator mentioned seeing a little boy at Disney World wearing a t-shirt that read “Adopted and Adorable.” I thought about this for a long time and decided I wouldn’t feel comfortable dressing my child in adoption-centered clothing. It doesn’t mean I’m ashamed of the fact that they are adopted, but at such a young age, they may not completely comprehend what exactly that all means, and drawing attention to it in public before they are able to answer questions or inquiries about adoption themselves I think takes the situation out of their hands. I look forward to them telling others about their adoption with pride in the future. But I think it should be their story to share with the public when and if they desire to.
      I don’t disagree with anything you said, and I had hoped to convey those same things in my entry, and maybe I didn’t. I just meant to say that I want us to be normal- go to the movies we want to go to, see the plays we want to see, vacation where we feel led, etc. without worrying that it will somehow cause an adoption-related problem. I think that places more emphasis on the situation than is necessary. However, if after watching “Annie,” “Despicable Me,” or “The Wizard of Oz,” our children have any questions or concerns, I will address them with sensitivity and compassion.
      But I don’t think that everything we do in life requires a big family pow-wow beforehand because we’re a family built by adoption. If something sparks conversation or questions, we’ll sit down and discuss it together.
      Thank you so much for your wise comments based on your own personal experiences. I absolutely love hearing from adoptees. I’m sorry if you felt offended, but I think we really were on the same page 🙂

  5. Pingback: So…I May Have Goofed… | Love Makes A Family

  6. I cringe when people who dress adoptees in adoption related clothes. It is not necessary, in good taste, or even so-so taste. It smacks of entitlement and degrading to the adoptee. And if the little child doesn’t feel that way now, it does not guarantee they won’t think of it that way when they grow up.

    As an adult I am more triggered by movies etc than I ever was as a child…I can see it for those who remember being in an orphanage etc but newborns – can’t see it. Disneyland was incredible when I went as a tween. It’s fantasy – not reality and we each deal with our own reality and feelings differenly. People tend to think the millions of us adoptees are all mirrors to each other – not a chance.

    Just make sure ethics are the highest priority in every aspect of your adoption – don’t rely on what is told to you by the “professionals” do your own research and question asking.

    • Thank you adopted ones, for your firsthand opinions and experience. I always appreciate hearing from adoptees who know firsthand what it’s like to grow up as an adopted child. I also appreciate your encouragement for me to avoid the “professional” books. They don’t sit with me well. Some of them really concern me, actually. I trust my gut a lot, and if it doesn’t feel natural or right to do, I’m not going to do it. Again, thank you for sharing your thoughts.

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