Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Adoption: The Same but Different?

One of the things that has always puzzled me in discussions about adoption is the need, by some, to claim that adoption is no different than having biological children. They are both ways of starting a family, and both equally good. Indeed, adoption is often portrayed as better, a blessing that should be shouted from the mountain top.

Of course it's utter nonsense, but it fascinates me. I say it's nonsense because I don't know a single parent that wouldn't admit, if they are being honest, that they feel differently about their different children. My (adoptive) parents feel differently about each of their three biological children. And I'm sure they feel differently about me than they do about their other children.

Please note, I didn't say better or worse. But different. I don't doubt that they love us all a great deal, and probably as much equally as one can measure such things. But they don't feel the same about all of us. As it should be; we are individuals, after all.

Still, I'm curious about this need to normalize (and treat as no different) adoption. I don't mean to suggest everyone does this. Or that all adoptive parents do it. Or anything so universal (and thus, obviously, wrong). I simply notice that many (a sizable minority, perhaps?) seem to think that adoption is no different than having biological children, or to overcompensate and hold that adoption is superior.

Maybe I could feel better about adoption if I saw more people willing to openly acknowledge and discuss the pitfalls and difficulties peculiar to adoption. I don't know if I could ever accept it, even as a necessary evil, but I would feel better for the next generation of adoptees if we were more open about the differences.

I have read some things from adoptive parents on this, and they are some of the best people suited to come clean on this score. I don't know what it's like to be raised by my biological parents. I can't compare what the differences might be. I can only talk about my experiences as an adoptee, and those raised by their biological parents can try to make comparisons. Maybe, in that way, I could ask one of my (adoptive) siblings to write and compare notes. But none of them seem to be interested in that endeavor. However, adoptive parents that also have biological children are uniquely situated to at least draw some comparisons in their own family.

Reforming adoption, better helping adoptees deal with some of their unique challenges, requires us to be more honest about the differences. Until we are, I worry that adoptee voices will continue to be drowned out by the "adoption is beautiful" crowd.

1 comment:

Shari U said...

I think maybe I can comment on this one. I am the mother of 3 biological children (22, 20, 17) and mother of 1 adopted child (6, China). You're absolutely right, I love each of my children differently. Before we adopted, I knew I would love my child beyond reason, but I wondered if her snot would bother me, if her poop would bother me, would I not want her to drink from my cup...how long would it take before she felt like "mine". I was pleasantly surprised when she was handed to me and I loved her completely and instantly. My love for her is intense, maybe more intense than for my other children. I don't have the freedom to screw things up with her. I can't laugh off my bad parenting moments, I can't assume that she'll just accept me with all my faults and be able to laugh at my shortcomings. I feel much more responsible for her and for her emotional well being. She has a history that I have to teach her and I have to teach it to her in such a way that she won't hate me for it later and that she'll feel loved and accepted and validated. I have to explain her loss to her and then allow her to feel and experience it. I worry that she'll feel that she doesn't fit in, I worry kids will tease her at school, I worry she'll wish she was never adopted. When we went to get her, it was so easy, she was just a tiny baby, I knew she would grow up, but seriously, I didn't know it would be this complicated. With bio kids you have so much more room to error, with the adopted one I have to worry about how I phrase things and I have to constantly warn my husband and the other kids and family members about using appropriate "adopt talk", I have to correct the neighbors and friends who call her "oriental". It's a huge job, it's different, it's way more work than I had anticipated, but I'm in it and I'll do the best doggone job I can do and I pray it will be good enough.