Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Worse than "Grateful"

I hate the word "grateful." In this, I know I'm not alone. Adoptees are often told they should be grateful for being adopted. To be sure, I don't often hear the word from adoptive parents. My parents, for instance, never said anything to suggest I should be grateful to them for adopting me. Most commonly it seems to come from either other adoptees who feel an intense loyalty to their own (adoptive) parents or from people who have no immediate connection to adoption at all.

Yet, there is something worse than being told to be grateful. Sometimes adoptees feel as though they are expected to bear the weight of hopes and dreams of their adoptive parents. Frankly, every child can experience this. It's not a uniquely adoptee experience, though I do think it's even more onerous when it falls on adoptees, who already have other issues to struggle with.

There is a song that gets at this, one that has always made me feel sad...

"What a Good Boy" by Barenaked Ladies

When I was born, they looked at me and said,
"What a good boy, what a smart boy, what a strong boy."
And when you were born, they looked at you and said,
"What a good girl, what a what a smart girl, what a pretty girl."

It's hard to hear that song and not think about the expectations that children are supposed to live up to.

For some, it can be more than just doing well and being successful. It can be an expectation to save the parents from some wound or other. People sometimes have children in the hopes that they will save their marriage, or provide what's missing. That puts a kind of pressure on a child that no one should have to bear.

And when people adopt with those ideas, it seems even worse. An adoptee has already lost so much, and now to be asked to fill some hole... It just breaks my heart.

So when I heard the story of a woman adopting twins from Haiti after the death of her husband, I felt a great deal of empathy for the children. Her husband died in the collapse of the 35w bridge in Minneapolis several years ago, itself a tragedy. And now she has adopted twins from Haiti.

The comment that really struck me?

"I don't think I rescued them," Sathers, 33, said of the twins. "I feel like if anything, they've rescued me."

Think about the pressure this puts on those children. How much will they have to stuff because they do not want to disappoint their mother, who already lost so much herself, and has invested so much in them? How could they ever find the courage to express how they might feel, knowing that they are expected to fill such a gaping hole in this woman's life?

You can read the whole story, if you want: Minn. bridge collapse widow adopts Haitian twins | Minnesota Public Radio NewsQ

I feel for this woman. But I feel even more for these children from Haiti.

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