I have been thinking a lot about perspectives as I begin to really listen to the voices of adult adoptees. As an adoptive parent, it is sometimes difficult for me to discern how I should translate the experiences and opinions of this invaluable resource into my parenting. Each adoption is a unique situation and each child adopted into any family has their own unique personality and perspective. While most adult adoptees that I have listened to seem to share a universal feeling of deep loss and a strong urge to know where they come from, it is reactions to more specific adoption situations that seems to vary from adoptee to adoptee.
One of these specific situations is celebrating “Adoption Day”. I have read that many adoptees wish that their parents had not celebrated this day, that it only reminded them of the multiple losses they have experienced as a result of their adoption. On the other hand, a few adoptees wrote that they were glad their parents celebrated “Adoption Day” and they continue to acknowledge it in their own small ways as adults. This is where it becomes tricky as an adoptive parent, how do we know which perspective is the right one for our child? Both of these opinions are valid. To further complicate things, I feel that the voice of the adult adoptee who was adopted as an older child tends to be missing from some of the adoption discussions.
Our son was with us in court when he officially became a member of our family. The judge prepared a special letter for him that states how on that date he entered our family. It goes on to explain that as his parents it is our responsibility to care for him physically and emotionally while respecting his rights and recognizing his feelings and his history before he joined our family. Our son cherishes this letter and asked me to frame it and hang it on the wall in his room. Another adoptee may see this letter as a reminder that they are different from the rest of the family and not ever want to see it. It is all about perspective. I have a feeling JMan will want to celebrate (acknowledge might be a better word) that date because it was important to HIM. I think that is the key to gaining the right perspective in parenting our children. We need to insure that we are making decisions, after looking at all perspectives, in the best interest of what is right for our child (not what is right for us, as adoptive parents).
This dilemma of perspective also came up when reading comments on an adoptee web site I was reading. A father who adopted his daughter after she spent years growing up in the foster care system, posted a message about collecting backpacks and suitcases for children living in foster care. Many of the adoptees who commented were appalled that he would choose to focus his attention on something as trivial as suitcases when the problems with foster care are so much bigger. It is absolutely true that the problems with foster care are way bigger than suitcases but the discussion ended with this….
“I do know something about this very issue. I grew up in foster care. I lived in fourteen different foster homes, and two group homes before I was emmancipated at the age of 16. Out of those sixteen places, I moved to only one place with my things packed in anything but a black plastic trash bag. I am not sure what has changed in the system now. I have been out for eleven years. But one thing I do know, giving foster children luggage is a VERY good gesture. This is coming from someone who GREW UP in this system.
When my things were packed in trash bags, it sent a very clear message. That my things were not valuable, and I figured, if my things were not valuable than neither was I. I obviously do not see it that way now, but as a child, I didn’t have clarity in my thoughts. I literally thought that trash was about what my life amounted to and that is what the trash bags reinforced.
I am not saying that a duffle bag will fix a childs life. The trash message is sent to these children long before it is reinforced by trash bags. That is the truth. But dont underestimate what a small kind gesture can do. and on a last note, the trash bags hold such a connotation in my heart that I dont use them now. I use paper bags or put my trash directly in the dumpster because the trash bags remind me of that pain. Make fun of me or not, but that is the reality.
Just thought I would give the input of someone who has actually been through what you all are arguing about in a kind of a stupid manner considering you were not foster children yourselves. Don’t presume to know how someone feels unless you actually do.
And to the person who wrote the original post. Thank you for caring.”
What’s the right perspective? For the big issues, this is a much easier question. As an adoptive parent, we should listen to the voices of the adult adoptees to help guide us in insuring our children grow up confident as equal members of our family and society and to feel that they cannot only voice their opinions about being adopted but also that those opinions are valued. In my day to day parenting I hope to keep this overriding perspective in mind while also remembering that perspective changes depending on where you are standing and adoptive parents need to try to always keep focus on what is most important, the needs of their individual child.