Sunday, November 23, 2014

ROUND TABLE: What Does Your Mother Think? (Part 2) #FlipTheScript

When I hear, "What do your parents think?" ...of my search, my reunion, my writing about my views on shoulders tighten up a bit. It implies that I should have my parents' permission, that I shouldn't speak on my own.

It's hard to imagine other adults in the same situation - discussing an issue, speaking out about their experience, and then comes the first question from the audience...

"What does your mother think?"

Seems kinda ridiculous, doesn't it? But it's something adult adoptees face all the time.

The thing is, one of the reasons I am able to speak my views is that I was raised by parents who acknowledged my adoption, and realized that it effected me. I know that isn't true of many adoptees. I have so much respect and admiration for those who are able to speak about their experience even though they don't have the support of their parents.

It all made me wonder about the writers here at Lost Daughters, all these amazing adult women adoptees writing about their experience - I wanted to know what their parents think.

So, today we continue the discussion of what our parents DO think about our adoptee voice.

Cathy @CathyHeslin: How do your adoptive parents feel about your views on adoption? 

Amanda @AmandaTDA: My adoptive father was born to an adult adoptee whom, from infancy into adulthood, did not raise him. I have always looked up to them both as models. Silent models though they were. As I child I pushed and prodded them; I waited for them to crack. I waited for them to tell me how they felt so I could know how to feel too. They eventually opened up when I needed them to most. In the moments my adoptive mother feared I was replacing her by seeking reunion, my dad explained why he had needed to reconnect with his biological mother and how she does not replace the grandmother who raised him because everyone has their own place.

The week I reunited, my dad's mother, my adoptee grandmother, called me simply to say, "I heard." She is a letter-writer; she never calls me. Once again I prodded her to say something; anything. "We are both adopted! Don't you see how you're like me?" I shouted in my head. Growing up, I wanted someone to tell me, "I get it; I'm like you." Two weeks ago, almost 5 years later, she sent me a letter. "I read your book" she wrote. "I am so proud of you. I am going to read it again, and again, and again."

To say my adoptive mother is proud of me would be an understatement. She carries copies of the books I've been published in to give to people. She tells people how proud of me she is. She has driven me to speaking events and has become mindful and respectful of adoptee-spaces, recognizing their importance. She reads what I write and is protective when people aren't respectful of my experience. My original mother, aunt, and several cousins follow my blog. It makes me so happy when my adoptive cousin, who also reads my blog, compliments and shares my work because she's an author too.

My parents--my adoptive parents and original mother-- and I differ in numerous domains from personal interests to individual temperament and personality to political views to spiritual beliefs. Many of our views on adoption are the same; but fundamentally that doesn't matter. The three of them put forth an adult into this world who thinks and speaks for herself even if others disagree. This is something they are proud of.

Rosita @mothermade: I cannot know how my mother would have felt about my searching; she died in 2001. But what I do know is that my parents were certainly outside of the curve in terms of adoptive parents in the 1960s. While my mother used the word “chosen” to describe to me how wanted I was by her and my father, she said it because THAT was the language they were taught in the early days of Holt International.

My father is living and extremely supportive. I talk at length about his encouragement on my blog.

I find the accusation that #flipthescript is harmful to my adoptive parents rather shortsighted. If those who say that looked closely, they would see that in fact they are insulting my parents in their chiding.

My parents raised me to be proud of who I am. They encouraged my explorations in self. My mother made me a Hanbok, and my father kept my palate Korean with kimchi and bulgogi. They nurtured my individual pursuits the best they could. I love them. I love the path I have lived with them in the shadows. But loving my life does not negate my loss.

For quite a while the loss of my Mom (adoptive) defined me, but as I have learned more about my birth country, I realize that loss, in general, defines me. The loss of my Mom just punctuated the loss of my birth family.

Annette-Kassaye: My adoptive parents always gave me a lot of freedom to explore and to be me, even though they haven't always agreed with my choices or my views. We've had pretty frank discussions about adoption and I'm always surprised at how understanding they are; we agree most of the time. This past summer, I told my parents that I would like to search and they were genuinely happy for me. I think one of the reasons why they didn't feel threatened by it is because they have always been aware that I'm someone else's daughter too. My adoptive mom told me how much she wished my birth mom could see how well I've turned out! It was one of the most beautiful things she's ever said to me. I'm happy that my parents are supportive of adoption reform and my adoptee activism--it's a plus for me but I would do it even if they did not agree.

Lynn @grubb_lynn: I had a very happy, stable childhood; however my adoption issues and needs were not addressed, so they laid dormant for me to process as an adult

My adoptive father died in 1989 so he never saw me go through any of my adoption reunion, advocacy, marriage, kids, etc. My adoptive mother was very upset when I found my birth mother. She believed what the adoption agency told her---that I would be just like a biological child. So she had to then face the reality that what she was told was wrong. That was hard for her, I imagine. We are not close and we do not discuss feelings -- never have -- in our relationship, so I can't fully answer this question.

I can tell you her response was one of jealousy, competitiveness and a lack of support in many ways. I did notice once she got used to the idea, she adjusted somewhat, and cried when she watched the Jean Strauss documentary, "For the Life of Me". I think she gets it but doesn't talk to me about it. I can say that I sense my mother is proud of me for being published because she takes the books I am published in and shows them to people.

julie j: Mine were much older and of course from a time where AP's were uninformed & unprepared for anything relating to adoptee search & reunions. One AP died never having "gotten it" nor wanting to. The remaining one sincerely tries to understand and also supports my adoptee political activism efforts. Having said that, AP thoughts either way on my adoption-related endeavors would ultimately have been irrelevant in respect to my opinions on adoption, and I would be doing exactly what I'm doing as an adoptee regardless because of its importance.

Anyone who proclaims to love adoptees should be supportive of them before their own or anyone else's interests in adoption. Especially AP's should be adoptees' biggest allies. Their job includes learning what their adoptees need & doing their best to meet those needs. With all the information available today, there is no longer any excuse for trying to silence adoptees or to get them to conform to what their own vision of adoption should be. I'd like to hear a lot more people inquiring about how ADOPTEES feel, not the other parties! Adoption was supposed to be about OUR best interests, not theirs.

When listening to those answers, part of the challenge is to stop equating adoption itself with adoptive parents. (e.g. Critiques of adoption are seen as attacking adoptive parents, thus the assumption that we are angry at them). AP's are not adoption. Yes, they may be part of the problem or they may be part of the solutions, but adoption itself is an institution. Is there plenty to be angry about in adoptionland? Sure there is. It's more about the common expectations of adoptees and what adoption itself legally requires of all adoptees than about how any particular adoptee was raised. Those are things that anyone can and should get involved to rectify. Quite frankly, I'd love to see a lot more AP's getting angry at the way adoption is practiced and become adoptee advocates too.

When I hear the types of statements such as those in our prompt, I wonder if today's younger AP's are threatened by our concerns & that they hope there is some magic key that they can use that will enable their young adoptees to not experience any anger related to adoption. The answer is to help remove that which is causing the anger. Listen to their adoptees as well as those who have already been in their shoes. Help change what is wrong with adoption. Show that their rights and interests matter most. Don't just talk the talk. Walk the walk to back it up.

Rosita @mothermade: Indeed, Julie. Getting to the heart of the anger is key. When my anger shows it is protecting my pain.

Cathy @CathyHeslin: For me, my adoptive parents reiterated that I could search for my birthparents when I turned 18. But it was still shocking to find my birthmother from that first call when I turned 18 (we both called the agency on my 18th birthday). Since then, my parents have been supportive throughout the reunion. They accept my birthfamilies as extended family. It must be strange for them - it's strange for all of us - but they accept them as they accept me. They always acknowledged that there was more to me because of coming from different parents. However, I haven't been open to them about the challenges that reunion has brought me - the darker sides of adoption that opened up in my views on identity, loss, family. I still hold on to the protective adoptee side in that way.

Elle: My APs have not fully appreciated how relevant I find my ethnicity. Dad once said something "do you think you're special because you claim to be Korean". The thing is though that no, I do not think I'm special. But I am an ethnic Korean although I was raised in Sweden by Swedes. I will never be fully accepted as a Swede. Even though my friends and family members consider me like one of them because I socially at least act Swedish. I'm not angry at my APs I'm upset with the system but mostly hurt and disappointed that because of cultural differences my reunion had a bitter aftertaste. Mum even told me her worst nightmare materialized and I can only stress the importance of cultural awareness when it comes to raising an interracial adoptee. That is the part I personally find upsetting that most APs becomes colorblind and raises their children just as if it was their own biological child.

No matter what adoption is a legal process that can't change your adoptee's past or ethnicity. A new name did not make me forget my ethnicity of course there are no manuals on how to raise your adoptee we're individuals. What some people might find upsetting others may not react to at all. And others could not care less while others like myself do.

Pamela: My mom is in her late 70's. She adopted me as an infant in 1966 and was advised to never tell me I was adopted. She followed her own heart and has always supported my search - as did my dad. she was the first person I called when I identified my Mother. She cried tears of joy for me. I talk to her about it daily. I will see her on Thanksgiving and I will be showing her pictures of my Mother and her family for the first time. I hope to make a video of her reaction and of her talking about it for you to see. I think it will be wonderful. 

Join the Round Table: let us know in the comments how you'd answer today's question or Tweet ‪#‎whatwouldyourmotherthink‬ to share how you... and your parents... ‪#‎flipthescript‬ .


Lost Daughters truly is a sisterhood where our authors provide support and insight for each other in our own private space. Occasionally, we like to make these discussions available to our adoptee audience to benefit from and add to the discourse. 

So, grab a chair and join the conversation.