Wednesday, May 28, 2014

I Became a Child of Divorce Through Adoption Reunion

Although divorce is common and accepted as the norm in our society, this was not always the case.  In the 70's growing up, I only had one or two friends with divorced parents.  It was the norm to have parents who were married in the community I grew up in.

Today, I feel very fortunate that I never had to grow up as a child of divorce (the stigma of adoption was enough, thank you!)   Of course, as a sheltered child growing up in the 70's, thoughts about divorce rarely entered my mind.  I grew up in one house in one school district with one set of parents.  I was the oldest child and my younger brother, Scott, was adopted when I was three years old.  In our suburban neighborhood in Ohio, we walked to school from kindergarten to fifth grade without fear of strangers.  We had wonderful friends in a safe neighborhood where we played Kick the Can and Ghost in the Graveyard.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

An Adoptee Confession

A recent blog post on the website Creating a Family shared the story of an adoptive mother who described herself as having been "blindsided" by the revelation that her adult adopted daughter had been building a relationship with her original mother over the years.

I started to leave a comment on the blog, but I had so much to say and so many conflicting emotions that I found myself stymied.

The adoptive mom describes herself and her husband as "full of fear and puzzlement," and her anguish stirs up something in me that is probably related to my own guilt, confusion, and sadness about why I hold back parts of myself from my adoptive parents, and sometimes also from others.

Here's my confession, and for some reason it's a particularly hard one for me to share:

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Reunion, Culture & Love

Is it possible for people to walk through life alone---without making any commitments..? Commitments to other people and still be happy. As an adult adoptee I confess I do have major trust issues - and the thing I'm most scared of out of anything in the world is to be betrayed,left behand and forgotten. Maybe I have to resolve certain things within myself---and about myself before I do think about making commitments-- any type of commitments be it friendship,work or love.

I've chosen loneliness instead of friends, companionship and understanding not because I really want to--- but because it's safe or safer. I've been hurt so many times before, I'm not sure how many more broken promises and sad farewells my heart can withstand. So I'd rather be alone, the times I've tried to get closer to people has so far not ended very well.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Adoptee Reactions to Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD) in the Media

Photo by Robert S. Donovan via Flickr
I’m not a therapist, a social worker, or a counselor of any kind. I've never been trained in psychology or psychiatry.

I am an adopted person, which means I was once an adopted child—which in turn means that I was separated from my original family. I was without any family at all for several months of my life. I am also a mother.

These experiences are the lens through which I viewed a recent video on HuffPost Live in which four adults who describe themselves as “adoptive parents” discussed the “reactive attachment disorder,” aka RAD, of the children in their care.

The segment begins with Nancy Thomas, who I discovered is well known for her wrong-headed thinking on RAD. She helped her daughter deal with attachment issues by appearing with her in an HBO documentary. She calls herself a “therapeutic parenting specialist,” though it’s not clear whether she’s had any more training than I have in this area. She comments that RAD kids are “affectionate with strangers but not with their mothers,” conveniently ignoring the fact that the so-called “mothers” are, in fact, strangers to these children.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Whose Story Is It Anyway?

Thankfully we are past the era of 'matching' children to adoptive parents who might bear some physical resemblance's. We've established the importance for adoptees to be told that they are adopted as young as possible. However, from my recent speaking engagements around the country I've learned that adoptive parents seem to have hit a roadblock around the dilemma of what to share with their child about their own story, and when. Many parents ask me; "What is the right age for me to tell my child their story?"

Adoptive parents are often in the privileged position of working directly with social workers to learn facts about their child's early life experiences before the child even knows the details. Parents can choose to keep this information hidden away in a wooden chest, in a filing cabinet, let the information take up prime real-estate in their brain or find another place where the adoptee may not know to look. Storing the information away and waiting until they turn that magical age of 7, 14 or 23 may seem like wise parenting. In fact, I routinely hear the parents cite that they are trying to do what's "in the best interest of the child." Although your parenting motives may be pure and your intentions swell, please know that it is never in the best interest of the child to omit facts or hide the truth. Perhaps chronological or emotional age may have less to do with their capabilities than you assume. 

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Motherless Daughters’ & Childless Mothers’ Day

Two days sting me … the day of my mother’s death (February 2) and Mother’s Day (May).

Another Mother’s Day. Adoptees struggle with this day. Some feel only loosely connected to their adoptive mothers; some feel the opposite and shun the idea of a first mother. Those who are connected with their first families must dance that delicate loyalty dance. Two mothers … two cards.

First mothers must struggle too. Like Philomena, they may grieve for their lost child. They are the childless mothers, the ones who gave birth but have no child to call or cuddle on that day. It’s just a day, but notice the cards, the brunches, the flowers, the jewelry commercials.

The years since my mother’s death have caused anxiety and grief on a day I would prefer to celebrate with my own children. The grief from her death has consumed me, but this year is different.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

It's National Adoption Month: 25 Things Adoption Teaches Me About Life, Love & Family

[Originally published on May 7, 2013 under the title of "25 Things Adoption Teaches Me About Life, Love & Family." Republished to support the #FlipTheScript campaign during National Adoption Month.]

  1. If you really love someone you will give them away to complete strangers.
  2. It is more selfless, courageous, moral, and loving to give your child away than it is to keep and raise your child, particularly if you are young, uneducated, and/or poor.
  3. Possessing love and the desire to raise your children is not enough to be worthy to parent, rather you must ultimately be wealthy, affluent, and educated.
  4. Poverty, death of a parent, and/or medical issues within a family demand that the custody of these children be relinquished by their families so that the children can remain in an orphanage until a wealthier, more well-suited family comes along to care for them.
  5. The ends justify the means, especially in the exchange of children.
  6. Profound loss and grief are negligible and compensated for by the fact that others can look at your life and conclude that enough good things have happened since then to ignore any tragedy or trauma.
  7. Losing ones' original family, culture, people, nation, language are inconsequential when you are transplanted to a wealthy, foreign family and given the opportunities to become a productive, educated member of society.