More thoughts about love

My post yesterday raised the issue of a-parent inability to acknowledge adoption's challenges - loss, pain, grief, shame, etc. What I tried to say in that post is that adoption is an experience that spans a range of emotions, and it is dishonest to ourselves and our children not to face them. There is a prevalent unwillingness among some - many? - adoptive parents to look beyond their joy to the truth of their child's adoption. Yet that truth, painful though it may be, holds the key to their child's ability to feel whole.

I want to make it clear that I'm not advocating for a-parents to paint a picture of doom and gloom for their children. I am saying that we need to let our children understand what they've lost, grieve it, and support them along the way.

If you read yesterday's post, you can also see that I don't approve of mixing adoption and religion. I have a problem with treating adoption as an act of religious charity. Faith-based adoption agencies may indeed do good work, but that work should be based in the law, not a church's desire to win one for the team. This will beg the question of whether it's right for adoptive parents to raise their children in their faith, as opposed to their child's family's faith, if it's known, or the faith prevalent in their child's country. But that question will have to wait, as it's far too big to address here.

So that's my opinion on this. Now, what can I, and others who are on the same wavelength, do about it?

I wish I had an easy answer, but to be honest, I am struggling with this as much as the next person. No silver bullet for this one, but I think there are things we can do to get the message across, even if the recipient appears to reject it.

First and foremost, we need to be prepared to listen. I think there's a tendency for someone who is living adoption to react to issues with emotions - I'm as guilty as the next person of that. I've gone back to forum discussions I've participated in (few and far between though they may be), and have found that in hindsight, I would have said things differently. Perhaps I reacted tangentially and missed an opportunity to deliver a more important message, or responded in a snarky tone, or the like. This has happened in face-to-face discussions, too. I'm therefore trying to listen more to the points of view with which I disagree, because I think in the end I'll be better able to say something that resonates with that audience.

We also need to be sensitive to where others are on their adoption journeys. To be honest, I'm not sure that those in the early years are prepared or able to listen to a message that isn't positive. That's a time during which many adoptive parents are vaidating their families, and anything that diminishes those families may be seen as an attack. In the absence of a wake-up call, I can understand how an a-parent of toddlers or young children wants to block the hard stuff. When that's the case, delivering a shot across the adoption bow isn't going to have the desired effect. A better approach, I think, is to make the effort to engage, to understand, and to offer insights, in small doses, and preferably from our own experience. That seems to resonate better with parents still new to adoption; I know it did with me.

Another really good way to share a perspective we feel supports our point of view it to "pass it on." When I find good blogs and posts, or good articles in magazines and newsletters, I share them. I honestly believe that one of the reasons some adoptive parents are unwilling to see another point of view is because they simply haven't been exposed to it. Their circle of friends may keep them stuck in a mindset where "angry adoptees" and "bitter birthmothers" are dismissed. Seeing articles and essays by first parents and adoptees with a variety of experiences and perspectives can open minds and dispel those myths.

Like I said, no silver bullets. But let's keep this discussion going, because I know I'm not the only one trying to crack this nut. I'll continue to post about this as ideas strike, and hope you all will do the same.


I always read things like this and find it hard to respond, as our adoption story has been anything but typical. Our son was a "true" orphan, so there was no first family broken up (though there was definitely loss, and we are well aware of that, and are very open about this with our son). He was older, and had asked to be adopted, so there is no mystery to him... he is fairly sure of who he is (as much as a 10yo can be!) and he was old enough to remember his past, and embrace it. He is also Catholic, as are we... so that eliminated that question as well.

But I do love reading all this. It makes me think about every aspect of parenting our son. Religion, in our case, has opened even more doors for discussion with him. He remembers going to church with his family, and can relate things between both parts of his life.

I guess there is no point to this, other than I love reading your blog and I love that you make me think!
Margie said…
Hi, thanks so much for your comment.

You have raised something that we need to keep in mind when we talk about adoption - the fact that the circumstances that lead to each adoption are unique. The way we would talk to a child who was orphaned will be different from the way we talk to a child who was place by one or both parents.

And you know, what's interesting to me is that in the former situation, there would be need for secrecy. That begs this question: Why do some try to hide the first family in the second?

This is something that will get me thinking, for sure. Thanks again for commenting!
Margie, I am so appreciative to you for this post. I have been wondering how to say something similar to these words myself. I was one of those positive adoptive parents and what helped me most was a gentle guidance towards a different way of thinking. Harsh replies, being the target of jokes or so-called "tough love" never did it for me -- it just made me shut down and move more away from the viewpoint being offered.

And as much as I've wanted to share that, I just haven't been able to find the words, but you've said it eloquently and articulately. Thank you. Yes, we need to listen to others and Yes, we need to honor people as far as where they are in their journey. This is one reason why I try not to hold up a post or part of a post for scolding or ridicule in my own blog.

Thank you, Margie. This and your previous post are so important. :) I might need to come back to this topic myself, but not yet -- first, I have a day at the zoo with Nate and his best buddy. :)

(oh, and I'm using "justenjoyhim/judy" as my sign-on to eliminate any confusion) said…
I could do with being a bit more like what you suggest in this post Margie. I tend to get impatient with people....
Tina said…
This reminds me of the knot in my stomach that I feel when people tell me they want to do something really wonderful and adopt a child from overseas. Like after the tsunami I heard that statement a lot. I think there are a lot of misguided reasons for adopting which lead to the idea that lots of love can heal inherant losses of a child who is adopted, particularly one who is adopted from another country. Adopting in the name of one's religion or one's fuzzy ideas of 'rescuing' a child from what some westerners regard as an existence that warrents our rescuing is so typically American and arrogant. It's too much for a child to shoulder, all those good intentions....

Margie so many times you write things that I've thought of myself. The faith question is a big one for me that I've thought about a lot. It is so big and I have so many emotions about it I simply *don't* write about it, because I don't believe I could coherently get my feelings out.
This is not the first time I have been to your site. I was an avid reader last year when I was in the middle of my adoptions of my two daughters. I have been a bit busy writing, and working on ways to help children who have fallen victim to being orphaned due to extreme poverty and war. My life consists of raising all six of my children and finding funds(in the forms of education)to help children in both South Africa and Kenya.

I was personally attacked by adoptees yesterday by a post I wrote on the celebration of my daughters completed adoptions. As you stated in this post, if they had come to "educate" and "help" me with regards to my daughters emotional well being in the future, I would of been open to the discussion to learn.
Instead, I was attacked. I was attacked on my site and the Adult Adoptees Advocating For Change site. They attacked my character as a woman and as a mother. The things they wrote on the Advocates for Change site are horrific. Why would women do this without knowing who and what I am? It is disheartening to say the least.
I am only coming to you because one of my "attackers" recommended this site, unbeknownst to her, that I have read your blog before.
I look forward to what you have to say regarding this subject.
Thank you Margie for keeping these kinds of conversations going.
Anonymous said…
Margie, I love your love Thursdays I think I want to copy it.


I feel it is rude of you to come and ask Margie to comment on an online squabble that she has nothing to do with, are you seriously asking her to chastise Kim, Possum and Sarah?

That is how it reads. Why they couldn't see that you are a saint and a hero when you were proclaiming it so loudly is beyond me, so I will chastise them on behalf of adoptive parents and us non-victims everywhere!!!

Attention Kim, Sarah, and Possum

I, on behalf and in the interest of good people everywhere, do officially and with much fanfare, wish you peace, thank you for your thoughts and remind you that not everyone feels the way you do.

*now is the appropriate time for applause*

I was asking for advise. I was told to come and read. I am making that attempt. I did not mention names in my previous comment out of respect.

I am at a loss.

I was happy to read from your post, "A better approach, I think, is to make the effort to engage, to understand, and to offer insights, in small doses, and preferably from our own experience. That seems to resonate better with parents still new to adoption; I know it did with me."

I wish that was my experience. It was not. If they had really wanted to help, they would have come from a different place, not from anger, a place to help me and educate me.

I apologize for bringing this onto your beautiful site. I needed someone to help me understand. I was told to come to you.

I apologize once again. I don't want this negative energy to be brought here so I will not be coming back. I hope that one day, there will be adult adoptees that will help me in the process of raising my daughters during their times of questions, not push me down, throw dirt in my face, call me names, and expect me to listen.

What a thought provoking post . . . obviously bringing out many emotions for lots of people. We all have our various motivations for seeking to adopt children, and I choose to believe that the majority of people pursue this path for building a family for positive and helpful reasons. To me, the bottom line is that there are parents who want to love and nurture a child, and there are children who need love. Perhaps I am simple, but if this is a negative thing to some, I am sad.

I have no misguided notions that adopting two beautiful daughters from China will make my life "perfect," nor am I deluded enough to believe that they will not experience the grief and loss that accompanies the experience of being orphaned and then being loved enough to be adopted. Life is tough, no matter where you live or who your family is. But I believe in making the best of the difficulties in life, and make my best effort to "get it right." Although I won't and neither will anyone else, because we are human.

I just happen to know from personal experience, (having already raised 4 bio children before adopting our two daughters) that biology does not guarantee a good relationship between a parent and child. Life happens, and people make choices. There are many ways that families grow and develop, and whether it is called "adoption" or not, I've learned that family is who wants to be family!

I just hope that one day the dialogue can be helpful rather than hurtful, because after all, that is certainly my motivation as I travel this journey, and I strive every day to understand . . . and would desire understanding for all who are touched by adoption.

Blessings on all adoptive parents, adopted children, birth families, and especially those who have been wounded by this experience. I wish you grace and peace in your heart to understand just how much you truly are loved.
zoe said…
Thanks for this, Margie. I struggle and need to take this personally. What seems to get me is when people are just happy to disagree right from the beginning - no discussion necessary. It's then that I tend to wade down into the muck because I want them to 'get' or at least acknowledge another perpective so badly....but it just doesn't work that way much of the time. It shouldn't upset me so...the hardest things for me to learn have been concepts that I had to ponder over for months or more before I came to understand the other POV.

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