Something occurred to me while reading a new blog the other day: that that loudest and oftentimes most vehement voices crying to be acknowledged as "real parents" are those who are considering adoption, have just begun the process, or are brand new to a-parenting.

Don't misunderstand - I'm not saying that all new and prospective a-parents focus on this - the a-parents I've come to know online are proof of that. But when I hear a voice demanding to be "real," it most often comes from someone with little concrete a-parenting experience. Conversely, many of the wisest voices, those most willing to recognize and support the complexity and paradox of adoption, come from those who have at least a few, and sometimes many, years of a-parent experience behind them.

This doesn't surprise me, but it does make me sad. Vehemence is certainly an impediment to dialog, but more importantly it can close one's eys and ears, and direct one's focus selfishly inward. I've said before that a-parents aren't the stars of this show, yet paradoxically we hold the power. That makes it all the more important for us to spend the bulk of our time listening and trying to understand, rather than forcing our opinions through adamant declarations.

The light at the end of this tunnel is that we a-parents can evolve. I can remember thinking way back at the beginning of my adoption journey, probably saying out loud, too, how adopting from Korea would remove the complication of having another family in our lives. And I remember with crystal clarity the moment I knew better - that was the moment our first child, our now 18-year-old son, was placed in our arms at National Airport.

I remember many things about that moment - the overwhelming presence of our son's mother; the total deflation of the fear I had previously felt of her and our son's Korean family; the sudden recognition that the only connection I had to her, apart from her son, was a name covered over in white-out on a piece of paper. And I remember the panic that followed - the realization that to find her would be incredibly difficult, and that making that connection and bringing her and her son back together might never happen. Although my teen children both now call the shots on their searches and reunions, I still have moments of that same panic, and it's just as overwhelming as it was back then.

That moment of enlightenment at the airport was just the beginning, though. Over the eighteen years since our son arrived, there have been many more such moments - none as emotional, but many that better illuminated the injustices that exist in adoption today. Every one of those moments has chipped away at my need to declare my "real mother" status; every one has brought me closer to understanding how unnecessary it is to even think about that. I'm here, I'm a presence in two amazing lives, and that's enough. And should the reunions and relationships I've dreamed of for my children ever become reality, it will be so easy to share my love for them with their families in Korea - I'm doing that even now.

Funny how our evolution from who we were to who we are defuses our vehemence and redirects our passion from ourselves to those who matter most to us. It's a shame it takes so long, though; how much better for our children if we had the wisdom of years with us at the start.


Round is Funny said…
This is a great post. I think it's understandable for someone who isn't secure in their role to feel threatened, and then to gradually be able to open up to more possibilities. I think adoption agencies could play a really important role in supporting new and waiting adoptive parents through this process IF they made it a priority (which I don't generally see happening).

I didn't become an adoptive parent because of infertility, but I imagine if adoption had been my second choice it would have been much more difficult to be open to my child having other parents, to knowing that someone else being his "real parents" didn't make me any less of a "real parent." What child can have too many people loving him or her?
Steve & Regina said…
You've hit this exactly on the head, beautifully written and well needed.

Our son came to us through domestic parental placement, our relationship with his family is integrated, fully open. I count as one of the neatest moments of my life seeing my son last fall with his "Beda". There was a connection there that was indescribable, special and unique to them. DH and I wanted to hold our breath, lest it be disturbed. We kept finding reasons to leave them alone and watch from afar, again, lest it be disturbed.

This does not threaten us, nor does it diminish us. It enriches all of us.

We're all real, we're all there, we all are important to him and to each other, each in their own way.

So thanks, for this is a truth rarely heard in our world.

Dawn said…
Regina -- I hope y'all will come check out http://www.openadoptionsupport.com! :)

This is a wonderful, compassionate, thoughtful post but then it's just what I'd expect from such a wise and compassionate human being. :) I feel frustrated when people try to dismiss the experiences of other people. There's so much to learn if we'd just open ourselves up to people whose stories can help us with our own. But I hope that with voices like yours that those people will learn to listen.
Lisa V said…
The "real" discussion with me is always generated by those outside adoption. Well meaning friends, family, sometimes strangers who somehow feel the need to validate my parenthood to me.

I've always thought the "real" thing does a disservice to both adoptive families and first families. It tries to create a hierarchy, one is better or more real than the other, which is false and ridiculous. We are all family. We are all parents.

You are right that time has given me more perspective on this. I know my kids love me and value me. I know they love their first families, and that isn't a threat to their love for me. However, early on, part of me probably bought into the "I'm raising her, I'm up at night with her, I'm the one she knows best." I know for a very short period I thought my role was more important than that of her first mom. Then I got over myself.
Paragraphein said…
I love you, Margie.

Hope you are okay. Was worried about your family with those posts about earlier, about the zero tolerance.

Glad you're back.
Andie D. said…
Wow Margie. As an adoptee, I'd gladly call you enlightened. And you are LIGHT years ahead of my aparents. Hope you continue to learn and grow.
Anonymous said…
Wish I could concur more, as I have a great deal of respect for you and would love to see an across-the-board evolution.

I've seen the opposite occur in many open adoption situations. Although, I must say that I do see a new era in thinking, there, as well and remain cautiously optimistic.
Tina said…
I think you have such a gift for getting to the heart of the matter with compassion and grace.

I recently had a smiliar moment while overseas when the us embassy told me that Isabel's mother had left a false address and many young women do this so that they cannot be found. "So she can put it behind her" I felt that panic you describe. We all know that the going on and forgetting in adoption is the great palace lie. No one ever forgets because people don't replace other people. I know that her mother will never forget and that Isabel will always wonder. They both will have spots in their hearts that are only able to be filled with the presence of the other. For my daughter, I am so grateful to be an adoptee and to be able to help her navigate through her own feelings whatever they may be regarding her adoption and her mother in Kyrgyzstan. For one thing, through my own experience, I'm so glad to not have to command the title 'real' mother. Isabel has two mothers as far as I'm concerned. I'm her mother, and her mother in Kyrgyzstan is her mother. I don't want to be differentiated because it just wouldn't be the truth. I never thought I'd live to see the day I'd say this, but this is a great gift that being an adoptee has given me. I have the tools to help my daughter that she doesn't have to feel torn, she doesn't have to choose and she is in the driver's seat regarding reunion. I'm there for her for all of it.

Thank you SO MUCH Margie for this blog, your perspective and your intelligent, reasoned, caring and sensitive writings.

I've had my own evolution that I've really talked about briefly. It really can happen which is why I give adoptive parents and potential adoptive parents more of the benefit of the doubt than many others will. I know from personal experience that it can happen. I was never a first mother/parent-hater, though. But I did hold tight to the "real parent" title at one time.
zoe said…
So true, Margie.

I have such regret over the lack of real understanding I had about frustrating now trying to find the adoption, going into this. It's words to convey to those even newer to this than I, that what concerns them now won't be of as much importance in just a few short months or years, and those things that they think will somehow magically take care of themselves might become the toughest issues of all.

Also - in my observations, it seems that having one's 'own' child and becoming a 'real' mom/dad are part and parcel of the marketing of adoption. The marketing of this fallacy and all it entails, must stop. It is such a disservice to everyone involved in adoption.
zoe said…
Oh, wow. Let me try that again.

I have such regret over the lack of real understanding I had about adoption, going into this. It's frustrating now, trying to find the words to convey to those even newer to this than I, that what concerns them now won't be of as much importance in just a few short months or years, and those things that they think will somehow magically take care of themselves might become the toughest issues of all.

Sorry for the jumbled message...
Coffeegrljapan said…
This is why I’m so excited for my very good friends who are currently in the middle of an open adoption. Already, the first-mom and a-parents have established a wonderful relationship and I soon as I saw it, it was easy to envision them all having a wonderfully rich experience as an extended family. I think many people have to see the power of such an amazing relationship before believing that there doesn’t have to be fear, silence, or competition but can instead be a rich and lovely experience for all involved. It's unbelievably moving to witness.

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