Honor adoptees by honoring their privacy

There has been a lot of talk this week in my online circles around a post by a popular adoptive parent blogger about her kids and the holidays - "parenting kids who sabotage big days," as she puts it.

Kids and sabotage are words I really don't like hearing in the same sentence. And although I am sure there are legions of Jen Hatmaker supporters who are ready to carry her banner and dismiss anyone who disagrees, I say that much of the behavior Ms. Hatmaker describes is a result of parental behaviors that focus far more on their own agendas and not early as much as they should on what kids really need at unsettling times of the year.

I choose the word unsettling for a reason. Holidays can be really rough for people. There is first of all the pace: who can keep up with the endless demands to do more, see more, post more, smile more, travel more, cook more - perfectly? And what if the holiday brings back hard memories, not just happy ones? Holidays should not be about schedules and stuff, they should be, as author Terra Trevor so beautifully says, about love.

It's exhausting. We adults get stressed, and our kids see it, feel it and act on it. This, I think, is what is at the root of a lot of the behavior Ms. Hatmaker discusses in her post. Not all, of course, so it is fair for parents to consider what else might be at the root of what they see as behavioral sabotage. We readers, those, shouldn't be privy to it.

Aselefech Negesso, adult adoptee founder of Ethopian Adoptees of the Diaspora, says it up perfectly. Too bad that as of this writing, Ms. Hatmaker has declined to make this important point of view public on her blog.
Perfect timing and really helpful piece but as an adult adoptee, I wish you were more protective of your child's struggles during this time of the year. Publicly exposing her struggles really diminished the strength of your argument.
Back when I started writing, I occasionally posted about my kids. Not personal details, but everyday news. Once or twice I posted a photo. Over time as I reread those posts, I found that even the innocuous ones were inappropriate. The question I started asking myself was "Would I post this about my adult kids?" And the answer is almost always no.

I honor my kids best when I give them their privacy. They can speak for themselves, and don't need any adoptive parent - me included - speaking for them.


Anonymous said…
While all mommy bloggers confront the issue of their children's privacy, I think that it is an especially important one for adoptees. Yes, blogs are useful resources to connect, learn, test ideas. I have learned so much from bloggers that has informed and I believe usefully complicated my perspective on adoption. This information was not available in books for a very long time, so I appreciate those who put the stories and ideas out there including Third Mom! But there has to be a careful limit on the sharing and use of identifying information. On the issue of privacy I disagreed with my social worker. She told me a story with great approval about a toddler who was running around telling everyone that she was a "doctor." The parents would explain that she was trying to say that she was "adopted." The child was too young to know what this meant but was nevertheless informing the world of her family circumstances. Of course my daughters knew their story from the beginning and have a photo book, etc., but I did not use the word "adopted" until they were older. I stressed that it was their story to tell and I wanted them to be in control of it. I do not want to return to a former state of adoption shame and secrecy and I hope that I have not done that since we discuss their stories at home. We are one of those families that can pass as biracial to the outside world and so I want them to tell whom they wish when they wish. I want to take my lead from them on this issue rather than the other way around when they are old enough to think through the implications. It means that sometimes we are evasive with snoopy people and when we are alone we discuss how we responded to the situation. They know that there is no shame in being adopted--and believe me, international adoption is discussed through the lens of colonialism, not just about rich and poor countries--but they are too young to know what it means to share their life story with strangers who may have prejudices. Maybe I am doing the wrong thing. Of course not all families can pass so easily. My best friend (white) adopted a child from Ethiopia. I thoughtlessly asked her (in private) about the details of her daughter's story and she told me, even though I was her closest friend, she did not want to share it with me before her daughter knew it all herself since it was her story. I respect that position very much and told her I agreed with her and was very sorry I had not thought about it like that. I know these are separate issues but just wonder what others think about the complexities of privacy with respect to adopted identities.

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