April 23, 2007

Balancing Shades of Grey

Some recent posts from other adoptive parents have me thinking about the tension I often feel in talking about adoption. I have a difficult time hitting a note of truth, striking a balance between the different aspects. On one hand, I'm sometimes working against various negative stereotypes about adoption. I want to present adoption positively when faced with people who pity us for "having to adopt" or think that adopted children are destined to be maladjusted. How do I get across that we are neither "just like" nor "less than" other families? But on the other hand sometimes we're faced with a easy-peasy view of adoption, or adoption being ignored when it's an essential part our identity as a family and Puppy's identity as an individual. How do I communicate that adoption absolutely influences each of us in significant ways, but is not deterministic?

I feel the same tension when talking about open adoption. When people question the wisdom of openness, I want to communicate why child-centered open adoptions are healthy and important. So many people conceive of it as this weird, scary thing when it can be such a beneficial experience. But when advocating for open adoption I don't want to spread the myth that it solves every potential problem or is easy. Once upon a time I had the idea that open adoption was win-win-win. I would be doing a disservice by presenting it that way. Open adoption has been positive for us and feels quite normal now that we're "inside" it. But it requires intentionality and commitment to make it work and it doesn't erase all the hard parts of adoption. Sometimes I feel like I focus too much on the difficult aspects. But then other times I feel like I'm presenting a sunshine-and-roses picture of it.

It reminds me of my college days. Amongst ourselves, my classmates and I could talk endlessly about the problems we saw on our campus. But if any outsider dared disparage our school, we would passionately defend it. Within adoptionland I usually feel free to talk about the hard stuff because there is a common shared experience. But if someone without direct experience of adoption raises questions, the defenses go up. Yet if we're only talking to each other about all the realities of adoption, then the general perceptions aren't being challenged.

How do I simultaneously battle both the negative and positive myths about adoption without adding fuel to either fire? I live in the grey areas, but am at a loss for how to talk about them. Does anyone else feel this tension?

4 comments:

Dawn said...

I do, especially with open adoption because so many people just gush about it, which I get. On surface it sounds gush-worthy. In my real life and in my friends/family who are close to me, they've met Jessica and know her and so they have a better sense of the complications but casual acquaintances? Nope.

llexuus said...

I know exactly what you mean, Heather - it's a difficult line to walk.

Mom2One/Judy said...

Oh yeah. And if I've tried to be honest about it with "outsiders," for lack of a better term, it just hasn't worked so far. I tried to tell a friend that I might want to work in adoption reform after I retire from the job I have now, and of course she had no idea what I was talking about. I elaborated and she looked at me like I had two head and then said, "Why don't you just work at bringing kids and parents together?" ARGH!!

So yes, it's really difficult. I don't know how to do it myself.

mama2roo said...

ARGH--I love/hate/love/hate adoption and talking about it. Its truly so difficult on so many levels. How can I expect to talk about it and expect others to get it when half the time my head spins with all the implications, myself?

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