September 18, 2009

What I Thought I Knew

Today Grown In My Heart is hosting a carnival on the topic "what no one told me about adoption." Rather than reinvent the wheel, I'm pulling out something I wrote (and a meme at that!) way back in October of 2007, before we had even met Beth, much less Firefly. Hence the Puppy-centrism.

Four things I thought about adoption when I was a child:
  • For awhile I thought couples went into an orphanage and more or less selected a child off of a shelf. I used to play adoption agency with my friends. We'd line up all my dolls in pretty dresses, then one of us would be the adoptive parent and the other one would be the orphanage director. We even drew up little adoption contracts.
  • Because I knew all the words to the songs in "Annie," I felt I knew quite a bit about adoption. Clearly.
  • I thought adoptive children should be pitied for not having a real family and adoptive parents should be pitied for not having kids of their own.
  • I was glad I wasn't adopted.
Four things I've learned since then:
  • Movies and novels aren't the best sources of information about adoption.
  • A person's history from before they're adopted matters as much as their story after. Being adopted doesn't hit a reset button on their life.
  • There is still quite a bit of work left to be done to make adoption (both international and domestic) a more just system.
  • Adoptive families can be just as awesome as "regular" families.
Four silly things people have said to me about adoption:
  • "How did you manage to get a white baby?"
  • "You did it the right way--you got a kid and didn't have to be pregnant."
  • "It's almost like you're his real mom!"
  • "If you really cared, you would have adopted a foster kid or gotten an orphan from some poor country."
Four things that are hard about adoption:
  • Trying to act ethically inside a broken system.
  • Getting past cultural models of family, which don't really have a place for more fluid family structures like ours. Things made a lot more sense when I realized that we were a "non-traditional" family, despite our outward appearance.
  • Convincing people that open adoption isn't confusing, dangerous, or an act of charity.
  • Not knowing what Puppy is going to think about all this when he is grown.
Four ways my adopted child/placed child has surprised me (or how your adoptive/first parents have surprised you if you're an adoptee):
  • He has picked up some of our mannerisms. I had prepared myself to raise a child who was completely different than us. But he is like us in some ways and like his first family in other ways--and uniquely himself in still more ways.
  • He was white. I mean, we knew Puppy was going to be white, but we were expecting to adopt transracially.
  • He is starting to notice more about family structure than I thought he would at this age.
  • He makes parenting a lot more fun than I ever expected it to be.
Four things I wish everyone knew about adoption:
  • You don't have to be directly involved in adoption to care about adoption reform. If you care about reproductive rights, parental rights, family preservation, civil rights, poverty, racial inequality, or global inequity then you should care about adoption reform.
  • You can confront the darker stuff in adoption (loss, regret, need for reform, etc.) and still be optimistic about adoption as a whole.
  • Closed adoptions are a fairly recent invention in American history. Open adoption isn't some crazy new fringe idea.
  • All of us--adopted people, first parents, adoptive parents--represent a wide variety of backgrounds and circumstances. The stereotypes about us, both positive and negative, are pretty useless.

10 comments:

Guera! said...

This is a GREAT post. I would say though that adoptive families are in many ways more awesome than "regular" families. But who's comparing right? :)

consolidatingcricket said...

Hi! I really liked your post (I too blogged on the carnival)..but I have to very respectively disagree with Guera's comment..and I hope you don't mind.

As an adoptee, I don't feel that adoptive families could ever be as 'awesome' as regular families. I mourn the loss of my natural family every day.

pickel said...

My personal favorite? No stretch marks...

Melanie Recoy said...

Good post.

As to awesomeness, that is determined long before adoption.

-An awesome adoptee

Heather said...

@consolidatingcricket - No, I don't mind at all. Were I to write this today, it would probably come out a little differently than it did two years ago.

@all - What I had to learn was to not judge family "awesomeness" based on family structure alone. Probably a better word would be "validity." Someone might say it sucked for them living in a single parent household. But that's different than saying all families headed by single-parents are less valid than two-parent families. That's the difference for me.

My kids may very well say one day that our adoptive family wasn't so awesome. And I get that some people will argue that all adoptive families are less valid--some out of pity, others out of critiques of the fundamental nature of adoption. But it's a belief I've moved away from myself.

a Tonggu Momma said...

Loved this post, Heather... and one in particular resonated with me: Trying to act ethically inside a broken system. *sigh* But still I try, even if I get it wrong sometimes.

FauxClaud said...

I'm stealing this quote:

You don't have to be directly involved in adoption to care about adoption reform. If you care about reproductive rights, parental rights, family preservation, civil rights, poverty, racial inequality, or global inequity then you should care about adoption reform.

I'll credit you, but I'm stealing it.. it's brillant! I heart it! Thank you!

David said...

"Closed adoptions are a fairly recent invention in American history. Open adoption isn't some crazy new fringe idea."

That's correct, open adoption is, and will continue to be a ploy to separate children from thier mothers. Pre birth matching and open adoption are exploitative and coercive in the extreme.

http://www.blogcatalog.com/blog/on-a-little-island-in-the-pacific-n-adoption-blog-the-life-and-words-of-a-natural-mother

cindy psbm said...

Something I thought about adoptees before I even understood that they were adopted:
I actually thought that some parents had children born them that just happen look completely different than them (skin colour, eye colour, etc). What I silly girl I was!!

This point I like the best

"Closed adoptions are a fairly recent invention in American history. Open adoption isn't some crazy new fringe idea."

True, but try convincing people of that!!
Just goes to show how short-sighted humanity can be!!

Margie said...

You are too good, I love this!!!!

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