June 26, 2013

3 Things SOME Adoptive Parents Do That Drive Me Crazy!

Photo Credit: Jacob Schere,Flickr
There are a lot of things I do that drive people crazy. More than one post could be written about that. 

As a rule, I'm not into judging. So why am I zeroing in on adoptive parents (AP's) today when I have so many issues myself? Because a lot of adoptive parents have been writing to me, especially since I published my story. And they want to know...what do they need to do? How do they need to change?

"How do we avoid this kind of pain, Deanna?" and "What can we do to make sure our kids don't go through this?" they ask.

 Well, to begin with, you can't totally avoid pain in adoption because by it's very nature it's traumatic. Every adoption starts with a relinquishment which is a significant loss that brings grief. You can be the best adoptive parent in the world but it won't guarantee freedom from pain for your child. Some parents think they can love enough or give enough or provide enough so that post-adoption issues won't exist. Not true.

Before I share three things you need to quit doing if you're doing them, I want to make a few disclaimers:  

Photo Credit: DoogieDom, Flickr

First I want to say, I'm not referring to my adoptive parents in this post. These are things I have observed in recent times with those who are parenting adopted children. 

Second, I want to remind everyone, I'm not a therapist.  Although, plenty of therapists seem to be agreeing what I say here. I'm glad they are hanging out here because if I'm getting all jacked up, they can they can call me out on it.

Third, there are many directions I could go with this post but I'm going to focus in on three things that drive me crazy that I see some AP's do. (There are more, and I might end up making this a series, depending on the response.) Finally, I'm not saying the AP's who have written to me for help have done any of this. For all I know, you guys are model examples of how to be an AP! I'm just saying, these are some things I see that drive me crazy and I would avoid these at all costs, if I was you.

Photo Credit: LisaW123, Flickr
1) Telling your child things like, "God put you in the wrong tummy..."

Seriously...a lot of AP'S, particularly Christian ones,  say this outlandish stuff!  There are AP's who tell their children things like, "God put you in the wrong tummy but switched things around, so you could be with us..."" This is so wrong on so many levels, I'm not even going to break it down here other than to say, God is not a bumbling nincompoop.

Please don't tell your children these grossly inaccurate things about God especially if you want them to follow Him. Why would they serve such a dumb God?  Who wants to follow a God who doesn't even know the difference between a uterus and a stomach and gets the two mixed up with millions of people?

2) Trashing the original parent(s).

I don't know why some AP's trash the original mother. Some do it without even knowing her personally, at all!  Maybe it's a need to try to elevate themselves and seem like some kind of hero who has rescued them. Sadly, I've even heard original moms referred to as "crack whores", and the like. That is not only pathetic but the opposite of how Jesus would want us to speak of a human being. 

Be careful as well of the tone you use when you speak of your children's original parent(s). Your child will pick up on it.

Some AP's respond, "Well, I'm just speaking the truth -- her mother was on drugs," or "his mother really was a prostitute." So let's say that's true -- you still don't have to bash them. 

Every individual is valuable.  
Everyone is worthy of respect.

I'm in relationship with lots of first mothers and they are some of the most amazing women I know. 

Whether you are in an open adoption or not, whether your child is ever reunited with their original mother or father - they are still a part of them. Their blood runs through their veins. It always will. And when you speak in a negative way about their original parent, they internalize that as a part of them. Because they are a part of them.

And whether your child admits it to your or not - they are important to him/her. They mean something to them even if they say, "I don't care anything about them and don't ever want to search for them or meet them!" (Often that is anger talking, not reality.)  

Bottom line -- don't speak negative words about their original parents. It hurts your child...a lot.

 3) Talking about really personal things about your kid like they're not even there.

Many AP's love to tell the story of how they brought their children home. Let's picture little Madeline's Mom at a barbecue with some friends from church. Madeline is near her, playing with some Barbies on the floor, and a friend begins to ask some questions.

Friend: So, when did you adopt your daughter?

Madeline's Mom: Back in 2010...February was when we brought her home.

Friend: Wowwww...what was that like for you? Must have been an amazing feeling.

Madeline's Mom: Well, it was...our dream come true. God answered our prayers, but there were a lot of challenges especially in the beginning.

Friend: Challenges? What kind of challenges?

Madeline's Mom: Oh, well she was emaciated...about half she size of a normal child her age and there were even bugs in her hair when we picked her up...it was unreal.........

Friend: Seriously? Oh my God! There were bugs in the child's hair? I can't even fathom...

Madeline's Mom: The doctor said it's a miracle she lived, with the severe neglect...

Friend: Oh my word! That is unbelievable. You guys are heroes. You rescued that girl.

Madeline's Mom: [tears in eyes] Thank you, it's been quite the journey.

Friend: Where would she be without you? Probably dead...

Meanwhile Madeline is on the floor with her Barbies listening to every single word of this, internalizing it. It is very painful for her to hear such personal things being shared with church people and she can do nothing to stop it.  And besides that, she desperately wants approval. She just wants to be loved and accepted. So she stays quiet, or she acts out in other ways to release the feelings. 

Perhaps what her mother says is true about her previous condition. But it would be nice for Madeline to have the opportunity to tell HER story in HER way if and when she is ready, as an adult.  It may take her many years to process and move on from overhearing these kind of conversations.

Adoptee, what would YOU share?

There are so many things I'd like to share with AP's to make things better for their children, but these are three of the things that are stuck in my craw right now. 

If you're an adoptee, what would you share with AP's that they need to avoid doing?  Help out the AP's in the comment thread and tell them what you'd like them to know.