September 18, 2013

Adoptees: YOU Didn't Fail Your Kids!!!

My sister and Tom recently sorted through some of Judy’s (my natural mother’s) belongings. They set a few things aside that they thought I would appreciate and sent them on to me.
A box arrived on my front doorstep last week and I opened it and began to look through it. Some pieces of her clothing my sister thought I would like were enclosed, as well as some  keepsakes. I am grateful for my sister and Tom’s thoughtfulness in this and treasure the items.

While I was going through the box, my eldest son Dustin walked in the room and said, “What’s that, Mom?” I explained the contents of the box. After listening for a moment he shook his head in frustration and said, “I wish there was a name in the box.”

He walked away upset, as I said, “Me too babe, me too.”

I share Dustin’s sentiments.

Nothing compares to the name.

Since I shared my story, many adoptees in similar situations have reached out to me. Over and over, I hear adoptees cry out in anguish saying,“I’ve failed my kids!” When denied their history, they exhaust everything they know to do to find out the truth -- not only for themselves, but for their children.  Many non-adopted people don’t realize how much the withholding of this basic knowledge also affects an adoptee’s kids. It impacts them profoundly. 

As mothers and fathers with our children’s best interest in mind, we want to fix it.  So we knock ourselves out trying to find out the truth. We do DNA testing. We find Search Angels to help us. Some hire private detectives. Others pay a lot of money in legal fees. We uncover every stone we possibly can to try to rectify this for our children, and sometimes it still doesn’t work. Among many other reasons, we want them to be able to accurately fill out the family trees they are assigned to do in school. Having accurate medical history affects them just as it does us. We long for them to have the truth, about their know where they come from too. In the moments of worst frustration we throw our hands up and say, “I’ve failed my kids!!!”

My dear adoptee friend, YOU HAVE NOT FAILED YOUR KIDS.

Yes, I know you’ve failed them in some way or another. I’ve done the same. None of us are perfect parents, so of course we fail our kids occasionally even if by grounding them unjustly or raising our voice when it was uncalled for. But this? No my friend, you have not failed your kids when it comes to this. So stop blaming yourself, please. You are no more responsible in this than if a hurricane came through and hit your house. Would you be sad for the tragedy of your home being affected by the storm? Of course. But you would understand, it was a storm not of your own making and one that you face together.

Facing the unknown because of adoption is the same thing. This is a tragedy not of your own that your family faces together. And when things don’t come together like all of you long for it to, you have not failed your kids. Yes, someone has failed them...and it's NOT YOU.

I understand how easy it is to fall into the trap of blaming yourself or trying to fix what you never caused. Recently in therapy Melissa said to me, “Deanna, you need to live your own life. Be careful not to dedicate your life to rectifying your mother’s mistakes.” I responded that I’m trying so hard to learn from Judy's example in many areas, and not follow it. Melissa said that’s understandable and even wise on some things, but on others I have to guard against exhausting myself trying to fix something I don’t have the power to fix. 

I may not be able to solve this problem for my children, as much as I want to.  Judy has passed away now and no one can fix her mistakes…not her, not anyone. I can only live my life, in the best way I know how – and for me that’s by God’s leading. 

I am sad that choices Judy made also affect my children, but I refuse to look at it that I have failed because I can’t fix the mistakes. When facing the ramifications of her choice together with my children, I invite them to learn a lesson along with me in how our choices deeply affect others, and why being ever mindful of this throughout our lives is woefully important.