November 13, 2013

When Adoptive Parents or Authority Figures
Tell A Child's Story

 When it comes to telling their child's story, many adoptive parents start with "Our arms were empty...we struggled with infertility, and so..."

Or they say,"We never struggled with infertility. We just love adoption and had it in our hearts to be a blessing to a child...and that's how the story began..."

The adoptive parent's personal story may start that way. 

But their child's story doesn't start with them.

The adopted child's story always starts with another mother and father besides his or her adoptive parents, and a whole different maternal and paternal extended family.

The beginning part of a child's story should never be erased, in order to make others comfortable.

And, the child's story is not for an adoptive parent, or any other adult, to tell.

A child is the owner of his or her personal story.

When it comes to an adoptive parent or other authority figure (social worker, pastor, Sunday School teacher, friend of family, etc.) the child is rendered powerless to tell them to stop telling their story. Or, to stop telling it their way.

So,  most times the adoptee smiles and nods, or they are quiet.
Or they meekly stuff it down and go on.

Some adoptees may tell their parents that it's okay to share their story, if they ask them. 
Or they may act out in different ways to let them know it's not okay.

When they act out, the parent might say, "I have no idea what's gotten into him/her! Why are they acting this way? They've been just fine for a while, and now all of sudden..." 

Many adoptees long for approval so much they won't ever tell their parents they aren't okay with it.  They might even agree to testify in church -- publicly sharing the story with others. (Every time I encounter this, I cringe, imagining how their 40-year-old-self might feel about it one day. "What if they are still happy and agreeable to it at forty?"those who disasgree might say. Well, great. Wouldn't it be reasonable to give them time and space to sort out their feelings and beliefs with the benefit of time, wisdom and experience?)

Recently I heard of some adoptive parents who shared stories, referring to their adopted children as "radishes." (Children with RAD.) Yes, I was horrified.   

When the adopted son or daughter becomes of age, if they have not come out of the fog as it is known in adoptee-world,  they might not have the courage to tell their parents how they felt about this, it is so ingrained in them to not disappoint their parents.

Others may get brave enough to share their story, with the benefit of adult reflection when they are of  age. And the adoptive parent may think or  say, "Wait! Wait!  It wasn't like that! That's not our story!" 

That's part of the problem -- it's not their story -- it's their son or daughter's story.

The rebuke over a changed script happens to many adoptees when they don't spit out the same story they were given for all those years...that same one the adults in their lives have already been telling everybody, forever.

For instance, although my adoptive parents never did this to me, many other people did use the old, "Be grateful you weren't aborted," or "Aren't you glad your mother chose life?" script for me when I was younger. I never questioned it -- and just went along with it. This was before I had really processed my adoption and beliefs, well before reunion.  


Before my maternal reunion, I often got up in church services where I sang or spoke and testified that I was so grateful my natural mother didn't abort me, or that she chose life. The first night of our reunion, I thanked her for choosing life, and she looked at me in total bewilderment, and said, "I never even considered otherwise." 

Suddenly my script didn't make sense.

I had a lot of processing and re-writing to do.
Abortion wasn't part of my story -- at all.
Come to find out, it's not part of a lot of adoption stories. 

Abortion wasn't legal when my natural mother was pregnant with me. Strangely, I hadn't even made that connection in my mind for the first 27 years of my life because I was so conditioned by the "she chose life" script that so many adults had  handed me.  I just kept repeating that script and testifying my little heart out, never questioning it.

Processing one's adoption is a lifetime journey.  Presenting a child with a pre-fabricated story -- telling them how they should feel and not giving them space to process it for themselves long term, is not right.

It also saddens me that  some adoption agencies and organizations get testimonials from under age adoptees and use their photos to advertise, sharing what they [the agency] consider to be the child's story. Parental consent or not, it's unethical -- not in the best interest of the child.  

The child will process things as they get older and if they no longer identify with the story their were given by others, there will be nothing they can do to get rid of the information that has circulated, that they may not consider their truth anymore.

Rarely is an adoptee's truth the same at 20, 30 or 40 as it was when they were a child. This should be understood, even from a non-adoptee standpoint. If you are not adopted, do you still believe all the same things at your age now as you did when you were five?  My husband is not adopted, yet the man I married at 19 years old is very different from the same man in his forties.

The anger present in some adopted children may stem in part from the inability to own their story.

But they don't know how to tell you that.