My post yesterday raised the issue of a-parent inability to acknowledge adoption's challenges - loss, pain, grief, shame, etc. What I tried to say in that post is that adoption is an experience that spans a range of emotions, and it is dishonest to ourselves and our children not to face them. There is a prevalent unwillingness among some - many? - adoptive parents to look beyond their joy to the truth of their child's adoption. Yet that truth, painful though it may be, holds the key to their child's ability to feel whole.
I want to make it clear that I'm not advocating for a-parents to paint a picture of doom and gloom for their children. I am saying that we need to let our children understand what they've lost, grieve it, and support them along the way.
If you read yesterday's post, you can also see that I don't approve of mixing adoption and religion. I have a problem with treating adoption as an act of religious charity. Faith-based adoption agencies may indeed do good work, but that work should be based in the law, not a church's desire to win one for the team. This will beg the question of whether it's right for adoptive parents to raise their children in their faith, as opposed to their child's family's faith, if it's known, or the faith prevalent in their child's country. But that question will have to wait, as it's far too big to address here.
So that's my opinion on this. Now, what can I, and others who are on the same wavelength, do about it?
I wish I had an easy answer, but to be honest, I am struggling with this as much as the next person. No silver bullet for this one, but I think there are things we can do to get the message across, even if the recipient appears to reject it.
First and foremost, we need to be prepared to listen. I think there's a tendency for someone who is living adoption to react to issues with emotions - I'm as guilty as the next person of that. I've gone back to forum discussions I've participated in (few and far between though they may be), and have found that in hindsight, I would have said things differently. Perhaps I reacted tangentially and missed an opportunity to deliver a more important message, or responded in a snarky tone, or the like. This has happened in face-to-face discussions, too. I'm therefore trying to listen more to the points of view with which I disagree, because I think in the end I'll be better able to say something that resonates with that audience.
We also need to be sensitive to where others are on their adoption journeys. To be honest, I'm not sure that those in the early years are prepared or able to listen to a message that isn't positive. That's a time during which many adoptive parents are vaidating their families, and anything that diminishes those families may be seen as an attack. In the absence of a wake-up call, I can understand how an a-parent of toddlers or young children wants to block the hard stuff. When that's the case, delivering a shot across the adoption bow isn't going to have the desired effect. A better approach, I think, is to make the effort to engage, to understand, and to offer insights, in small doses, and preferably from our own experience. That seems to resonate better with parents still new to adoption; I know it did with me.
Another really good way to share a perspective we feel supports our point of view it to "pass it on." When I find good blogs and posts, or good articles in magazines and newsletters, I share them. I honestly believe that one of the reasons some adoptive parents are unwilling to see another point of view is because they simply haven't been exposed to it. Their circle of friends may keep them stuck in a mindset where "angry adoptees" and "bitter birthmothers" are dismissed. Seeing articles and essays by first parents and adoptees with a variety of experiences and perspectives can open minds and dispel those myths.
Like I said, no silver bullets. But let's keep this discussion going, because I know I'm not the only one trying to crack this nut. I'll continue to post about this as ideas strike, and hope you all will do the same.