Friday, January 27, 2012

Ears open, Mind Engaged, Mouth Shut.

Do you know what are my favorite kind of adoption blog posts to read? Referral posts!

I love it when a blogger I've been following for months finally gets the long-awaited email containing pictures of their child-to-be. Or when the social worker calls while the adoptive parents are at work, or in Target.

I love the carefully cropped photos that only show a smile, a chubby baby foot, big eyes with impossibly long lashes. I love seeing older adoptive siblings proudly clutching photos of their little brother or sister. So much hope, so much emotion, so much joy.

Joy for the adoptive family of course.

Because the blogs are almost always written from the adoptive parent perspective. I mentioned in an earlier post that in the adoption community people refer to the "triad" as being adoptive parent/first parent/adoptee. I also mentioned in my last post how much privilege is involved in being an adoptive parent.

Can you guess which member of the triad has the loudest voice on the interwebs? Which member has historically controlled the public representations of adoption?

(It's us.)

Adoptive parent blogs are legion. Seriously: google "adopting from..." (take your pick: Korea, China, Ethiopia, Foster Care) and you will come up with a jillion adoptive parent blogs.

Adult adoptee blogs and first parent blogs are far fewer.

You would think that as adoptive parents we would actively seek out the voices of adults who shared the same experiences and backgrounds as our children not-born-to-us.

Sometimes we do.

And we read them until we come across something that we don't like. Something that makes us uncomfortable. Something that challenges our ideas of what our own children will think and feel when they are adults.  Many times these challenging thoughts express a level of discomfort with the adoption industry. Or a level of preference for children being raised by their original parents/in their countries of origin.

These criticisms often strike at our tender good intentions. We denounce them as the rantings of an "Angry Adoptee" (this is the adoptive parent version of the boogeyman).

We become defensive:
"Look, my adoption was ethical. I know this because the agency showed me a video/the relinquishment papers/I met the first family."

"I'm sorry you were told to act American. In my family we celebrate lunar New Year! My child attends culture camp once a year and language school every Saturday."

"I fully support my child searching for her birth family. When she's 18 we will absolutely help her with that."

"Would you rather you were raised in an orphanage?"

And in our defensiveness we push away the words and the message. It is so hard to sit with our discomfort. It is so crucial to sit with our discomfort. Because that tiny bit of discomfort? It is a glimpse at what a lifetime of marginalization feels like. A passing glance at the realities our children and their first families face.

We need to read these blogs and we need to hear these voices. And you know what else we need to do?

We need to SHUT UP.

 We need to sit and listen. Our voices do not need to be a part of every conversation surrounding adoption. They don't. Because our voices? They wrote the conversations surrounding adoption.

Think about it: adoptive parents get heaped with praise for taking in orphans. Birth parents get scorn and shame for relinquishing their children. For getting pregnant in the first place. Adoptees are expected to be grateful for their entire lives. To be eternally vigilant to the notion that they were saved.

I challenge you, my fellow adoptive parents, to seek out the uncomfortable stuff. To hear it and not comment. To process it and live with it.

Ears Open, Mind Engaged, Mouth Shut.

(for starters--add your favorites in the comments)


  1. I do not mean this offensively at all, but part of "other adoptive parents" only representing the JOY part of their adoption on blogs is because of the very fact that you mention in another blog post. Protecting the privacy of our children. I feel the discomfort over the pain involved in adoption keenly every day. What I celebrate on facebook is the joy.

    I write updates for birth family and for foster family and erase them again, because they don't represent my child and that moment accurately enough. I struggle to capture my child's expressions perfectly for them, and hope that they might see the reflection of an expression that they themselves make or that way that their nephew wrinkles his nose just like my baby does when he laughs. I send them frequently. I don't mention them publicly.

    I search for connections, I ask for contact in every letter. I know that my child's file is only a snapshot of a painful moment. I celebrate Lunar New Year, but know we aren't doing it "right" and that it isn't the family generational celebration that it would be in Korea. I take beautiful pictures of my baby in Hanbok, with hands full of smarties to encourage her to wear it, because right now with the knowledge I have, I believe it is the right thing to do. We go to Saturday Korean school in search of Korean community and in hopes that *maybe* we will gain a small grasp of hangul. We are never under the belief that this makes our family authentically Korean, or that it will bring back what our child lost.

    Do I talk about these struggles on facebook or a blog? No. I don't. I don't want to upset my Korean teacher, who follows me on facebook. I don't want to be asked by acquaintances if we've made contact with birth family when I say something about thinking about birth mom. I see no reason to reveal anything about birth family, or even to satisfy curiosity about whether we think about them or not. We do. Every day. I search for birth mother blogs with her name, and my daughter's name in hangul (they exist). I cry. I don't blog about it.

    In the pissing contest that is parenting, adoption seems to create a whole new level. Are we "called" enough by God? Are we passionate enough about the adultism that emerges from adoption culture, and the marginalization of adult adoptees? Are we doing enough to promote the rights of birth parents? Are we yelling loud enough about the pain that is inherent in adoption? Do we fight hard enough for waiting kids to find families? Did we search hard enough for birth family? Or did we search too hard and take away something that is the right of only the adoptee or birth parent to do? Are we embracing the culture of our child's birth country enough? Or are we using our child's birth culture as a way to make OURSELVES more multi-cultural and "interesting"? Hard stuff. Stuff I think about, and don't broadcast. Stuff that wakes me up at night.

    I suppose this will be dismissed as being defensive, but I'd just like to offer the possibility that not every adoptive family is as unaware as they may seem. Sometimes, we're just listening, writing heartfelt updates, parenting to the best of our ability like crazy, and SHUTTING UP.

  2. Karen, your points about protecting privacy are well-taken. All of your points are well-said and so important. I would never presume that I know *more* or *better* than another adoptive parent--I have no clue. At this stage in my adoption process I am not even actively parenting my adopted child yet--I am the worst kind of arrogant in my ideas and notions. I have strong feelings about all of this, and reams of theoretical knowledge and absolutely ZERO concrete experience. The things that keep you awake at night haunt me as well, but I only have a photo and a stack of legal documents to connect them to. And this: "In the pissing contest that is parenting, adoption seems to create a whole new level." YES. Times a million.

  3. It's very tricky, to blog about international adoption. Every day I fall more in love with my children but it also makes me sadder for their losses, so much so that my heart aches for them. I have tried to write about this on the blog, about how the more I know about international adoption the less I support it even, but yet it's hard. I also want children to find families and I want everyone to see how happy I am, and how much joy my babies have brought to my life. But yet. I am just so sad for them sometimes and know that I will never ignore the uncomfortable because I simply can't.

    But right this second I'm just glad they're adorable squishy toddling toddlers that don't have know much about the pains of this world we live in.

  4. I totally agree--sometimes I wish I had remained blissfully ignorant. It is hard to find the balance between recognizing the losses and acknowledging the JOY inherent in adorable toddling toddlers. Because the joy should absolutely be celebrated.