Parenting is scary. Adoptive parenting has actually scared the crap out of me on many a day during the last year. It’s been scary for me because as much as I wanted to be a mom, my worse fear was somehow screwing things up for Hope after she’d already been through so much stuff. It’s all a lot, or as Hope would say, “a lot, a lot!”
I found the adoption process to be stressful, really stressful thanks to lots of paperwork, home visits and feeling judged by so many people: social workers, adoption agency folks, family and friends who could not understand why I needed to parent the way I do, the way that Hope needs me to because I need to help her heal. It’s the heaviest responsibility I’ve ever taken on, and because I’m a ridiculous overachiever, the fear of failure when the stakes seem so high has worn on me a great deal in the last year. I started looking for a new fur baby recently and the rescue agency requirements to adopt a new dog have actually triggered emotional flashbacks of sorts of the adoption process [I’ll be writing about this soon]. It was hard. It is hard. And I fret that it will never get easier, even though it does and it has in many ways.
When I first saw the #FlipTheScript hashtag, I honestly felt some kind of way about it. I thought, “Gosh these adoptees are sooooo pissed!” “Do they hate their adoptive parents?” “Is Hope going to be this angry? Is she going to hate me?” “Holy, ish, this hurts. This scares me. “ “Gosh after everything, I’m going to be judged by adoptees I don’t know [insert pursed lips and a neck roll for good measure]?” Based on some of the posts and tweets, I was terrified that I was already screwing up and maybe effing Hope’s life up royally.
I didn’t get it. I wasn’t that adoptive parent who wished the hashtag and all the stuff behind it went away, as Tao writes about in “Dear Adoptive Parents who are tired of Adoptees speaking up…,” but I sure as heck didn’t know how to reconcile my fear of failure and possibly being rejected by Hope down the line and the need of the adoptee, and Hope specifically, to have a voice in her story. In those first few days, I couldn’t tell the difference between frustration and anger in the expressions. I could barely sort through my own emotions after reading the expressions.
I feel like I kind of beat myself up a bit trying to figure it out.
But, I kept reading tweets, kept trying to wrap my head around what they meant and what adoptees were trying to say to me as an individual, as a part of the adoption community, as a parent, and as an adoptive parent. I started to understand that the voice of the adoptee wasn’t necessarily angry, but frustrated by the reality that they lacked any sort of real power and privilege in the adoption narrative. The story about adoption is all about the parents and not the adoptees, that adoption is complicated, that they couldn’t always learn about themselves because of a whole host of reasons that sometimes don’t make sense under the light of scrutiny, that adoption is messy for adoptees too and that being adopted isn’t the end of a story, but the start of a new chapter fraught with its own plot twists.
I noticed that much of the discussion seemed to focus on infant or very young child adoption and I wondered where me and Hope fit into these new scripts. I wondered what Hope would say about her life experience if she was on Twitter (not for a few years yet!). I wondered about what flipped scripts must look like for foster kids, especially after she spent so much of her young years moving through the system.
I also noticed that very few adoptive parents were weighing in; maybe they were just being voyeurs and trying to figure out where or whether we adoptive parents fit into this new version of the story anywhere. Maybe they were scared of all of the expressed emotions that can be crammed into 140 characters.
So here I was a couple of weeks ago looking at these tweets, and the new, sensitive, scared of judgment, adoptive mom in me was taking all of this so personally.
And then I had a moment where I told myself to get over myself, at least for a spell and think about why these voices are ssential. And what would I and could I do to ensure that Hope could flip all the damn scripts she wants?
Gosh the thing about privilege is that you always, always, always think everything is about you! So on that rare occasion when someone else creates a narrative that’s not about you, you get all in your feelings and cry that your feelings are hurt or that they just don’t understand that you’re not the enemy or that if they just let you talk, you can explain everything and everything can then return to normal; normal being that you are once again in charge of the narrative.
I struggled with the notion of looking at these tweets through a power and privilege framework. It fit and I was soooo convicted.
The recognition that the framework fit also meant that I needed to hush up, have several seats and continue to listen and learn. I’d love to say I’m evolved enough to get it, but even now with Hope, I struggle to understand what the loss that surrounds adoption is like for the her; it’s hard to imagine. I see how hard it is for Hope. I see the toll that it takes on her. How could I not be an ally for adoptees when I have a beautiful, amazing, resilient kid who has a voice too?
My commitment to learning from the adoptee voice and amplifying it is purely motivated by my need to figure out how to be the best ally mom I can be to Hope. I want her to have every birthright of knowledge or stuff that she’s entitled to, and I am working hard to make sure she gets them. She is an older adoptee and she has lived a life of countless experiences, good and bad, before I ever entered the picture. I don’t replace all of that, nor does ny presence just erase all of that. This isn’t an add water and stir event. And it isn’t easy figuring out what she can handle, how to provide access with age appropriate boundaries, how to deal with the meltdowns that follow the availability of new information or artifacts provided by her family. I realize that perhaps I don’t have the same kind of power and privilege held by adoptive parents of very young children—Hope engages me at a whole different level and her family coming on the scene with all of their fears, hopes, dreams, memories, expectations have set me back on my heels trying figure out how to make all of this work. I lay awake at night trying to figure it out…often.
But that’s what it means for me to be a parent, to be this type of parent. I didn’t know I was signing up for some of this voice stuff; I suppose I was naïve about it. I didn’t realize that having a chat about sex with my daughter would be sooo much easier than telling her about my recent phone call with her aunt. It is and it was. There was no sobbing and dis-regulated behavior after the sex chat.
My Add Water co-host, Mimi (ComplicatedMelodi.com) recently wondered if we, as adoptive parents, were somehow co-opting the Flip The Script movement. I don’t think so. I think that it is important for adoptive parents to weigh in and to be seen as allies. We talk a lot about power and privilege in adoption, in parenting and as women of color on our show; talking about power and privilege in the adoption narrative seems to be a natural extension. And well, I don’t see a lot of parents talking about it in positive terms, and I think we should use our power and privilege to echo the voice of adoptees. It’s important.
So, that’s how I got to this place of being an adoptee cheerleader. I’ve learned so much, and there’s still so much more to learn.
I’m going to shut up now and go read some tweets and learn some more stuff that I hope will help me be a better mom to my most favorite girl.