It continues to stun me how myopic folks can be. I left a support group yesterday because grown folk could not have a civilized conversation amongst adoptive parents, birth parents and adoptees views on adoption. (I did reluctantly rejoin the group and immediately hit the “silence notifications” tab. #whoneedsthedrama)
Adoption makes for a bunch of interesting bedfellows, some of whom have big voices and a lot of privilege in the narrative. As a part of the triad, I’ve learned so much about how the diversity issues I work on professionally permeate the world of adoption. I was naive to think they wouldn’t, but I am repeatedly stunned by how things play out.
If we hope to build community with others, we have to be willing to feel some discomfort, even pain at times. I had a therapist that used to tell me that growth never occurs without some level of discomfort. We have to learn to exercise our muscles of compassion and empathy and to talk/type less and listen more.
The voice of the adoptee is an important one. Man, when Hope speaks I’m like old skool E.F. Hutton—I shut up and listen. Why? Because nothing else on this journey compares to her voice, her needs. She is not just the center of my world; this adoption is about what she needed/needs. Oh sure, I wanted to be a mom. But honestly, I didn’t need to be one. I can’t say I feel like I was born to do this. I can’t argue that my maternal instinct couldn’t have been satiated in other ways besides becoming a mom (an all expense year of luxury in Bora Bora might’ve done it…). Hope needed a family. Hope’s family needed her to have a stable family and a stable home. I was available and a good match. I fit the bill.
I got a great kid; I got to be a mom, and she is getting her Mazlow’s needs met.
During the last two years, I’m sure I’ve done and said some stupid things about my adoption journey, about birth parents, about supportive folks in and around my life, about Hope and other adoptees. I’ve had to stretch, not just to understand what might be Hope’s perspective, but the general perspective of adoptees. I get that it’s hard for adoptive parents not to take some of the sadness and grief personally; but really, it’s not about us.
Except when it is, and it is when we are dismissive and silencing to the adoptee voice. Then we make it about us, our feelings, our narrative.
We are entitled to our feelings, we are. But we aren’t entitled to them at the expense of our children. It ain’t fair, but thems the brakes.
It infuriates me to hop onto an online support group that is supposed to welcome all members of the triad to the conversation, only to find that APs are whining about everyone being too sensitive. Yo, check it, everybody in the room typically has lost something, is grieving something, is struggling with something. Let’s get over ourselves. Most of the public narrative about adoption is about us anyway, what we want, what we’ve endured to finally become parents, what we feel then and now. It really is okay to pass the dutchie to the right and let someone else take a puff on the mic.
When an adoptee tells me something is offensive—especially something I, as an adoptive parent, have said is offensive—I take them at their word. End of story.
I don’t do/say any of the following because they are inappropriate:
- I know this other adoptee and they are okay with it. What’s your problem?
- Hey, it was just cute/a joke/darling! You are too sensitive!! Lighten up.
- You always makes everything so negative!
- You always make adoption about you!
- Hey, why are you so angry?
- You must be anti-adoption.
- You must hate your adoptive parents!!
- You aren’t grateful for being adopted?
This is just a sampling of some of the things I read on a support group thread yesterday. Now, this might be hard to connect, but much of this is offensive to adoptees much the way that the following is offensive to me as an African-American:
- I don’t see color.
- You’re just an angry Black Woman!
- All/Blue Lives Matters as an “opposite” to Black Lives Matter.
- You must hate White people.
- The upside of slavery is that you were saved from the savagery/poverty/etc of Africa.
- 400+ years of institutionalized, legacy driven racism and genocide has no bearing on today now that you’ve been “free” for 152 years—even though the last of the slaves didn’t even know they were free for about 2.5 years after the Emancipation Proclamation.
And if I need to explain why any of these bullets are problematic, please feel free to drop me a private email, and I’ll happily send you a prospectus about my diversity consulting and the attending fee scale. I still have dates for private consulting available for 2016. #sideeye
To all of this BS, I say…
It’s crap. Just crap. Let’s all spend more time respecting one another and listening to one another. Let’s all remember that adoption is really, really about the adoptee, despite all of our personal roles and feelings. It doesn’t mean those latter things aren’t real and important, but ultimately, adoption isn’t about us APs. It’s just not. Yes, I know…we wish it was.
If a support group is going to be true to its moniker, then actually offer support by taking time to listen to all of the voices, giving them equal weight and taking them all at their words. Otherwise, just be honest about it and rock it like an old skool treehouse. Name it something clever and post a sign on the e-door that says “No adoptees or whatever” allowed. Let folks know whether they are truly welcome. Don’t waste anyone’s time, and finally, don’t be a jerk. Honestly, it’s not hard.
ETA: I will not be using the hashtag above in future posts or on Twitter. Despite very much supporting the movement, a wonderful adoptee brought it to my attention that the use of the hashtag by a non-adoptee–even for purposes of support–is a form of attribution. I should’ve considered that, but I didn’t. My bad.
So although I have used it before with no complaints from adoptees, I recognize how it can be an inappropriate use of my AP privilege to use the hashtag. So, I won’t in the future.
See how easy that was?