Being Selfish is a Human Right

I just came across an article by Angela Tucker in which she responds to the question about whether adopted persons are selfish for searching for their birth family.

Such an absurd question, amirite?

Why on earth would it be considered selfish to wonder about your origins, your people, your place in the universe? I mean, entire industries have emerged to capitalize on the fundamental notion that we all want to know where we came from. You can seriously go to Target right now and pick up any number of tests for less than $100 to satiate your desire to find out more about your genetic information and its connection to others.

And that industry sprung up thanks to the increasing interest in genealogy by private hobbyists and professional searchers.

Most of us are just curious and, for fun, we can go out and satiate that curiosity.

A couple of years ago my sister bought my parents a couple of Ancestry DNA kits for their anniversary. It was a fun and interesting thing to do. My mom and a few extended family members have turned into genealogy hobbyists during their retirement years. Well, a few months later the DNA turned up some close relatives we suspected existed but never really knew about. We now have this amazing relationship with my cousins, who bore a striking resemblance to our family and shared interests that seemed unexplainable by anything other than genetics.

My mother, Grammy, is the only surviving member of her immediate, nuclear family, and finding these relatives has meant the world to her. It gave her a connection she never imagined she’d experience. For my cousins, it was a missing puzzle piece that was sought for more than 50 years.

That doesn’t mean that the revelation wasn’t without its complications. Not everyone in the concentric circles of our family was thrilled or accepting. Not everything has been easy. There’s a lot of emotion. There’s a lot of hurt. There’s a patient hope for future acceptance. There are times when it feels like time for full resolution is running out.

There are prayers.

There are occasional wails.

There are tears, both happy and sad.

It’s complicated.

But gosh knowing has been worth it.

I gave Hope the option last year of taking a test.  I thought she was old enough to understand the ramifications of sending your genetic information to a 3rd party that profits from having such sensitive information (something all of us should think more seriously about). We talked about the possibility of finding her surviving parent as well as connecting with half-siblings that I know exist and are in adoptive families as well. We talked about what that meant for her, how she felt about it.

My own curiosity led to my own search for her parent a few years ago. It was consuming for a while; then one day I found her. I told Hope about it since she had expressed an interest in searching. I have the information, and I update it regularly. Hope has never asked for the info or to reach out. I’ve promised to support her no matter her decision. I believe one day she will broach the issue again, with or without me. I could never deny her the information or my support in searching and wanting to see if a relationship was possible.

Yes, it might be complicated.

Yes, it might not go well.

Yes, it will be hella emotional.

Yes, it might be messy.

Yes, it could end horribly.

Yes, it could also be the beginning.

I’ve committed to be Hope’s ride or die. I’m good. I’m confident in my relationship with her. I believe there is plenty of good room for people who love Hope. I believe that she needs me to just hold her hand sometimes and listen.

I’m emotionally well enough to not think this has anything to do with me, but everything to do with Hope finding her missing pieces.  I am her ally, and allies have to know their place—supportive of promoting agency, recognition that it’s not about us, and advocating for full personhood for our peeps.

So, yeah, she can be selfish. In fact, I encourage Hope to be selfish—as if that’s inherently a bad thing, it’s not—in searching for her missing pieces. I shouldn’t be a consideration. I want her to bloom into pursuing her needs and dreams, and if that includes searching or choosing not to search—frankly that’s Hope’s business.

My business is working through my own ish so that she isn’t negatively affected by it. My business is supporting my girl.

I don’t think that there’s anything wrong with some aspects of selfishness. Selfishness can be healthy and self-preserving. I don’t believe that searching for the missing pieces of your identity is selfish. I think it is a human right to want to know. I think it’s a human right to pursue this knowledge. So if that’s selfish…that’s ok with me and I think it should be ok with you too.

So, yeah, be selfish. It’s all good.

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About AdoptiveBlackMom

I'm a single Black professional woman living in the DC area. I adopted a tween daughter five years ago, and this blog chronicles our journey. Feel free to contact me at adoptiveblackmom@gmail.com, on Facebook at Adoptive Black Mom, and on Twitter @adoptiveblkmom. ©www.AdoptiveBlackMom.com, 2013-2019. All rights reserved. (Don't copy my ish without credit!) View all posts by AdoptiveBlackMom

5 responses to “Being Selfish is a Human Right

  • Yava

    Thanks for this! From the perspective of an adoptive mom, I have feelings of selfishness that wax and wane. At times I see clearly from the point of view you expressed in this article. It’s natural and why wouldn’t I want more people to love my daughter. At other times, I feel insecure and don’t want the intrusion by her biological family. I wonder if she’ll love them more than she does me and if she’ll wish for them instead of me. I need these kind of reminders! My husband and I recently completed a DNA genealogy test with a company, simply out of curiosity. So of course, an adoptee would wonder about their origins! Doesn’t mean she love us less. Our relationship with our daughter is beautiful and healthy and loving. I have to remain steadfast in that and open to (positive) influences from her birth family. So, thanks again for this reminder :).

    • AdoptiveBlackMom

      Oh, please know that I have felt insecure at times. I’ve wondered how Hope sees all of us and if she “rates” us and if she does, how do I rate? But then there are times when we are estranged from her family and my heart breaks for them because they are experiencing loss too–even though low-key I don’t always want to share her. Loss, grief and connection are just so complicated.

      Be kind to yourself, let the feelings wash over you and then do what I do: quote a mentor of mine (who you know well). Ask yourself, “What does success look like?” When I center Hope in that question, it always gets me right together. ❤

  • Susan

    I watched this video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=psna3ZZaFt4
    right before reading your blog post. Coincidence??? idk

    I know so many people who do not understand the importance of connections with the other life, family, friends, memories.

    Thank you for advocating!

    • AdoptiveBlackMom

      I will have to watch the while thing, but yes, Hope’s family is with us because Hope is here. We have hung pictures prominently in our home, we talk about them even when we don’t see them or have a lot of contact. They are family.

  • Beth

    we definitely had some anxieties about including bio family in our kids’ lives. when our oldest was growing up she had on and off visits with two of her siblings. when she was 18 those connections led to her getting in contact with the rest of her siblings, her mom, and her grandparents. now as a young adult she visits her bio family a couple times a year. I think it has made her feel more whole. seeing how much it means to her, how could we not support it?

    sometimes I think about it this way, what if I was a stepparent to a child whose mother died when the child was very young? I would expect the child to feel a loss about that, and to wish sometimes that the mother was still here and not me. If that child wanted to connect to the extended family of that mother and learn more about their mother, would anyone call them selfish? I doubt it. Our kids lost their families when they were young. Of course they want to make connections to that lost family, and make whole what can be made whole.

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