Return to Sender

2 11 2010

I have been thinking and thinking about writing about WHY we adopted, and also about the friction between some adult adoptees and some adoptive parents.  I have read a number of things by adult adoptees lately that are so over-simplified they have made me … well, they have undermined my ability to look to adult adoptees as an educational source.  I will get over these feelings because I will not let myself take the route of simplification.  I will make myself do the much harder work of reading, studying, THINKING and feeling.  But this post and the comments made… holy…. Well that is all I can say HO-O-LY.  If you can attack a mother who adopted an HIV+ child for changing her kids’ birthdate (in order to ensure that he gets the services he needs) a birthdate that was MADE UP to begin with….well, maybe you should pick on me.

I am coming out of the closet to say that we chose to adopt because we believe there are children who need homes and we had a home to offer.

We had no fertility issues driving us towards adoption.

We had no religious beliefs driving us towards adoption.

We want our child to understand and know about his Ethiopian heritage.  We want to help him stay in touch with his culture (although there are dozens of “cultures” in Ethiopia and I think the adoptive community over-simplifies this in an effort to be good adoptive parents.)

Furthermore we do not “respect” every aspect of “Ethiopian Culture” – female genital mutilation; rampant child abuse and kidnap/rape/marriage come to mind.

We do not plan to romanticize the Ethiopian government anymore than we plan to romanticize the American government (of course school will do that).

We do not believe we “saved” our child from life on “the dark continent.”  Or that he is “better off” with us.  (I do believe that he is better off with us then starving to death, but I don’t believe that was the other option.  I KNOW if we hadn’t adopted him, someone else would have – because that is the state of Ethiopian adoptions TODAY.  But that is not the state of adoptions in other countries… and that is, well a whole other post and possibly a great PhD project.)

We do not believe our adopted son owes us anything more than our bio-daughter.  And really, neither of them owes us anything.

We do not know exactly what to think about our son’s bio-mother.  I have sympathy, I have empathy, I have sorrow and some days I have anger.  I am pretty sure she was human and fallible and living in conditions that I can not begin to imagine.  We do not believe it is as simple as “if she had the resources, she would have kept him.”  That might be part of the story, but that isn’t the whole story.  And quite frankly I think resource needs are probably also an over-simplification of most first-families’ stories.

It takes a long time to mature to the point that you believe it is acceptable, human in fact, to hold opposing viewpoints at the same time.  Until you reach that point, it can be hard to move beyond resentment and anger and it is impossible to move beyond judgement.  For some people who are still trying to separate everything into two categories Good and Bad, it is hard to understand or even empathize with others.  For some people it is hard to love themselves.  If you are still trying to keep things simple, the world of adoption probably isn’t for you.  (And, you might want to think real hard before commenting on someone’s blog.)

If you feel “everything has been taken” from an adopted child, you are simply wrong.  If you feel “everything has been given” to an adopted child, you are simply wrong.

I guess it is safe to say that I am mature (insert age joke here – you pick).

I hold conflicting feelings about our adoption.

I feel the guilt.  Oy do I feel the guilt.

The Mother Guilt:  Sometimes I yell.  Sometimes I am lazy.  I will never, ever be the mother that I picture in my head.

The Adoption Guilt:  How did my actions contribute to what is often a corrupt system?  How could our adoption fees have been better spent to help many more Ethiopian children?

But there is some other guilt I refuse to feel.  We adopted a healthy, young-as-possible baby.  We considered many other options.  And we applaud those who make other choices.  We are not risk-takers.  We went for the adoption that felt the “safest” to us.  We chose to maintain birth order.  We chose a country that has excellent care centers.  We chose a country where we feel the need is obvious.  We chose an agency that follows conservative, ethical guidelines… an agency that often times does not seem to care much about their APs (and I like that in an agency).

Adoption has and always will exist.  It exists in the animal kingdom, and has existed in every human culture throughout eternity.  In a perfect world adoption is more personal.  There is no money exchanged.  There are no confusing language and cultural barriers.  But this is not a perfect world.

We think that if every child who needed a home had one this would be a better world.  We think that if every potentially good parent who wants kids had them this would be a better world.

We are proud to be adopters.  Yes, we think we did “a good thing.”  But we didn’t do it so we could parade around our child and receive accolades.  We didn’t do it to ease any guilt we feel.  We didn’t do it because of Angelina or Madonna.  Most of all, we didn’t do it so you would approve of us.


I had been working on this post for a few days when I came across this quote…

“So, if I decline to accept your abuse does it not then still belong to you?”   Buddha




7 responses

2 11 2010
Megan, Cameron and Samuel

Your thoughts are truth. Thanks for these thoughts.

2 11 2010

I think it takes a great deal of courage to state why you decided to adopt. I think about writing about why I decided to adopt, but then it seems fuller than I can express or so simple that others will feel I am a simpleton.

The one thing this post reminded me of is my college. I am currently attending a community college where there are a lot of young people. I hear people talking about their mothers being such bitches and how they have to clean their “rooms.” I was talking to my own mother about how odd it is to be 43 and walking around a campus feeling a tad estranged from the lives of many of the students there. She said that their problems are as real as mine and I need to remember that. So it is in that vein, that, although, as an adoptive mom to-be I do identify with you (so much) I also know that, hey, people have their on stuff going on and that is where their focus lies. There are some adult adoptees whom I admire so very much, I want to be their IRL friends, they are fabulous. However, random commentors can be a bit of a menace at times.

And I agree, your thoughts are truth. And that you took the time to explain any of it, at all, bravo!

2 11 2010

This post is very brave. I have thought or said probably 80% of what you just wrote. The big thing I wish more people were comfortable with is the ability to ‘adopt’ seemingly differing viewpoints. I’m not a black-or-white person, and adoption is never black-or-white. You brought up a lot of they gray areas that people need to think about.

7 11 2010
Sarah C

As a middle school English and social studies teacher, I’m curious about something. How do you think schools romanticize American government?

mother to three children, including two from Ethiopia

7 11 2010
Semi-Feral Mama

Jeez Sarah, this is my blog, can’t I just say whatever pejorative thing I want? So, you made me do some research, because I realize I am old and maybe schools don’t actually teach “manifest destiny” anymore. I did find three articles that backed me up. The first two basically deal with textbooks. The third is older and from a conservative source. What I find interesting about that is you can see how quickly a change in political party in Washington D.C. can actually make a difference in what is being taught in classrooms. (I also read other articles that basically illustrated this same thing.)
I would add that I don’t think it is a terrible thing for schools to hone patriotism in students, within reason. The jest of this post really was that it takes a certain maturity before people understand just how “gray” the world is. I can imagine that the maturity level of middle and high school students actually plays a role in the ability of teachers to teach nuances.
I hope you enjoy teaching. I loved middle school social studies. I wish I could say the same for middle school English. I was in the first TAG program our school had (that’s how old I am) and they didn’t know what to do with us so they made us play Dungeons and Dragons instead of learning grammar.
As a teacher I am sure you get notes from the parents of students explaining why they haven’t done their homework.
Can you please write my husband a note telling him the house isn’t clean because YOU made me do research?

9 11 2010

My first reaction to your comment about schools romanticizing American government was, “What? I don’t do that! Wait…do I do that?”

After reading your reply/explanation, I feel better! When I think of schools and American history, I definitely think it has been romanticized. The Native American perspective and experience is still not accurately or fully represented in textbooks or classrooms. Kids today don’t know about Jim Crow laws or segregation, either. If they have any knowlege of slavery or the civil rights movement, my sixth graders think Harriet Tubman and Rosa Parks were contemporaries. It’s a real bummer. But…it gives me lots to teach!

My mom was the first teacher of gifted kids at my junior high way back in the 80s. We performed plays, did academic competition (with those buzzer thingies), forensics (competitive speaking), and a few field trips. She was pretty darn good, now that I think of it!

Have a great day. Keep writing!

19 11 2010
National Adoption Awareness Month: Ally or Antagonist? « Semi-Feral Mama

[…] National Adoption Awareness Month.  No, wait, that’s not it.  It is what I said before, here, it is over-simplification that I have an issue with, not adult adoptees (as if that title […]

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