I read an interesting post a while ago on The Adopted Ones blog that got me to thinking about the nature of loyalty and adoption, and how societal expectations of gratitude play out with adopted persons. I think she raises some interesting points that all parents and adult children should think about—regardless how we came to be parents or our parent’s child.
“Bio adults are free to have express negative feelings about or personal challenges within a family. No one challenges them on whether or not they just don’t realize how good their family is, instead they are commiserated with, and told how great they are and to stay away from whomever is causing them grief. Before an adopted adult dares broach any topic (might not even relate to family) they must publicly proclaim how they feel about their parents and then gingerly touch on any “iffy” feeling they may have about their family, or personal challenges they face that stem from being adopted. They are told how sorry the person is they are going through this, but reminded that bios have problems to and to stop blaming everything on adoption because it might not have anything to do with being adopted.”
Shadowtheadoptee hit the nail on the head with her/his comment: “ IMO [In my opinion], it all boils down to loyalty. Whether bio or adopted, prefacing a negative statement about parents, or family, with the “I love” is usually done out of a feeling of being disloyal, and ungrateful. I’ve heard bios do it, and IMO, they do it for the same reasons as adoptees. IMO, adoptees, seem to, on the whole, do it a lot more. The big difference between bio saying it and adoptees: adoptees were given away, relinquished, surrendered, placed, and loved so much one set of parents selflessly sacrificed so much just so the adoptee could have a better life with their adopted family, and a bios were stuck with the people who share their DNA.”
The Adopted Ones addressed the difference in how adopted children feel about sharing negative comments about their adoptive parents in a later comment: “Bio’s don’t have the ‘good adoptive family’ that must be perfect because they adopted and provided a home so an adoptee should not complain about any concern in adoption family related or personal concern. I am sure that a parent through adoption feels the same when they can’t say they are tired of being up half the night or whatever because they are reminded that ‘they chose that’…neither party is allowed the luxury of calling it as they see it and feel it as it happens. I think adoptees feel it more within the adoption community and perhaps the parents feel it more outside of the community…I could be wrong.”
[For the record, I think The Adopted One is spot one with her observation.]
Cb commented: Sometimes when I’m thinking of posting a reply on a forum etc. I end up giving up because I feel I have to put so many disclaimers to justify how I feel. I don’t think I’ve read an adoptee blog or adoptee forum where the “I love my APs” disclaimer hasn’t been used at least once by the adoptee because if we don’t, it is automatically assumed that if we offer a negative view on adoption, it is because our adoption “didn’t work out” therefore what we have to say isn’t relevant…. Sometimes I think I should have a disclaimer on posts that says “The opinion expressed above has nothing to do with what I do or don’t feel about my APs”.
Shadowtheadoptee concluded with this: Why do adoptees feel so obligated to preface comments with “I love my parents/family” more so than bio, because society keeps telling us we have a lot more reason to feel obligated and loyal to our adopted families than bios are made to feel, after all our first family didn’t want us, weren’t capable of keeping us, or some other such idea, so aren’t we lucky, grateful, that someone else did?”
Wow, what a lot to digest. As much as I don’t want to think it will happen, I strongly suspect that my kids, both adopted and non, will sit around someday and complain about me. I know I did it, so I’m assuming they will too. [Of course, I've given them nothing-- I tell you zip, nada--to complain about, but still....] When they were little, I was secretly convinced that I would be the perfect parent whose children would be relegated to silence when their friends kvetched about their parents. Now, as my last child enters adolescence, all thought of perfection are long gone.
If I’m being honest, I still don’t relish the thought of my kids sitting around complaining about how I screwed them up, but I also don’t want them to withhold their criticism because they feel like they owe me. They owe me nothing. I wouldn’t mind, however, if they preface their complaints with “I love my mom”. I hope that this preface reflects their true feelings and their acknowledgment that I did my best, and is not based on some sense of gratitude for being “rescued”.
What can we adoptive parents do to change the nature of the discussion about gratitude, loyalty and adoption?
Image credit: klhug