Check Your Privilege

It is hard for some people to understand, what it feels like not to know what ought to be yours to know. Like what your family health history is, who you were born to, where and when, why you were surrendered to adoption.

If you weren’t adopted, you make have the privilege of not having this uncertainty in your life. If you are judging an adoptee for being angry/disgusted at the entire world, don’t tell them to “get help”. Chances are they already have seen some therapist or counselor. Most do.

Each of us can only do, whatever we can with the hand life has dealt us. For some people, it’s a really hard hand. It’s not your job to put someone else in the place you think they should be. Doing so tells others more about you than whoever you are trying to fix.

Why do people use the phrase “you’re so angry” as a negative connotation ? Maybe there is a good reason. Why does someone else having something to be angry about have to be their problem to fix ? If my anger affects them in some way, they best start looking within for why it is triggering them.

I’ve been feeling a lot of anger from my oldest son lately. It is a frustration with life – not directed at anyone else and not hurting anyone else. If anything, he punishes himself which as a mom does hurt my own heart. A song’s lyrics keep coming to me and I don’t have the answer to the question it asks – maybe it is hormones and emotional immaturity still. Fooling Yourself by Styx.

You see the world through your cynical eyes
You’re a troubled young man I can tell
You’ve got it all in the palm of your hand

Why must you be such an angry young man
When your future looks quite bright to me

Get up, get back on your feet
You’re the one they can’t beat and you know it
Come on, let’s see what you’ve got

Mental health support is a human need and it is a privilege unfortunately. It should be accessible to anyone. Competent mental health guidance and compassion can be life changing. I googled Emotional Maturity – at what age ?

LOL

The term “mature” usually refers to a person’s mental state. Someone who is mature behaves in a way that is considered appropriately adult.  Emotional maturity is the ability to function in an effective, healthy way concerning one’s emotions. This means being able to express emotions accurately and appropriately, possessing some amount of self-control, and being able to think of others despite feeling strong emotions.

According to a study conducted in the United Kingdom, men do not become emotionally mature until the age of 43. This was not a scientific evaluation of maturity because that is largely dependent on social constructs. The study relied on surveys to determine what men and women considered mature, how they felt about their maturity, and whether or not they believed the opposite gender was mature at a certain age. Wondering what that surveyed age was for women ? Generally 32. This actually matches what is seen in school age children as well. Generally, the girls do mature earlier than the boys.

Emotional maturity is not a simple matter of checking off boxes. Some mental health professionals do not uphold the notion of age-based maturity. They assert that maturity has more to do with your background, values, and even biology than the number of years lived. How you mature, and the things you consider mature will vary based on the way you were raised, your neurological development, and your cultural framework. Some cultures value autonomy more than emotional depth, and maturity will be marked by the ability to take care of oneself. Other cultures value emotional depth, and dependence is not seen as a pitfall, but a lack of emotional intelligence.

Sometimes, it is anger that supplies the passion for change. I am very much the kind of person who puts up with stuff and adjusts my own self not to make waves. However, I can actually appreciate that dis-satisfaction can be the first step towards making a meaningful change that will make everything better.

For some adoptees and former foster youth, it was their well-deserved anger and fighting spirit that kept them safe in a lot of shitty situations. We have not walked in another person’s shoes and we can’t know what is going on inside of another person but we can be compassionate about the distress anytime we are aware of it or in proximity to it. Tolerance and patience helps, even for this mom.

The Wild Track

I often review books in this blog related to adoption or foster care that I have actually read. I’ve not read this one but will share bits and pieces from a review of this book in The Guardian. I’ve pretty much completed my related reading for now. There is an unlimited number of related books and I’ve moved on to other reading interests such as racial inequality (have pretty much completed that one) and now mental illness with an unusual emphasis on spirituality (now that’s something I can and have really gotten into to!!).

The review begins with this insight – wanting to have children and deciding to have children are acts of imagination that border on egotism. To be a child is to be a particular child but to want a child is not to know who that child will be or how to grant it agency. For Margaret Reynolds these issues were unusually complex because she started grappling with them aged 45 when, single after the breakdown of a relationship, she suddenly experienced the urge to be a mother. She was longing for purpose and joy, for a “commitment that tries and shapes the self”. Yet this was not an urge to procreate. She had already undergone the menopause and wasn’t invested in reproducing her DNA.

And I do get this. In my case, I had already procreated when I was 19 years old. A beautiful daughter who has given me two equally beautiful grandchildren. However, my second husband thought he was happy I had “been there and done that” already when we met because he didn’t particularly want children and didn’t feel financially strong enough to have any children, being the responsible kind of guy he was. When I met him, I knew he was the kind of guy I would be willing to have children with. It took him 10 years to decide that he wanted to and like the author of the book I’m highlighting today, I was also 45 years old. Turns out I had gone past easily becoming pregnant like I could when I was in my late teens and early twenties. Enter medical technology into our picture. That wasn’t the path Margaret Reynolds decided on however.

It took Reynolds 5 years to succeed in adopting a child and becoming the mother to a troubled six-year-old daughter is described as a painful pleasure. Actually – troubled or not – being a parent is sometimes that – honestly. The book is actually about the British adoption system and not the American one that I know more about.

To the book’s credit as an adoption related journey, it is an unusually thoughtful take on becoming a mother, enabled by removing babyhood and biology. Though Reynolds begins by desiring a child, the motherhood that results is a gradual, open process, in which she makes herself available as a mother and waits for Lucy to claim her. At first, they don’t hug and kiss. Reynolds just rubs her daughter’s back at night and it’s Lucy who initiates the process of kissing and cuddling, and finds her own way to calling her “Mum”. I found this moving partly because Lucy is given an autonomy that we perhaps all want our mothers to be capable of giving us and should allow to our daughters.

The question of fatherhood is rightly raised here, given Reynolds was setting herself up as a single mother (a fact that, combined with her previous lesbian relationship, prevented her adopting internationally). There is a long literary history of foundlings – it is peculiarly convenient for children to be orphaned at the start of a story. There’s a touching scene where she reads Anne of Green Gables to her daughter, crying alongside Marilla when she realizes what Anne means to her.

One thing that sets this book apart from other adoption related books is that at the end there are two chapters written by her daughter Lucy. Having heard about their early months together from Reynolds, we hear about them from Lucy, learning, shockingly, that she didn’t yet know when she was driven, crying bitterly, to Reynolds’s house from the foster parents she had grown to love, that this was a permanent move. Lucy’s sections are a testament to the joy of finding home and belonging, but also a reminder that the pain of early separations is perpetual. A few days before collecting Lucy, Reynolds had to remind herself that “my happiness is her sadness”. One of the strengths of the adoption system is that it sends potential parents on courses to think through how to parent children who have trauma ready to be reignited at any moment.

Reproductive Justice

I believe in this concept – the human right to maintain personal bodily autonomy, have children, not have children, and parent the children we have in safe and sustainable communities.

The truth is – most women do not want to give up the children they birth.  Most women do not lose the children they have because they are wantonly abusive.  If the support, encouragement and financial resources were there – most children would be raised by the people who gave birth to them.

Access to reproductive health is affected by many other factors – race, religion or sexual orientation.  Also the financial, immigration or disability status as well as environmental conditions.

I have heard that families waiting in the squalor of make-shift refugee camps on the Mexican border, sleeping on the ground in flimsy tents meant for weekend camping in mild weather, are sending their children ALONE across the border in the hope of their being granted asylum.  In most cases, the parents could see no other way to get their children the medical help they need or safety from being preyed upon by gangs.

In the United States, every new wave of immigrants (from the Chinese to the Irish and Italians) has faced hatred and difficulty before being accepted as yet another kind of American.  We would do well to remember that always has it been that the resident population has feared the impacts of the arriving masses.