A Disconnect

I’ve been reading about infant development lately in a book titled Healing the Split – Integrating Spirit Into Our Understanding of the Mentally Ill by John E Nelson MD. I often reflect on my own mothering of my daughter at the age of 19. Though the love was never lacking, I was not as good of a mother for her as I might have been, had I know how to be a good mother.

I believe some of that comes of the slight disconnect in my own parents as regards their parenting of us. It is not their fault, they were both adopted. Oh, they were good parents, not abusive, and we knew they loved us but there was something missing in them and it affected their parenting of us.

What was missing in my parents were their natural mothers, who carried them in their wombs and gave birth to them, may have breastfed them. I know that was true with my dad. I don’t have a record of that for my mom. She was taken to an orphanage for temporary care by her own financially desperate mother and put on a formula. My dad was allowed to stay with his mother and continue to nurse for some months as he accompanied her when she was employed by the Salvation Army, through who’s home for unwed mothers she had given birth to him.

I was reflecting on this as I sat out on the deck overlooking the field at my writer’s retreat. I was bundled up in a cozy jacket as the temperature is not more than the mid-30s and drinking warm tea.

I was thinking about how my mom took my bottle from me at 13 months to give to my newborn younger sister. My mom intended no harm, she didn’t know better. We can’t do better than we know how.

So, as I was drinking the warm tea, I imagined mothering myself. I imagined being warm and cozy in the soft embrace of my mother, drinking in the warm, nourishing liquid.

In that moment, I forgave my mom and had to extend that forgiveness to myself. I can acknowledge that I might have done better if I had know how to do better and in realizing that, I can acknowledge that my own mother would have done better had she known how to do better.

My late life sons (born when I was 47 and 50 years old) have benefitted from having a better mother in me. Certainly, I did have previous experience when the first boy was born and I had a huge amount of support from my in-laws who came every day for the first 4 months and only stopped when my husband begged me to ask them to back off.

My husband was always a good and nurturing co-parent as he did not become a father until he was personally ready to commit to that responsibility. When the second boy was born, he doubled down on the attention he gave the older boy, that he suffer less from the loss of attention of his mother, due to a newborn in the house.

It was a situation that I had to rectify when the younger boy was about 2 or 3 and the older one about 6 as he was acting out a lot to get my attention. With sufficient attention from me, that behavior quickly ceased and the younger boy benefitted from having more dad time.

Hindsight doesn’t replace ignorance but ignorance is not willful neglect.

What Matters A Name ?

 

A common practice in adoption is to change the name of the child being adopted.  Often this name change is sealed from revealing what name that child was born with in the adoption records.  If you were to ask a young child, who is yours genetically and biologically, growing up in the family that child was born into and you ask them how they would feel about changing their name, their answers might be something like this – yeah, that would be awesome, okay by me.

So when adoptive parents (who adopted older children but then changed the names they were born with) say – “She wanted to change her name.” or “He is excited about changing his name.” – it could be only that  small children don’t know any better.  Adoptees, when they are yet very young, can’t understand the ramifications of such a decision.

That said, more than one of my friends has allowed the child she is raising to make some change to their name, on their own initiative, once they have entered their teenage years.  That is empowering – a decision made by their own self, without suggestion nor coercion.  That is a different circumstance and is made consciously from a state of some maturity.

And in an aspect of today’s modern perspectives,  these same adoptive parents who once rushed to change their adopted children’s names, will criticize natural parents for allowing their kids to pick out new names for gender affirming reasons.  It is a kind of double standard perspective.

One person responding to the question in the first paragraph wrote – “I’m not adopted and haven’t had my name changed. But I had wanted to change my first and last name a lot growing up. I had the same name picked out for like 10 years. As an adult, I’m glad I didn’t get the name change. And I wasn’t even a small child who wanted the name change. It was from the ages of 7 through 17 that I had wanted it.”

Another shared her biological daughter’s perspective saying – “Every time the conversation of names comes up, she is adamant that her name is the perfect name for her and there is no other name in the world she’d ever want. She has asked what other names we considered, which we answered truthfully (because why not), but she is always relieved that her name is hers.”

And one adoptive mother wrote – “Therapists are no help either. My daughter who was five when we adopted asked to change the spelling of her first name. I loved the spelling but wanted to do what was right by her. The therapist told me how healthy it was that she wanted to have control over her life and this was part of her healing. 11 years later she doesn’t remember it was her idea and was mad at me for changing it. I’m so sad that she was thinks I would do that to her. I told her she could change it if she wants.”

In community with adoptees, this is one topic that is sensitive.  The name changes have often been to obscure the fact that the child was adopted and is not the natural offspring of the adoptive parents.  It is like taking possession of a human being.  It can also make finding out one’s true origins that much harder.  Names are a very personal issue with most people, even if they did not choose that name for themselves.