I used to be a big Garfield fan but I never knew about McDonald’s offering these glass mugs in 1978 and 1987 until today when I was looking for an image to illustrate today’s blog.
Today’s questions for adoptive parents go like this –
What if your love and security wasn’t enough for your child? Would you know? If your child lashes out and says you’re not their real parents, that’s tangible, specific about their emotions. But what if your child seems simply part of your family, is agreeable, goes through the motions. Says the things you’d expect. Gets upset the way you think biological kids react. Would you think that meant they felt connected to you or the family? Would you consider them to be well adjusted and free from trauma? How would you know if they felt disconnected from you or the family?
Now for some replies –
First this – I’m not an adoptive parent but I was am adoptive child who went overboard trying to be the perfect child. Busyness, perfectionism, not asking for needs to be met. All signs.
And in sympathy, this one – This was me too. I lashed out at my teachers instead of my parents and confused the hell out of everyone.
Now this honesty from an adoptive parent – My son is all the things you describe: agreeable, helpful, thoughtful….But, I can see the sadness in his eyes even when we are all together and “happy”. He is lonely even when he isn’t alone. The only time he seems to shake it is when he is with his natural family. On visits, he seems truly at peace. I can’t imagine how it must feel to struggle with that loss everyday.
And another one similarly – I see the same thing in my girls eyes. There’s definitely some sadness, hurt, anger, and confusion there, even in moments they seem to be happy. There’s a void there.
An older adult writes – To this day I feel like I am performing to expectations with my adoptive family. When I met my natural family it was just . . . well natural. It clicked. I describe it as sitting under a comfortable blanket. It just felt comfortable and easy. I didn’t have to think so much. I could just “be,” if that makes sense.
Then this – If there’s one upside to having blatantly sucky adopters, it was never feeling I had to perform anything. I told my adoptive dad (who was raising us singly because adoptive mom ran off – after the divorce, when I was 4) regularly and loudly I hated him, being adopted, everything about it. I honestly feel bad for adoptees with good adoptions feeling like they have to keep negative things about it to themselves simply in order to make their adoptive families happy.
Another adoptive parent’s perspective – My honest response to this is – an adopted child not having the reactions described would be a large red flag for me. The truth is, I am not their parent and regardless of my intentions (meaning selfish or not) I never will be and I don’t think I should try to force that specific bond. It is not mine to try to take (and if you feel threatened by that as an adoptive parent, you should reevaluate your outlook). But that opinion is formed based on many of the adoptee voices I have heard in a support group. My guess is (I cannot say for sure because I have not walked this) that feeling a connection like family is tough with the trauma of not having your parents there. A child can want to feel that connection and at times, I believe they can feel connected but there will often always be a longing for blood connections. As adoptive parents, I feel like our responsibility is to help keep (or find, if necessary) as many of these connections as possible or we are essentially harming the very child we claim to be “protecting”. But I try to pay attention to what our children are not saying because that often speaks much louder than what they are saying, if you are looking and listening.
I do credit my nephew’s adoptive mother with making an attempt – by contacting me, by doing the work necessary to correct the lie my youngest sister told about who his natural father was. My heart breaks for my nephew. Though his questions are now answered for the most part (I gave him a video of my husband’s and my wedding where my mentally ill – probably paranoid schizophrenia – youngest sister was probably as natural and “normal” as she ever was – so he could see that side of her in lieu of meeting her in person) and he has met his father and related half-siblings. Even so, now that he is a mature adult with a girlfriend who has what seems like an intact birth family that remains close to one another, he has pretty much cut all ties with his adoptive mother in favor of being a part of her family. I hasten to add that a romantic relationship (even when such complications are the truth as in my nephew’s life) can split a person mostly off from their natural family. As a woman, I’ve experienced that with all 3 of my long-term romantic relationships.
Someone once told me that children come in two types – defiant and compliant. I have two sons who certainly illustrate that truth. So, I would suspect that adoptees (from what I have learned in my own study) tend more to the compliant (which does not mean that there are not defiant types), simply because of a fear of abandonment and rejection which is common to almost every adoptee.