Sharing Some Thoughts

Adoptee Julian Washio-Collette

From Dear Adoption

I complied choicelessly when you took me from my mother’s authorized 10 minute embrace the day after I was born, such was your generosity. I did not resist when you placed me into the hands of strangers who fostered me, and then did it again two months later when I met my adopters for the first time. Why did everyone smell and sound and feel so strange? You gave no reply. 

You did not ask for my consent when you changed my name and falsified my birth records and hid my family from me. But I went along with your interventions, as a child must. Why, though, did you put me with a couple who would soon despise one another? Did you not see that coming? Oh, but I endured the divorce like a champ, buttoned my lip. Always your faithful servant. I must say, you almost broke me when my adoptive mother then decided she didn’t want me anymore and relinquished me when I was nine years old. But I endured. I always endure.

Being adopted a second time as an older child was pretty awful. Tough love from dear adoption. Tough it out. You changed my name and falsified my birth records again, and now two families were hidden from me by force of law. Wow, that was hard. I mean, the impressions I retain of my first family are strong and enduring but you did succeed in stealing their names and their identities from me. Did you really think, though, that I could forget the people I knew at nine years old? Well, I tried. God knows I tried. 

Remember the time when my second adopters unknowingly took me to my old neighborhood, where I lived with my first adoptive mother who I am supposed to forget? You sure put me in some unique and challenging circumstances. Builds character, I guess. Is that what I should call you? Character builder? Anyway, we went into an ice cream shop. I was in my own world, really, trying to puzzle things out, or just leave the real world behind. I was fantasizing about having the superpower of being able to disappear, to make myself invisible, when some old friends from my old elementary school walked in. Talk about awkward! You said the first nine years of my life never really happened. What was I to do? They noticed me, called me by my old name. I froze. I was trying to be faithful to you! You told me to forget my past but you neglected to tell me that it might sneak up on me again like this. I had to wing it, which is a lot to ask of a child. Too much, really. So I just stood there, mute, numb. You really should have given me an instruction manual for such anomalies. My new adopters weren’t much help, either. They were as mute and numb on the car ride home as I was. Pretend nothing happened. Hey! That would make a great motto for you, don’t you think? Dear Adoption: Pretend Nothing Happened.

I do say, as compliant as I am, I have to question your judgment. How could you have put me with yet another couple who would come to despise one another? Was that on purpose? I guess you must have had some high expectations for building my character! Well, there was another divorce but I was used to that by then. Getting thrown out of my house…wait, was that my house? Well, whosever house that was, being forcibly made houseless at sixteen was a bit of a curveball but, hey, I’m made of tough stuff. You made sure of that!

I walked away from my adopters’ home for good with a large plastic garbage bag of clothes and other belongings slung over my back. It was the middle of the night. I had nowhere to go. You cut me to pieces and left me bereft of family, of friendship, of kindness. You shaped me to be so utterly alone. You placed an impossible burden of forgetting on my shoulders and forced me into roles and relationships that didn’t fit, that were disposable. And you disposed of me. I should call you mother! You broke me down and scrubbed me clean so that you could create me according to your own image. Surely, as I walked into that uncertain night, I had no mother but you. I slipped my hand into your cold, ghostly grip. Now it’s just the two of us, you whispered, as you wrapped me in privation and ushered me into the world.

Julian Washio-Collette leads a mostly quiet life with his wife, Lisa, in a cabin tucked away behind a monastery in the glorious coastal wilderness of Big Sur, California. He blogs occasionally.

A Belief That Enables

When you make a decision, you make that decision consciously for only 5% maximum, the rest of your decision (95%) is controlled by your subconscious mind. The decision to adopt a child is conscious but there are subconscious factors below that which are influencing or will influence your experience as an adoptive parent. Some couples adopt for the same reason some couples decide to have a biological child – in order to save a marriage by bonding it with a child. Of course, the couples who adopt generally have other factors – most especially an experience with infertility and failed attempts at using reproductive medical assistance to have a child biologically. In other words, many adoptions actually start out on shaky ground to begin with.

So today, I came across something else that is more than a little bit disturbing. I hasten to add a trigger warning at this point for anyone for whom child abuse discussions might be too emotionally upsetting to continue. Having done my due diligence in this regard – you can proceed reading or leave this blog warned and saved the painful recollections.

It is sometimes asked – Why did they adopt just to abuse them. There is an assumption that adoptive parents wouldn’t abuse their adopted children because they went to so much effort to adopt them. All parents are capable of some degree of abuse – even with a great deal of love and often from ignorance or poor examples growing up. Therefore, it is dangerous to put any adoptive parent on a pedestal because sometimes adoptees are abused. It is a sad fact – and sad anytime any child is severely abused by any adult person for that matter. When the abuse starts… the people around them often say: well, those kids are very troubled and acting out. The adoptive parents are doing the best they can. Who can really blame them for doing what they have to do in order to control that child ?

One reason that it doesn’t shock or confuse me that some adoptive parents might harm their adoptees is that I have become aware of how common a trait of narcissism is among adoptive parents. Wanting a child doesn’t mean you’re going to treat them well. Adoption is inherently a selfish act – regardless of what you believe is motivating you. An adoptive parent may expect their adopted child to be compliant with any of their expectations or demands. That parent may lash out at their adoptee when they don’t meet those. Adoptive parents are not exempt from having anger issues and abusive tendencies.

Sometimes this abuse doesn’t begin immediately but when that cute baby becomes a rebellious teen. One adoptee shared her example – my adoptive mother actually said to me when I was 7 yrs old – “We wanted a baby, and you’re not a baby anymore.” That is how she explained they were going to adopt a baby boy.

Abuse is about possession and control. And in a weird, twisted kind of logic many abusers don’t actually think are they abusive. An abusive narcissistic parent may think they are a really good one. Being abusive goes against the savior narrative that so many adoptive parents have accepted as their reason for adopting. Adoption seems to be a process that attracts people who need to feel good about themselves. And once they’ve completed the adoption, they feel effectively immune from criticism because, after all, it was such a “selfless” act to rescue a child in need.

People adopt simply because they want kids. However, they may not actually have any idea of how to raise those children, once they have achieved that primary goal. These kinds of adoptive parents may have difficulty accepting that the child they adopted is an individually separate person with ideas of their own, desires, wants, and needs that do not necessary mirror the adoptive parent. In fact, often don’t While nurturing plays a role in the kind of person we each become – adoptee reunions with their birth parents after they reach maturity often prove – there is more to the genetic influences than many in the adoption industry want society to believe.

Another example comes from an adoptee with an emotionally immature mother – “She wasn’t able to have children and I think she thought a child would fix her. I was adopted at birth. I believe she thought I’d be a mini version of her but when I had my own emotions and interests, she couldn’t handle it. In came the weird emotional games.” It is way too common for adoptive parents to adopt a baby as a way to fix their own issues. It never works that way.

The abuse somehow feeds into these adoptive parents’ need to feel like they are doing something good. They are a “strong” parent and showing these troubled kids “tough love.” And then, there’s always the go-to excuse so many adoptees have hard – They should be grateful. They could have it so much worse. Never say to an adoptee sharing their experience something like – Just because you were abused by your adoptive parents, that’s why you hate adoption. Or sorry you had a bad experience. An experience sounds like a short term event. Adoption is lifelong.

Dismissing any adoptees’ discontent and trauma is victim blaming, also called gaslighting. It is an attempt to control the adoptees’ story in order not to break their happy, little “adoption is rainbows and butterflies” illusion.