To My Sister
After a month of reflection I realize not saying anything could be additionally misinterpreted and worse than saying something, so here goes.
When I called you on Thanksgiving we had a brief conversation wherein I told you where I chose to spend the holiday, with my first mom, and her friends, and one of my half-siblings in Maine. I also told you mom and dad didn’t know and that I would tell them in my own time. That you called back shortly thereafter singing a very different tune (my phone was off as I had made my holiday calls) and left such a resentful and arrogant message was pretty surprising; that you called our parents and told them where I was was just plain mean and an abuse of my trust - not to mention a touch hypocritical, don’t you think? I mean, isn’t your intention to create family by adopting a baby – who, with any luck, will grow into a child, teen, adult – who may have the exact questions many adoptees have? Is this how you'll react to that child, teen, adult when and if they have any need for inquiry or reunion?
Your reaction was, frankly, unbelievable - and I’m just your sister! Is that how you’re going to react after you sign-on to unconditionally love and raise a child you are given? How do you think that reaction would affect the person you are parenting? If Catholic Charities or another agency offers classes for potential adoptive parents I suggest you avail yourself immediately. It would benefit you and the child, not to mention adopted persons already in your family - there are several of different ages - if you gave some very serious consideration to understanding someone else’s life experience and point of view.
Here’s part of the deal about adopting; maybe you’re already aware, maybe not:
- They’ll arrive with their own personality – some of which you might not like or even understand because it’s not “you” and it won’t feel familiar.
- Do not punish them or lessen who they are because you don’t like that they’re not “you.” They might not think like you, or understand satire or wordplay or appreciate the same foods, art, literature, or sports, as you... But you must accept them for who they are as they come to you.
- And, if you paid any attention in our childhoods, you’ll know it’s not easy for some people to accept a child who isn’t like them. Qualifying children, i.e., “This is our real child and this is our adopted child” is hurtful even if you don’t think so, so don't do it. Ever. Your child is your child whether they're adopted or not. Your need to explain any difference points to your insecurities, and if you're worried what other people will think, see a therapist and deal with it.
If your adopted child were to tell you what they’d want or need from their adoptive family it would probably be along these lines:
1. I ask for understanding from my adoptive family. They need to understand, whether I decide to search or not, at some point, I might consider myself to have two families; that I have enough love for both, and for my own children, and my friends, and any extended family(s). Understand this may happen even when I’m a small child; and the fact is that I do have two families – whether I know both or not. Don’t deny that, please.
2. I would hope my adoptive family (aka “a-family”) was not threatened or made insecure because I searched and found, and may have experienced a positive reunion with my first family or members of that family. My need to search and/or reunite is not an indication that something's wrong or lacking in my adoptive family; it’s not about you. It is my nature as an adoptee to search and ask. Understand that. If you can’t understand it, accept it anyway. It’s the loving and mature thing to do.
3. I ask for acceptance from my a-family. I want to never hear them say it was foolish of me to search, or foolish to contact, or who do I think I am to think anyone would want me back after they gave me away in the first place... (Do you have any idea how that sounds?) I want them to recognize how being adopted has made a difference in my life over time. At different times in my life it has meant significantly different things.
4. I want the right to be able to speak freely without being insulted or cold-shouldered, or belittled or spoken down to by my a-family. I want to be able to talk about what being adopted is like and for them not to take offense to the fact that it is different than their experience.
5. I would ask my a-family to understand that I’m happy I was able to reunite with my first family. It might answer some questions my a-family couldn’t possibly answer and provide some resolve or even closure to enduring questions.
6. I would hope they saw my life was enriched by finding my original family and by having that family in my life. If I have children of my own, I would hope my a-family saw how additional, loving family members enrich my child’s life, too.
7. I would ask them to know about my history, my “real” ancestry and be proud of it the way I am. I want them to be interested in that history because it shows interest in the person I am. It may be the history ancestry I share and teach to my own children, as well as yours.
8. Should it come to pass, I would hope my a-family would learn to share me with my first family. I want to have blessings to visit and share some holidays with my first family without angry, insecure repercussions, but with a loving go-ahead from my a-family. Sneaking around should not be necessary but sadly, often there is no other choice even as an adult. My behavior is often based upon my a-family’s reaction to my reunion and my choice to know my first family. But here's the problem: If I tell you up front you might make me pay for my honesty with your disapproving anger; if I tell you afterward you might accuse me of lying in the first place… so, a no-win situation is created either way based upon your reaction to my need to know.
9. Please understand I will spend a holiday here and there, and some other time, with my first family. I ask my adoptive family to refrain from trying to make me feel guilty or ashamed, or as though there's something really wrong with me as punishment for choosing to spend time with my first family. The message you’re sending says I don’t ‘fit in’ with you because I choose to recognize my origins… and that pretty much contradicts everything, doesn’t it?
If you’ve read this far, I believe you’re on the right track for your child…, and thanks.
Happy New Year.