The Only Universal Is There Are No Universals…

I read an interesting post the other day at Grown In My Heart. A birth mother, Liz, wrote about her experience of reunion with her children and the issues that arose because of their adoptive parents’ refusal to allow her to be part of their life.

I will openly admit that my first reaction was not that positive. It seemed that Liz was blaming the parents (and only them) for the situation. I (wrongly, it turns out) assumed this was another in a long line of stories about adoptive parents as “people who adopt are evil and corrupt and ignorant and wrong about everything.” Like a few of the commenters, I felt I needed more information before I completely demonized Ray and Shirley.

For those who took the time to read all the comments, Liz did give a bit more explanation that, at least to me, seem to justify her representations. Though the adoptive parents may have reasons for their actions, I can completely understand the basis of the claims Liz makes. I don’t think they are demons, but they definitely are not the most open and welcoming people I’ve ever met (recognizing I’ve never met them).

Liz is not just “another one of those bitter and angry birth mothers” (and yes I am intentionally using that phrase to make a point. And no, I am not actually calling anyone that).

Not everyone needed or waited for more information though. As is so often the case with discussion of adoption, the hate poured forth from all sides. Adoptees blamed the adoptive parents (and sometimes the birth parents). The adoptive parents blamed the birth parents (and, occasionally, the adoptees). The birth parents blamed the adoptive parents (and the adoptees). In some cases, the people in the various groups blamed members of their own groups.

I must say I totally get that there are a whole lot of people out there in the world who had extremely negative experiences with adoption. They were treated poorly, manipulated, ignored, debased — you name it. They are, rightfully, very much against adoption of any sort. They also lash out with their anger at people they do not know who represent the categories of people they feel hurt by — whether birth parents, adoptive parents, adoptees, legal or governmental representatives, or anyone else.

Similarly, adoptive parents lash out in a need to counter attacks, defend positions, stake their claim to legitimacy, you name it. Unfortunately, all sides find it all too easy to strike out at each other — sometimes without actually being attacked in the first place.

I also get that adoption is a thoroughly messed up process that reinforces existing societal structures, privileges the privileged, and has not a small amount of corruption. There is a whole lot of work that needs to be done and a lot of questions that need, and deserve to be, asked.

The reality is adoption hurts a lot of people. And it helps a lot of people. And it is completely neutral to lots of people. That’s because we are all people not automatons. And there are a whole lot of people in this world. That means there are a whole helluva lot of different lives and experiences. And that means nothing is always the same for everyone.

So, we can yell and insult and hate all we want. But as long as we are doing that, nothing will change. We will keep fighting each other. We will keep propagating hate and anger and resentment. We will keep not talking to each other and not listening to other ideas. This will make it much easier for us all to know we are completely right about exactly what we feel right now.

Or we can decide to actually learn.

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2 Comments

Filed under adoption, parenting, ponderments

2 responses to “The Only Universal Is There Are No Universals…

  1. As a mother of 2 adopted children, now adults, there is a lot of misinformation and/or no information, about the additional layer or layers of information and emotions adoptive parents and kids must deal, and the pain related to birth moms and dads. We have to do a different dance in order to achieve our potential best relationships. The stories you are told as an adoptive parents and then relate to your kids are often not the real truth, but fantasies extended by third parties. Or maybe members of the adoption triad embellish facts facts to make truths that fill in gaps. And, sometimes, bio parents cannot face the truths of their lives because they are too painful. It is not always easy to be a part of this special group, who, most often, try their best, but in our case, we are glad we came to the dance and figured out the moves. We cannot imagine our lives without the children who became ours, regardless of the stories, regardless of the facts. We love them and they love us. Parenting is never a slam-dunk, and it happens in different ways. We’re just grateful we found each other.

    • Such eloquent and interesting thoughts, Cindy. They happen to coincide with some of what I am writing in my dissertation, particularly the stories some parents who have adopted from China tell their children with regard to their birth parents (birth mothers, really. Birth fathers are almost completely absent in the discussion) and the reasons for the child’s abandonment that made them available for adoption. A particularly meaningful quote, I’ve found, comes from Alessandro Portelli, an oral historian who has done a great deal of research in how memory of significant events change and adapt to include things that are not part of the “facts” of an event, but serve a very powerful purpose. He says, “…stories often emphasize, not how history went, but how it could, or should have gone, focusing on possibility rather than actuality.”

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