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Advocation.

February 10, 2012

This is for my nephew, Avery, and for Grace. 

Not flesh of my flesh or bone of my bone,

nevertheless wholly and fully my own.

♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

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-Shortly after Grace entered into our family, I was approached by a man in Target who asked me how much Grace cost.

-Last week, I was asked by someone if Grace was Sidney’s friend.

-Not long ago in Wal-Mart, I had someone ask if Jackson and Morganne were “mine” (after they learned that Grace was adopted).

-I can think of many occasions where I was told that Grace was “lucky” to have us.

-Just the other day, I was asked if Grace was “from here”.  (I’m still confused about that one!!!)

-I can recall a couple of times when people have said to me, “She is just like your real child, isn’t she?”

Grace is only three years old, so she has yet to truly comprehend any of the comments listed above.  However, the time will soon come when she will be able to comprehend them and the many others that may come her way.  So, I guess you could say that this is a preventative post.  I simply want to share a few thoughts today that might help to prevent uncomfortable or possibly hurtful moments for her in the future.

Most of those comments listed above were made with (what I believe to be) pure motives.  But, even though they came from an innocent place, they can still create hurtful and/or awkward moments for someone who was adopted.  Those of us who were not adopted can’t pretend to fully understand.  We can’t.  But, what we can do – I think – is just try to be informed about the healthiest and unhealthiest things that can be said to someone who was adopted.  Make no mistake, I do not want to be one of those overly-sensitive parents that goes nuts about every verbal misstep that Grace has to endure.  I don’t want people to think that they have to walk on eggshells around us or Grace.   I don’t.  However, I DO want to be the greatest advocate on behalf of all of my children.  And I thought that maybe one small way I could advocate for Grace at this point in her life would be to share this post today.

Many of you who are reading this know Grace.  Some of you interact with her on a regular basis.  Many of you also know my nephew Avery and interact with him regularly as well.  Some of you do not……..however, my guess is that EVERY person reading this post knows someone who has adopted or someone who was adopted themselves.

My hope is that the lists below (that I was able to find through online research) will be helpful to all of us as we seek to be sensitive to those around us who were adopted.  I, too, am still learning the best way to speak about adoption in a way that is most beneficial to Grace.  I am also still learning how I can be prepared to deal with the “special needs” that she may have over time as she wrestles with the fact that she was adopted. I know that I will never fully get this right.  But, that doesn’t mean I won’t keep trying.  And that’s the only thing that I can ask of others as well.

I would encourage you to try, for a moment, to try to step into Grace’s shoes.  Stay in them as best you can as you read through and consider the suggestions and thoughts listed below. I assure you that as I read through them, I tried to do just that.  In doing so, I realized just how much I have yet to truly grasp before I can be the mother that Grace needs me to be.

On behalf of Grace (and Avery), I thank you in advance for caring enough to take the time to contemplate the following…..

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THOUGHTS FROM A CHILD ADOPTEE
(This list was compiled by a woman who was adopted from Korea as an infant.)
Thoughts that entered my mind as a child…..
  1. That many times I was embarrassed and ashamed of my birth culture because it was so profoundly different than that of my family and my friends.  That too often it served as an easy and irresistible source of teasing and fodder for others – strangers and classmates alike.
  2. That despite my parent’s unconditional love for me, I couldn’t help but feel that I was the last option for them to finally have children.
  3. That phrases like “Thank God we can always adopt” or “Well, at least there’s a world of unwanted children we can adopt from since we can’t have kids of our own” only fed into my belief that adoption truly is, for virtually all couples, the very last resort by which to create a family.
  4. That as a young girl, the thing I was most grateful for was not having a sister who was my parent’s biological daughter.  That even the mere thought of being compared or having to share my parents with a sister who was their “real” daughter was too much for me to bear.  Being the oldest and the only girl was my way of telling myself that I was special, even when I didn’t always believe it.
  5. That instead of always hearing, “You’re so lucky to be adopted”, that it would have been nice to just once hear “It must be hard sometimes to be adopted.”
  6. That the insatiable need for me to be perfect was a way to make me feel more valuable, and therefore less likely to be abandoned once again.
  7. That the insatiable need for me to control every facet of my environment was a way to feel safe and secure during a time when I felt that I was disposable.
  8. That my mind understood why my birthmother had to give me up, but that my heart didn’t.
  9. That the message “She loved you so much that she gave you up for a better life” meant that it was sometimes scary to be loved so intensely by my adoptive parents.
  10. That deep down, I wondered if I could ever be good enough.  After all, I was left and given away as a baby; why would anyone leave their baby unless that baby was bad and unwanted?
  11. That I dreamed of going back to Korea just to be able to fit in amongst my peers.  That I would have given anything to just once be the girl who was thought of as being popular, pretty and “normal”, instead of the one whose sole appearance brought forth so many unwanted questions and assumptions.
  12. That often I thought of ways I could make myself look more white, just so I wouldn’t feel like such a monster.
  13. That I wondered what it would have been like to be the girl someone fought fiercely over, instead of feeling like the child my Korean parents didn’t want and the daughter that my adoptive parents had to settle for.
  14. That I felt so incredibly guilty anytime I felt anything sad or bad about my adoption.  That it was much better to hold everything in than to hurt my parents who I know loved and adored me more than life itself.
  15. That I became very adept at spinning my own adoption story, for the sake of my own survival.
  16. That it was impossible to be angry or hateful towards my Korean parents for leaving me, and yet impossible to forgive myself for being left.
  17. That I got to a point where my mind truly believed everything I was saying about not feeling any effects or fallout from being adopted, even if my heart and body felt markedly different.
  18. That one’s body will not lie, no matter how much you ask it to keep on pretending.
  19. That my tantrums, outbursts and fits of rage were my way of trying to say, “I’m hurting so badly inside and more than anything, I am afraid that you will leave me.”
  20. That love, no matter how deep nor abundant, can never erase the past.
  21. That in spite of everything, I knew I would come out on the other side.
  22. That I have loved, and been loved and that one day I would feel that I was actually deserving and worthy of that emotion.
  23. That what others saw in myself would one day be evident to me as well.  And hopefully one day, with God’s grace, I would truly learn to love and forgive myself.

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Things you should AVOID saying to adoptive parents in front of their children:

-Do you know anything about her “real” parents?”

-How could her “real” mother give her away?

-I bet you love her just like your “own”, don’t you?

-How much did she cost?

-So, why did you adopt?  Couldn’t you have children of your “own”?

-Do you know anything about her “real” mom?

-Oh, I could never give up/give away my child!

-It takes a special person to do what you are doing.  I could never do it.

-Why didn’t her “real” mom want her?

-You’re doing her such a favor.

-She is so lucky.

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POSITIVE ADOPTION LANGUAGE
Birth Parent
Biological Parent
Birth Child
My Son/Daughter
Was Adopted
International Adoption

NEGATIVE ADOPTION LANGUAGE
Real Parents
Natural Parent
Own Child
Adopted Child
Is Adopted
Foreign Child
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The 20 Things That Children Wish Their Adoptive Parents Knew About Adoption
by Sherrie Eldridge.
1. I suffered a profound loss before I was adopted. You are not responsible.
2. I need to be taught that I have special needs arising from adoption loss, of which I need not be ashamed.
3. If I don’t grieve my loss, my ability to receive love from you and others will be hindered.
4. My unresolved grief may surface in anger toward you.
5. I need your help in grieving my loss. Teach me how to get in touch with my feelings about my adoption and then validate them.
6. Just because I don’t talk about my birth family doesn’t mean that I don’t think about them.
7. I want you to take the initiative in opening conversations about my birth family.
8. I need to know the truth about my conception, birth, and family history, no matter how painful the details may be.
9. I am afraid I was given away by my birth mother because I was a bad baby. I need you to help me dump my toxic shame
10. I am afraid you will abandon me.
11. I may appear more “whole” than I actually am. I need your help to uncover the parts of myself that I keep hidden so I can integrate all the elements of my identity.
12. I need to gain a sense of personal power
13. Please don’t say I look or act just like you. I need you to acknowledge and celebrate our differences.
14. Let me be my own person….but don’t let me cut myself off from you.
15. Please respect my privacy regarding my adoption. Don’t tell other people without my consent.
16. Birthdays may be difficult for me.
17. Not knowing my full medical history can be distressing at times.
18. I am afraid I will be too much for you to handle.
19. When I act out my fears in obnoxious ways, please hang in there with me and respond wisely.
20. Even if I decide to search for my birth family, I will always want you to be my parents.


2 Comments leave one →
  1. February 10, 2012 9:33 pm

    And, I might add…one I have heard multiple times (which is probably unique to your family): “Look at that beautiful red hair!” I try to deflect it by pointing out Grace’s black hair is beautiful also, but I can only think that Grace thinks her hair is, therefore, not beautiful.

  2. February 10, 2012 9:44 pm

    Or – on the flipside – when they point out how adorable our little “China doll” is…….neglecting to mention the other three adorable (non-China) dolls that I have with me : ) Again, I don’t want to come across as being overly sensitive. I just want to look out for my four little friends as best I can.

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