Tag Archives: siblings
November 8th prompt…Adoption in Fiction
Comment on how adoption is portrayed in fiction, either as a fiction reader or writer. Adoption in classic fiction often centers on the orphan experience, from Oliver Twist and Little Men, to orphan Jane Eyre living with her aunt and cousins. Today there’s the Twilight series and others that use adoption to explain “families” comprised of various vampires. Talk about other examples of adoption used as a plot device in fiction. What types of adoption stories or adopted characters have resonated with you? Or haven’t? Are the feelings and experiences described authentically, accurately? Discuss. As a writer, do you have a fictional adopted character? What issues is this character dealing with? What is their deepest secret or desire? If you have a desire to educate your readers about adoption, what do you want them to learn?
I know I have read some fiction with an adoption theme, but honestly – I can’t remember who wrote it, or what the plot was – it would have been in the crime-fiction / forensic science genre. I think if it had been widely inaccurate I would have remembered. I haven’t seen or read the Twillight series. I do remember feeling a distinct connection to the two girls in the original Parent Trap - way back when. Not knowing the other sister existed struck such a deep chord, and perhaps that is what triggered me to wonder if I had siblings and my need to know. I think I was 9 or 10 when I saw it.
The books I did connect to as a child were animal stories – Black Beauty by Anna Sewell – I cried my eyes out, and read it multiple times – not adoption but yet the same. Another was The Black Stallion by Walter Farley and later novels – not really the same, but the same none the less.
As a teenager, I read the book The Outsiders by S E HInton - the feelings evoked as I read it, seemed to mirror some (many) of my feelings – can’t explain the feelings but filled with lots of angst. I have no idea how many times I read that book, and if I looked in one of the boxes from my youth, that book is probably one I kept.
The book I did get triggered by as an adult – while not in any way an adoption theme – the feelings it evoked in me were adoption themed. Jodi Picoult – My Sister’s Keeper. The child created to save her sister’s life, the focus on the sister she was supposed to save regardless of the cost to her. The way the parents (mother) was so focused on one child, and the others were just expected to be okay, if they were noticed at all. I know it wasn’t about adoption, but let’s be honest – the one adopted is the replacement child for many, the only means to become parents – there are parallels between the two. I know that it isn’t politically correct to say, and will raise hackles - but I would guess that many adoptees have thought of that over the years and had to deal with any feelings related to it. For many parents – we were Plan B, and now today, perhaps Plan C. I don’t say that meanly, or that the parent doesn’t love their child - it just is what it is – and really – adoption wouldn’t have been any babies Plan A either when you stop and think about it. Adoption is messy - it happens because of loss – why it is so important that the parents are in a good place if they dealt with infertility - is so the child isn’t treated as the replacement child, expected to be the perfect child, the one they would have had. No, that isn’t my story but I have seen that played out, and it makes me sad for the child, I’ve also seen families where the focus is only on one child, and the rest are just expected to adapt. Neither is the ideal choice for a child.
My siblings reacted very badly when they found out I existed. I told myself it was their choice not to know me, and we all have free choice, and even though I was deeply hurt and couldn’t understand why they wouldn’t want to know a sibling, I thought I had accepted it for what it was. I was used to accepting and moving on – that’s what adoption teaches you – this was no different from accepting any of the other parts of being adopted. Put it out of your mind and carry on.
Over the years one sibling changed their mind and wanted to know me. I was thrilled, or so I thought. To know my siblings had always been a dream – as far back as I can remember I had always wanted to know if I had siblings, one of the few precious questions I got to ask as a teen was – did I have siblings?. That question and answer that I did made me so happy, and that even though I knew I would never know them - I had siblings. That knowledge stayed with me and I would day-dream about meeting them, knowing them, being their sibling.
Yet despite being thrilled with the turn around by my sibling and starting off good, soon I started holding back, not being able to talk, not wanting to talk, shutting down. It made no sense and it took a long time of self-reflection to admit that my holding back - was in fact anger at how all of my siblings reacted to me, and my inability to trust it wouldn’t happen again.
Right now we have an uneasy truce, and I don’t know if that will ever change, if I can change. Deeply ingrained in me is keep the peace at any cost, and I don’t know how to be honest about my deepest feelings of being rejected by them - and how that made me feel. That I don’t trust my sibling not to do it again. Trust makes me vulnerable to being rejected again.
Adoption - the gift that keeps on giving.
So I ended up in a conversation with someone who apparently has a sibling that was put up for adoption back in the 60′s…It seems weird to talk to someone on the other side of the fence so to speak.
The conversation goes like this…being leary of making contact because obviously there was a reason why the baby was given up for adoption…something wrong…some emotional instability…some good reason…
Nope, sorry to break that sterotype…you grew up after that era and when you were an adult who could recognise how society affects everything…society had changed from what it was back then. I felt so old saying that and in reality I felt the same way until I educated myself but in reality, I only educated myself because I was part of adoption land…really it never would have occurred to me that society back in the 50′s or 60′s was really that much different because I grew up in the 60′s secure in my role as a child, protected from the realities of how adults treated each other. How society dictated they treat each other and to be born on the wrong side of the sheets dictated that both mother and child became ghosts in society. Shunned, dismissed, talked about but never talked to. They were the subject of gossip, malicious, hateful, hurtful and utterly inhumane treatment. Society still needs to pay for what they did to our mothers…and society doesn’t have the guts to admit their wrong doings and to publicly say WE WERE WRONG…
So, if you have a sibling that was put up for adoption back then…take some time and educate yourself what it was like during the era that happened. Understand that it was the entire family that was stigmatized, sanctioned, shamed and there was no other choice to be made and MOST likely the sibling is just as normal as you are.
That it is okay to not like aspects in your siblings who you grew up but feel guilty and wrong to not like all aspects of your biological siblings you meet as an adult?
Is it because that makes my ‘dream‘ flawed and reality really is different and I just need to suck it up and get over it?
Because I talk about how much the biological connection means and in reality each of us is shaped by who, how and where we were raised? That the impact of life experiences as an adult shape who we are and expand those early childhood life lessons?
Because they ‘are‘ our sibling and therefore must be perfect? Because being ‘perfect‘ is mandatory? Why is being ‘perfect‘ mandatory? What happens if we are not ‘perfect‘? As a child it meant I could be given away again because they saw that fatal flaw in me that I could not see. Does it mean that if my sibling is not ‘perfect‘ then therefore ‘I‘ am not ‘perfect‘ and I am circling back to my childhood feelings of being afraid of being given away again but in a different way?
I have been extremely troubled by these feelings and can only conclude that it is normal to not always like all aspects of who your sibling is, what makes that person tick. Problem is, that is my logical brain talking - but my inner child’s mind isn’t listening. And that inner child’s mind has been with me a lot longer than my logical adult brain.