One of the many elephants in the room

31 Mar
There are so many elephants in the middle of the room in the world of adoption that I think there is a herd of elephants standing in the way of real conversation.  Usually I do not use qualifiers (titles) but this post needs them.
In this world of adoption land that takes one individual from one family and makes them part of another family, there is this ongoing concept of the “perpetual child”  labelled the adoptee.  Common statements today call the new family the “forever family” instead of the adoptive family (or in my terms “family”).  Prospective adoptive parents wish and wait impatiently for their “forever child” not their adopted child.  Adoptive parents are encouraged to choose language to teach their child that their adoption was a “one time event” and not something that is part of the identity of the “forever child“.   
The adoptee also known as the “forever child” may be part of any number of studies* or success stories long before they have the adult capabilities to make a decision on whether they wish to be studied or held up as success stories.  The studies cover a wide variety of topics from attachment to IQ’s to identity and well-being.  If in fact the young adoptee is the one who answers the questions vs. the adoptive parents speaking on their behalf you really have to stop and ask yourself just how valid that answer will be in 20 years, will it have changed as the child matures and sees life through a much different lens than that of a 5, 10, or 15-year-old?  Have you asked yourself why you cannot find studies where the adoptee is an adult and the questions are focused not on how their life was as a child and the interactions as a family, but rather on how they now view all the parameters of adoption and the impact it really had on them throughout their life?  But that is not the point of the studies.  The point of the studies is to prove that adoptees do “just fine” being the “forever child” in the “forever family” and that “the adoption was just a one time event“.  The results of the carefully designed study is highlighted and broadcast by the adoption industry, and happily accepted by adoptive parents and those waiting to become adoptive parents.  It gives them hope.
In vivid contrast to the studies in today’s world of blogging there are real voices of adult adoptees that tell it like it is, each different, each unique, all important, and all have the same underlying theme, being an adoptee.  These voices are not the voices of the young “forever child” answering predetermined carefully worded questions designed to produce the results the study wanted, they are the voices of adopted adults who have the guts to stand up and say wait a minute, there is much more to being an adoptee than the adoption industry told you.  There can be pain, loss, feelings of rejection, lack of genetic mirroring, lack of self-identity, knowledge and a whole lot of questions and feelings that no one wants to talk about including the fact that we are adoptees for life and it wasn’t a one time event, the elephant in the room no one wants to see or accept it is there.  That we speak up for our benefit in making sense of these feelings, finding our own support community that really understands, something many of us never had until now. 
That many of us also think it is important for the next generation of adoptees to understand it is normal to have these feelings and understand others have felt these things too, and that means we want you (adoptive parents and prospectives) to listen, think, mull, and take our words to heart, interact with us and not just give lip service and then dismiss us as mal-adjusted like the blog in this post by Von.  
But to do that you need to remember our blogs are not parent blogs about day-to-day stuff, they are blogs about common topics we adult adoptees want to talk about, things about adoption that impact us.  You may find snippets of day-to-day stuff mixed in, but it is being adopted that brings us together and gets us talking.  Blogs where viewpoints differ, but we all have adoption in common that bind us together and we talk about what needs fixing, acknowledging, working through the tough parts, what angers us, what makes us feel hopeful, many, many other things, but they should never be confused as a diary of our day-to-day life and interactions. 
And yet it seems there is always the adoptive parent or prospective adoptive parent who just simply cannot wrap their head around the fact that a) there is a specific reason for these blogs and followers which is to talk about adoption and the impact on us, b) that we are more than just what is talked about on these blogs, c) that we are not “forever children” but in reality we are living, breathing, adult individuals that have families, vacations, children, puppies, careers, friends, gym memberships, degrees, and have the ability to form our own opinions about many things, including adoption. 
And while there are more and more eyes wide open and willing to listen adoptive parents and prospective adoptive parents, there are many more who only provide lip service, or trust what their agency said, or that their child has never felt that way (you all need to please trust me it isn’t easy to say negative things about being adopted to your parents). 
Others simply cannot get past the fact that we aren’t children and question us over and over whether or not we love our parents.  That somehow we must not love our parents if we are thinking critically about adoption.   I am so done with that question and I dare each of you to think back to the last time you had an opinion on something that someone did not like – did they turn around and ask you if you loved your parents?  Seriously – enough is enough.  Melissa at Yoon’s Blur was just subjected to this again and wrote yet another post on this topic even though she has done this countless times, the question always pops up in comments.  
So please consider how your words impact us and how it would feel if you were the group that was forever dismissed as being “forever children” of a “one time event” that in reality lasts a lifetime and impacts us in numerous ways and yet are treated by some as if you the “parent” always know best, regardless if we are old enough to be your parents…we are pretty easy to get along with if you are willing to accept that we know from our own lived experiences what it is like to be an adoptees, something a non-adopted individual will never be able to duplicate simply because you aren’t adopted.
*Studies – I am in two different studies for my rare disease.  Before I became part of either study they talked to me about the study extensively including, any known impact it could have on me, how the info would be used, the ethical considerations, the privacy of the participants, and then a written statement confirming these details requesting my agreement to participate…that is how a participant should be treated…think about that and then about all the unethical adoption studies that have been done on children, specifically the separating of twins just to study nurture vs. nature…

Posted by on March 31, 2011 in Adoption


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18 responses to “One of the many elephants in the room

  1. Dannie

    March 31, 2011 at 5:47 pm

    Before I get into the serious post…I do have to chime in and say your last paragraph made me LAUGH OUT LOUD. I can’t imagine telling ‘you’ how to feel as if I was a parental authority AND your elder. 🙂 Sorry, that was just funny (and sad to know that it indeed needs to be said).

    It’s very sad that adoption seems to be the one topic where depending on how an adoptee voices issues a snap judgement is made as to whether or not one is mal-adjusted or adjusted well. Stripping all issues aside, the leap from child to teen to young adult and beyond is generally an adjustment period for parents in general. Children no longer are children and have their own thoughts, opinions, and passions. Sometimes similar to their parents, sometimes with a twist, sometimes polar opposite. It’s unfortunate that the cross that adoptees seem to bear more often than not is that if there is any differing opinion whether it be on loss, ethical/moral, whatever; the person will get labeled as to either the poster child for good adoption or “angry mal-adjusted” people that need to “get over it”. Just some observation from reading online. Interesting food for thought.

    My daughter is still young and I am still green. There will be many elephants to wade through and my hope is to hopefully face them with grace and candor! Thanks for the added links to other reading material.


  2. The adopted ones

    March 31, 2011 at 6:13 pm


    I guess I just needed that extra snark at the end – and talk about a run on sentence.

    You have your eyes wide open and can easily apply real world logic to situtations so you will be fine.

    Thanks for reading and giving feedback.


  3. Eileen

    March 31, 2011 at 7:12 pm

    I assume that the “don’t you love your parents” comments are designed mostly to make the adoptee feel guilty for not being grateful enough to the parents who supposedly saved them. And I also assume that the people who would say this to an adoptee are APs or PAPs, although there are some natural parents as well who want to believe that everything is rosy about adoption. Given these assumptions it seems to me that the appropriate response is, “Don’t you love your child?” An AP or PAP who loves their child should be interested in hearing what adult adoptees have to say whether it’s good or bad and not expect their child to feel the same way about adoption as they do.


  4. The adopted ones

    March 31, 2011 at 7:16 pm

    Eileen – yes it is the why aren’t you grateful and your parents must have been bad parents for you to feel this way, so therefore I will be a good parent and my child will never feel this way. Slap you for being mean and ungrateful and slap to your parents for being bad parents – double whammy…

    Thanks for commenting.


    • Eileen

      March 31, 2011 at 11:26 pm

      I hadn’t thought of the doubly whammy aspect of it, where your parents must have been bad parents too. But yes, it’s there and it’s just one more way that people like that can say that this will never happen to them.

      Very interesting post!


  5. Melissa

    March 31, 2011 at 8:02 pm

    “That we speak up for our benefit in making sense of these feelings, finding our own support community that really understands, something many of us never had until now.”

    Even though the above statement wasn’t the point of this post, it struck me, particularly, “something many of us never had until now.” This is so true…I am so grateful for fellow adoptee bloggers like yourself & otherwise. For years I thought I was crazy…it wasn’t until recently that I started to realize that I’m not crazy and I’m also not alone.

    @ Eileen- Wow. You’re a genius, seriously. I had never thought of it the way you framed it:

    Given these assumptions it seems to me that the appropriate response is, “Don’t you love your child?” An AP or PAP who loves their child should be interested in hearing what adult adoptees have to say whether it’s good or bad and not expect their child to feel the same way about adoption as they do.

    I just might have to quote you at some point, if you’re all right with that…


    • Eileen

      March 31, 2011 at 11:24 pm

      Thanks, Melissa. I’m not a genius, just someone that sees red when people try to discount what adoptees have to say about adoption. Of course you can quote me.


  6. The adopted ones

    March 31, 2011 at 8:14 pm

    Melissa – thanks for stopping by – your blog has helped me in ways you will never realize. The adoption blogging community as a whole has made it seem less lonely.


  7. shadowtheadoptee

    March 31, 2011 at 8:25 pm

    My favorite, “I’m so sorry you had a bad experience.” Where do they get that? Bad experience? Really? why because some of us had parents, who weren’t “perfect”. Because we speak up, share our own feelings, hoping PAPs, APs, and the like will listen, understand that their way isn’t always “THE” only way? That,, just maybe, if they listen, think, they might find a better way to help, and deal with their children? they think we must have had a “bad experience”? We aren’t asking for sympathy. We are asking for empathy.

    A bad experience is slamming your finger in the car door. A bad experience is having the novacane wear off before the dentist gets through drilling to fill that cavity. Staying over night at the Bates motel would be a “bad experience”. A blind date with Pee Wee Herman would be a “bad experience”.

    My life is not just a “bad experience”. It’s my life. I’m just glad there are parents like Dannie that get it.
    Good post.


  8. The adopted ones

    March 31, 2011 at 8:46 pm

    Hey Shadow – yes those would be bad experiences, especially the motel. I just hope they get it that our blogs are not our entire lives and that we live life to the fullest!


  9. Von

    March 31, 2011 at 8:46 pm

    Top post!!!!!!!!!! You said it all and said it so well. May I post a link, it so needs repeating.


  10. The adopted ones

    March 31, 2011 at 8:47 pm

    Von – of course you know you can anytime, and thank you for the compliment. My writing must be getting better.


  11. Von

    March 31, 2011 at 8:52 pm

    Just popped back to read the other comments and to say how much I too appreciate the input of you all and the online support we have grown and the exchange of views which is so very helpful, essential in us all understanding we are not alone.Thanks to you all and to the poster for such a very insightful post.


  12. Kara

    April 1, 2011 at 8:51 pm

    So very, very smart and spot on. Great thoughts. I am so tired of it all, too, especially the “Sorry about your bad experience. Not everyone is bitter and angry like you.” As if I were bitter and angry about my life. No, I am bitter and angry about people treating this adult like a child without a proper thought in my head.



  13. cb

    April 2, 2011 at 8:26 am

    Great post, AO.

    Sometimes I just feel we aren’t taken seriously. It doesn’t matter how many bloggers there are out there saying the same thing, they are often all lumped in one group as “having had a bad experience” and thus are worthy of being ignored.


  14. IrishViking

    May 9, 2011 at 10:01 am

    I have never posted a blog before so this may seem a bit clumsy. My “name” refers to the information I have gathered over 20 years about my true origins. I found my natural mother at age 20 and my natural father when I was 28. Since then I have met various half sisters and brothers. It has been like opening Pandora’s Box. I was wondering if anyone else has a natural family where multiple relatives were adopted. My natural father, natural uncle and half brother were all adopted too. My father and uncle only found out when they were adults and met recently. They don’t know if they have the same father or not. They are all recovering alcoholics and I have read that alcoholism is a sign/symptom of depression. I have never been an alcoholic but often feel like a lost soul. And sometimes I am not sure that starting this journey was a good idea as I have only found a few pieces in a large jigsaw puzzle and am very unlikely to ever see the full picture. It has been interesting to read other people’s descriptions of how they feel and I can certainly relate to what they are saying.


  15. The adopted ones

    May 9, 2011 at 6:19 pm

    Welcome Irish Viking,

    Amazing how your natural family has many adoptees, I don’t understand having never been in the situation but I also can’t judge. My family were all bio’s so I don’t have that experience myself of finding out my father was an adoptee. As to searching, I think regardless of whether or not we ever see the big picture, for me knowing parts is preferable to never knowing anything at all.

    Hope you stick around.


    • IrishViking

      May 10, 2011 at 7:43 am

      Thanks for that. Maybe I didn’t put my post in the correct area because you are the only person who has responded so far! I forgot to mention that my natural family is multi-racial and so there are different cultures to take into account as well as the different feelings towards the family members who are adopted and the ones who grew up with the adoptees natural parents. So we’re a real mixed bag of nuts! Does anyone out there know of any statistics that show a higher level of “artificial dependencies” amongst adoptees? Because of the emotional issues a large number of us seem to experience I just wonder if that translates to increased numbers seeking help in various forms. I know that non-adoptees can’t relate to how we feel and so I am curious if there has been much research done about adoptees?



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