Mixed adoption conversations, whether it is another adoptee, a first mom or adoptive mom that bluntly asks, or hints at wanting to know if: a) you’re grateful, b) if you love your parents, c) if you’d choose to be adopted, d) who you consider to be your real parents. Now, most aren’t that blunt, but it seems like most want to know the answers to those questions. Almost as though, how you answer those questions / tell your story determines whether they will listen to what you have to say, or write you off, there is no middle of the road, it’s either/or, and it’s wrong.
Most adoptees I’ve spoken to have a deeply nuanced view of adoption, how could they not, they lived it. We all have different lived experiences, but unless you sit outside the bell-curve, you have experienced both loss and gain, different degrees, but it’s a mix of both. How we view our own adoption experience does temper our views on adoption, but seldom (if ever) on what we see as ethical or moral lapses in how adoption is practiced, or the laws in regards to adoption. Those views are shaped by what is right or wrong and our knowledge of being part of both sides, not how close we were to our parents when we were growing up, or now.
Yet, how you respond to how those questions determines if you are accepted or rejected by the adoption community. Whether you are accepted or rejected sometimes, maybe even often, differs based on the role the person asking the questions holds in adoption, i.e. adoptive or first parents.
It gets exceedingly tiring to see the questions posed, or the roundabout questions hidden in their comments, and then to see how they treat the person once they answer. And, this isn’t limited to adoptees, it’s done to adoptive and first parents too. A never-ending judgement-fest of each other, whether they measure up and meet the observers criteria about what makes an adoptee, adoptive or first parent credible, worthy to be heard.
The problem is that those questions shouldn’t be asked to start with. For the one adopted it reduces the adoptee to a child, forever the child, never an equal in the conversation, despite being the one who lived it and with the most intimate experience of it. I decided years ago to stop playing the game, pushing back instead. It works. If we’d all stop asking those types of questions and just started listening instead, we’d soon hear a more nuanced rendition of how that person feels, what’s important to them, what you have in common, and what you disagree on.
So, I’m asking you to try my strategy, don’t be the one asking, or the answerer, be the listener. You might find that you can separate the personal stories from the non-personal adoption subject being discussed. You can then talk about hard subjects because they aren’t personal. You may find you agree that a practice is good (or bad) and find common ground, instead of dismissing anything said because you judged that person unworthy of listening too, based on how their personal experience measured up to what you believe acceptable as a response.
Push-back when you see it happening. We all have unique experiences, it should be about striving to have adoption practiced from the highest ethical ground and calling out bad practices when we see them.