Platitudes, knee-jerk reactions followed by gas-lighting were topics on my Twitter-feed this morning, the latter two were words from MerriamWebster (follow them, they’re great). All three happen to be part of the landscape of adoption-land that each person faces happening to them at some point.
I’ve had all three happen to me, I’ve done at least the first two (platitudes and knee-jerk reactions) but hopefully have never gas-lighted anyone. I’ve always tried to limit my criticisms to specific mind-sets or choices made, and not painting with a broad brush, I also know I’ve failed (knee-jerk reaction). I’ve been the recipient of enough platitudes to last my entire lifetime. I recognise their value if said in the right spirit, but it seems most are just said in adoption to dismiss more than anything.
We all have a unique story of adoption, most include; loss, gain, pain, grief, love. How much of our unique story we share is going to be different, I’m deliberately vague, I want readers to delve into subject, not the story itself, and learn any lesson they take-away from it.
I’m judgemental as hell about things I think (or feel) are wrong in adoption, or were done wrong in the past. When my brain was actively healing, adoption was my study area of interest, part rehab, part having the time on my hands between naps. Out of my experience post stroke, I also found a new appreciation for words. Words that define, words that explain a feeling or action, words that keep us connected to each other. How we use them – tells others more about who we are than anything.
Words also matter more now than any time I’ve lived, we need to use them wisely, judiciously. Be kind when possible. Acknowledge all facets of adoption good or bad. Ensure everyone in adoption is given the right to:
- be happy,
- be angry,
- have regrets, or be at peace,
- be needy at times,
- to grow and learn without being reminded of what they previously believed,
- to accept some feelings will never completely go away, and be okay with it,
- to try to make a difference for someone else’s journey by words of warning or support.
In adoption, words either validate or deny the experience and journey. Adoption as it is practiced and understood today seems to bring out the best and the worst in all of us. It’s helpful to take a step back and recognise that adoption also has a history of being seen differently across time and this new iteration isn’t how it’s previously been.
Adoption has always been a solution and that hasn’t changed.
What is different is adoption used to be seen as an imperfect solution to a tragic situation, offering those outside to view the gravity of the situation, while some chose to take advantage for their gain of free labor, others brought the children in as family.
In my era it kept that definition of imperfect solution, but evolved to be seen as also a solution for the increase in families faced with infertility, and a way for unwed mothers to “redeem” themselves for their “sins”, with the added belief that as babies we came as blank or clean slates who would seamlessly assimilate into the family. Some agencies even matched babies demographics as close as possible to the adopting family to help that integration and offer privacy. My era had it’s fair share of shameful practices, how many treated mothers, and those who chose to take part in horrible practices called black-market adoptions, in addition to the lack of knowledge on the toll adoption would have on those adopted with sealed records and no information.
Today, adoption has evolved into a new version that can include openness and sometimes more knowledge, but also a version that has led to some questionable practices at times, lack of laws to back up promises made re openness, and changes to laws reducing the time parents must wait to sign away their parental rights without revocation time to make the state “adoption friendly”. What I do think is this current version of adoption, the mistakes made won’t be given the pass we’ve given previous iterations, because today, the knowledge is there for the taking, unlike earlier times. It also seems like ethics and best practices don’t seem to matter anymore to many, and the impact of removing ethics from top-of-mind will have deep long-lasting repercussions.
I’m leaving you with a word I’d never heard, that at times mirrors the three different time periods on how people saw/see adoption and helped me frame this post. A Merriam-Webster’s word of the day on twitter was Chary and the website on how the definition changed over time is a good lesson to mull on.
Definition [of Chary]
1 : hesitant and vigilant about dangers and risks
2 : slow to grant, accept, or expend
Did You Know?
It was sorrow that bred the caution of chary. In Middle English chary meant “sorrowful,” a sense that harks back to the word’s Old English ancestor caru (an early form of care, and another term that originally meant “sorrow” or “grief”). In a sense switch that demonstrates that love can be both bitter and sweet, chary later came to mean “dear” or “cherished.” That’s how 16th-century English dramatist George Peele used it: “the chariest and the choicest queen, That ever did delight my royal eyes.” Both sorrow and affection have largely faded from chary, however, and in Modern English the word is most often used as a synonym of either careful or sparing.
Take care and stay safe.