Can both positive and negative exist in adoption?

11 Dec

I love how comments spur more thoughts, reflections, or a penny or two dropping (myself included). I’m talking about the comments in my last post, a post that started off more as a why vent than anything else, and then, naturally morphed into more. I’ve pulled a few snippets from the comments, and yes, context is lost with just a snippet from a larger thought, but you’re welcome to read the post and comments in full.

Snippets that got me mulling…

“Why do those words positive and negative tend to confuse or derail or… I don’t know the word. It seems to be difficult to talk about or explain positive and negative stuff. And why do two negatives equal a positive
Maybe there is some tricky math working with positive and negative, some magic magnetic electrical alchemy thing. Maybe when you add attitude in the mix it makes it hard to see all the different things spinning around in there at one time
I get what everybody is saying, but have no idea how to explain it in words that make sense in all directions.” Beth62

As usual, Beth seems to find the concern in using the either/or terms positive or negative in adoption also creates (comes with) an attitude that, sometimes, has the added effect of wearing blinders to everything else that adoption is. Maybe that explains the instinctual pushback from adoptees, why those words can trigger reactions in adoptees.

“But I feel positively about it and I do what I can to lessen the negative and move us toward the positive. My own childhood wasn’t devoid of negativity, but by my parents’ intentions there was positivity. By my intentions there will also be positivity in our journey to help mitigate the negativity.” Lisa

And there’s nothing wrong with and lots right about Lisa viewing her family as good and working towards a wonderful life.

“It’s the combination of needing so badly to position adoption as positive that to critique even things that are obviously, *obviously* really really messed up about adoption — such as coercion — is to be labeled anti-adoption, bitter adoptee who had a bad experience.” Stephanie (Tia)

Stephanie explains what happens when rigidity is required to only see the positive, you stifle any process improvement, you stifle any harm-reduction, and in another comment Beth noted that it’s a tool used to silence the adoptee. Both comments from adoptees speak broadly about the impact the reactions to an adoptee speaking about the hard in being adopted evokes. Those reactions can also stifle the adoptee from feeling able to tell the good too because too many adoptive parents only want to hear the good parts, and, then, use them to rebut the hard. Both/And acceptance is needed to hear the whole of the adoptee experience, cherry picking needs to be shunned.

“Wow. This is… a major eye-opener for me. As an AP I’ve always thought of adoption as an event, not an identity; more importantly – I thought that was a healthier, more balanced perspective along the “Your life is what you make it” vibe. I don’t believe I am (or my children are) defined by any life event or experience; rather, I’m a constellation of everything I’ve done, been, encountered, etc. It’s all important and relevant and Who I Am. I’ve never considered it adoption denial until I read your post, Tao, and Stephanie’s comments. Now I’m re-thinking.” Sally

And Sally nails the disconnect in understanding (or hearing) between an adoptive parent and adoptee. When an adoptee says they ‘are’ adopted instead of ‘was’ adopted, it’s likely an adoptive parent goes to the far end of the spectrum and assumes adoption has defined everything that adoptee is; instead of hearing adoption played a pivotal role in who I am, it still does, just like everything else has shaped me and continues to shape me into me.


I was raised by parents who were born before the Great Depression and grew into adulthood during the depression – having lived the hard their whole life. They spoke plainly and honestly about good times and hard times. It shaped them into being savers, fixers instead of replacing, and if something needed to be replaced, good parts would be removed and saved to fix something else before getting rid of it. They gave instead of took, made do with what they had instead of pining for more. Mom talked about when she was young and her cousins moved up and stayed with them for several years during the depression. I’ve seen the house her dad built, and I’d guess it was about a 1,000 square foot rancher. Mom had two siblings and adding her cousin’s family added three more people to a family of five. I can’t imagine how hard it would be living in that little house for years. Mom said it was hard but somehow they managed and did the best they could, that it also created a life-long sibling like relationship between mom and her cousin, the good and bad.

Picture taken mid 30’s

I don’t remember positive and negative as terms commonly used at home; we were told we’d done something well, regularly, we were thanked for doing something. We were also reminded to do the best you can, try harder, practice more, work hard, appreciate what you have, take the good with the bad, hope for the best, give what you can, help others, be kind. Lessons that got them through the hardest of the hard, prepared them for the future, and taught them how to live a good life and be thankful for what they had, while always giving to those less fortunate. That worked and works for me.

I’ll never be someone who uses flowery language, that’s not who I am, I’m also a plain speaker. Now that I know some of my family of birth, they are plain speakers too, so both my nature and my nurture were in step in this thing called the adopted life. I also know I’ll probably always get my back up when I hear people want an adoptee’s experience to be either positive or negative using those words. I don’t subscribe that anything in life is one or the other, rather, most adoptee experiences are some combination of both, how can they not be when adoption includes loss.

Be safe.


Posted by on December 11, 2018 in Adoption


Tags: , , , , ,

8 responses to “Can both positive and negative exist in adoption?

  1. Mws R

    December 11, 2018 at 5:22 pm

    I have wrote a lot on things about my adoption


  2. Dee Warf

    December 13, 2018 at 1:03 pm

    I know you might want to say for the child there can be positives and negatives. I’m a mom that thinks about death every day, that is sad every day, that went in to have a family who has a mom that is sad every day, that listens to assholes say there’s nothing wrong with stealing a baby or well you must have deserved it. There are absolutely no positives for moms. We join groups to help each other not die. No there are no positives here.


    • beth62

      December 14, 2018 at 2:54 pm

      Hey Dee, I’m sorry that happened to you and your baby. I’m sorry and sad that it has happened to me and my mother too. And so many others. We deserve to be sad, angry too, if you ask me. For more than fifty years I have been sad everyday about it. Far more sad for my mother. Every single day.

      It doesn’t help when you hear random people be so happy about it, but only if they can find a way to be clueless, avoid or deny the sad and tragic trauma it is and will always be. They throw positives at it, try to bury it, can’t bear to let it exist with everything else. I’ve never been able to deny it or overlook it, and I will never try to. No matter who is trying to push me into hiding with it. It makes me rage when people do that to me, to my mother, all of us, and do it in the name of positive. I know they do it for themselves, they don’t understand it. If they are having difficulties dealing with our sadness, I always wonder if they could be strong enough to handle it if it had happened to them. Obviously not very well by what they say, but then, they don’t have to. Maybe if I didn’t have to experience it, I wouldn’t have to either. I’ll never know, I’ve lived everyday of my life trying not to let that sadness get the best of me.

      We deserve to enjoy our days. The only way I know is to accept it (try not to bury it) keep moving (try not to let anything or anyone hold you back from being) and never give up (always choose to live)
      I hope you can connect with some joy today. If you are not so lucky, or it just doesn’t happen, I hope the negatives are lessened, and all of the potholes are shallow ones for you today.

      Liked by 2 people

  3. beth62

    December 13, 2018 at 2:38 pm

    Past, present or future negatives and positives.
    Do we think on them differently, treat them or take action differently?
    I wonder on how differently they can treat us too 🙂
    I think it’s difficult to write/talk about many topics in past/present/future at the same time.
    So maybe the time warp may help derail or confuse already difficult discussions.
    I wonder what it would read like if we stayed in the same time to discuss this negative + positive : separation + adoption?


    • Sally Bacchetta

      December 14, 2018 at 6:07 pm

      “I think it’s difficult to write/talk about many topics in past/present/future at the same time.
      So maybe the time warp may help derail or confuse already difficult discussions.” This is how I feel every single day. It’s why there are sometimes giant lapses in my writing. I’m acutely aware that what I think and feel today may be completely different another day, although all of it is authentic at the time I think/feel it. It can be paralyzing because plenty of people judge on a snippet, rather than the whole.

      Liked by 1 person

      • TAO

        December 14, 2018 at 6:57 pm

        Yes, they sure do Sally. Just be like me and not care anymore, or at least *sometimes* don’t let it stifle you.


  4. beth62

    December 13, 2018 at 3:16 pm

    I do usually do that don’t I, find the duality in life. Embarrassed slightly, but not sure why. It’s always been true and strong for me. Many people have told me it’s not true or real, the inner and outer, positive and negative, nature and nurture, hope and fear… either/or and both/and is in everything for me. It’s in everything we talk about imo. And the root paradox for them all is the primal life and death. Both being beautiful or terrifying at times.
    Life is full of beginnings and ends, ends and beginnings, big and small.
    It’s between those parameters of +/-, beginning /end, life/death that we find both living together. In the slash, in the dash, life-death/life+death.


  5. beth62

    December 13, 2018 at 4:25 pm

    Thanks TAO 💜 You throw the best rabbit hole parties 😊

    Liked by 1 person


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