Adoptee loyalty…(from 2016)

22 Mar

The feelings of loyalty that I feel (and expect others feel in varying degrees) can play a significant role in how we talk about our adoption experience, both to our parents throughout our lives, and as adults to others. I’ve wanted to talk on this subject for a while, but worried, I couldn’t tease out a cohesive post explaining why I think it happens. This is my attempt to explain many of the different factors playing into it that I see around me.

When I was young, I often thought of my other mother, I also had the typical childhood fantasies that go along with it. I never shared either with mom or dad. I never brought any of my deeper feelings up. I didn’t talk about the feelings of loss. If I did mention anything at all it came out more of a curiosity than anything deeper. But I had those feelings. The feelings of not being good enough. The feelings of being rejected, and expecting everyone to leave me. Believing there had to be something wrong with me they could see, that I couldn’t to answer why they (she) didn’t fight to the end of the earth to keep me. At the same time, logically I understood why. I never brought any of those feelings up out of feelings of loyalty. My loyalty was to mom and dad and you don’t hurt those you love.

As an adult, I’ve wondered if I’d have been less reserved, less protective of their feelings, if the dynamics within the family had been different (a sibling with mental health challenges). I might have, but I also doubt it, because of my personality, who they were to me, combined with the fact that they couldn’t have children, and the recognition that they didn’t have to adopt any of us. To me, that’s why the public’s continued onslaught of telling people adopted they better be grateful makes an adoptee angry, as if, we are so befuddled, ignorant, less-than, that we don’t have the ability of understanding all that, that we need others to explain it to us.

That adoptee loyalty can extend outside of the personal familial relationships, into how we talk to others about our experience being adopted. When I read comments by some adoptees, I look at the carefully formulated responses about their experience, and, I hear, my own modulated responses within their words. I don’t hear pain or joy, I hear protection for their parents against a world made up of biological family norms. I hear the adoptee protecting their parents because adoptive families are different compared to biological families. Other, different, not quite good enough. Our parents are seen as either suspect or saviors, pitied or held up as saints, never just as parents, and us as families. Adoptees are often seen as troubled, and some are, either from the trauma that they’ve been through, or mental illness, but the broad brush strokes paints all, because we aren’t part of the norm, we are other.

I don’t know how to fix the public perception, what people have done to date hasn’t helped, that much I know, and perhaps, made it worse looking at how the media has covered adoption since I was little. I think they’ve made it worse for the adoptees, they removed the tragedy of losing a family from the narrative and only focused on the outcome, being adopted.  I think that started in the era I was adopted in. Before then, wars and the depression were to vivid in everyone’s mind, to not understand the calamity that befell families, the damage done to more than just the one adopted.  Solutions were found, but they weren’t seen as a win, just a solution.

I don’t have any wise words, I just wanted to talk about how loyalty can also silence us, moderate our voices, stories. There are brave adoptee’s who can open up with their deepest feelings. I’m not one. I wish I was, but then, I wouldn’t be me.

Have a safe week and let me know what you’re up to, what you think.


Posted by on March 22, 2021 in Adoption


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11 responses to “Adoptee loyalty…(from 2016)

  1. Laksh

    March 22, 2021 at 2:45 pm

    Thank you for articulating this. I am noticing this with my children. They don’t have the words often to talk about loss. I recognize now that in addition to being unable to articulate, there also may be a reluctance to do so.


    • TAO

      March 22, 2021 at 3:13 pm

      It’s really hard to not silence yourself.


      • Laksh

        March 22, 2021 at 5:37 pm

        I have been encouraging them to talk, to ask questions and to call me out on things they wish I did. So far, I get blank stares. I am hoping that they get to talk to their mom without me supervising helps.


        • TAO

          March 22, 2021 at 7:21 pm

          When they are ready and they know you are ready too – hopefully they’ll talk, or talk to each other.

          Liked by 2 people

  2. beth62

    March 23, 2021 at 10:44 pm

    Adoption doesn’t really exist on the planet for me and my afamily right now. We’re just trying to keep Dad comfortable. I certainly do seem to be the loyal adopted one tho…
    It won’t be mentioned, at least until later, I expect. I see the elephant, I know the rest do too.
    How ya gonna talk about that at a time like this? 😉


    • TAO

      March 24, 2021 at 2:36 am

      You don’t Beth, you just muddle through this time and try to do what causes the least regrets.


      • beth62

        March 24, 2021 at 3:23 am

        That’s right, and just how it works sometimes.
        I did get to straighten out my oblivious, selfish, jealous, blaming, and competing for the throne brothers tho. After exhausted mom asked me to be the peacemaker, just like old times, that was fun.
        The distant know it all quit because he was loosing, cleared all the checkers off the board and ran away. The baby ran to his mommy to tell on everybody, be right and get spoiled. Me and Mom yanked the baby off her apron strings and kicked him out of the kitchen. Dad said to do what your mother and sister tell you.
        And there are the ancient dynamics of my bunch LOL
        Funny how things change, but maybe not so much at all!
        I enjoyed that clarity very much.
        Meanwhile the queen, her daughter and granddaughter have captured the king, and the kingdom.


        • TAO

          March 24, 2021 at 1:22 pm

          If I know anything about you Beth, you’ll not only survive, but the brothers will understand they need to toe the line whether they want to or not. Had that battle too.


          • beth62

            March 26, 2021 at 2:54 pm

            Oh yes, you do know me, I’ll be fine. I’ve been seeing special to me old men on their way for decades now. I usually handle the crisis just fine, until it’s over, then I collapse for a while. Seeing the long haul with mom in my future may continue the crisis for me, so that could be good LOL My daughter is taking her to the new neighborhood/parkingground she’s in charge of developing, so grandma can pick out her new house site tomorrow. Everybody needs a project to think on 😉 I’m so proud of my daughter, she’s just spectacular in every way. The rent is free on CNA Circle.

            The brothers (aka Stannis and Robert Baratheon) and a couple of their grown kids aren’t allowed on our side of the moat at the moment, per the Queen. Too much drama. So that’s helpful. All hail the Queen!

            I’m still very glad they got to see their Dad, their only Dad, and Dad them. Pretty shocking and sad tho, their behavior. Haven’t heard a word from either since they were escorted across the moat, with all the stuff they were fighting over…


            • TAO

              March 26, 2021 at 5:59 pm

              Just want to give you a big ole hug right now. Also, know you will be fine.


  3. Robyn C

    March 25, 2021 at 2:58 am

    The idea of a child sparing her parents’ feelings is foreign to me. But apparently, it is a real thing that most people do. I’m the odd one (but you shouldn’t be surprised by that). I guess I wish I had the kind of relationship with my parents that would have made me feel loyal to them. I’m trying to make sure my kids don’t feel the need to spare our feelings, at least as far as adoption is concerned. Given the number of times DD has threatened to go back to her birthmom, maybe I’m doing OK there.

    Liked by 1 person


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