Just writing the word Grateful sets my teeth on edge; it’s one of the few words that trigger an emotion that raises my blood pressure which isn’t good. That and the term Lucky, although I don’t have the same visceral reaction to Lucky that I do with the term Grateful, (or any iteration of Grateful).
Upfront – I’m sure there are many adoptees who do not despise the term Grateful or Gratefulness. They are welcome to it, lock, stock and barrel. It’s theirs for the taking and using as they please. And for people who don’t understand my visceral response to the term Grateful, Lucky, or even Saved, it’s hard to explain, but below I’m giving it a go.
Every adoption starts with loss for the one adopted. We lost our mother, many of us at birth, which means we lost not just our mother but every single member of the family we were born into, including our ancestors. We were adopted into a family, some got good folks to call their own like I did, others didn’t fare as well, to put it nicely. The one thing we all had in common, we weren’t born into that family, we were adopted into it. That made us different, a curiosity if you will, and cue the other people in our world seeing us as Other. Other in a way where they felt the need to school us, and also make us feel less than, plus making damn sure we knew we didn’t deserve the family that took us in so we must, or better be Grateful. ‘Aren’t you Lucky’ is just the jumping off point of what other people say, or have said in our presence, Lucky, Saved, Blessed, to name a few. As an adult, I could have responded pushing back, explaining the magnitude of loss that goes hand in hand with loosing your entire family at birth, and then, being expected to be grateful for it, or lucky that it happened, and how thankful I must be to be to not be raised in the family I was born into, despite your family by birth being middle class folks just like your adopted folks. As a child, you can’t push back on your elders, you just have to take it and make the best of it, every. single. time. it. happens. and it happens more often than you’d expect, it still happens now where I’m approaching my senior years. The need from others for the one adopted to sing the praises of being adopted is ever present, ever there. It shouldn’t be, but is, and always will be, simply because we are adopted, other.
People who read my blog from time to time may remember me talking about my grandpa referring to us in a letter to his cousin as Mom and Dad’s borrowed children, how I hoped mom and dad didn’t know he’d said that. Now that I’ve sat with the borrowed children phrase for a while, I’ve come to realize I like the term borrowed rather than adopted but I can’t explain it well yet, but today I brought it up because it also lifts that curse of being treated as an adopted person who should be damn well grateful someone saved them and you owe them rhetoric that is pervasive, not just within the adoption community but in society as well.
So the term Borrowed Children that Grampa used all those years ago works for me…it also doesn’t sever my link to my original family…
One of my friends who visits this blog did a post titled “Luck, Gratitude, and Adoption” go read it, it’s really good.
Be Safe. Be Kind.