Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Child? or Adopted Child? Please Check One

There's been a bit of a discussion on an adoptive-parent email list-serv I'm on about adoptive parenting as same-as or different-from parenting unmodified. I thought this New York Times article by Jenni Levy spoke interestingly to this issue:
Is my daughter my child, or my adopted child?

The life insurance form I have to fill out at work wants to know. Choose a beneficiary, and indicate their relationship to you from this drop-down list, it tells me:

Adopted child

I became a mother with two days’ notice. We met our daughter’s birth mother near the very end of her pregnancy, and she chose us to raise her child. We brought our baby home from the hospital, but I didn’t give birth and I wasn’t breastfeeding.

For the first few months, I felt compelled to explain myself to everyone — even to strangers. I felt like an impostor, an interloper into motherhood. I remember thinking that some day it wouldn’t matter any more, that I’d forget I was an adoptive mother and come to be just like everybody else.

It’s been almost nine years now, and I can’t forget that my daughter is adopted. I no longer want to forget, and I know I’m a real mother. I drop my third-grader off at school and go for walks with her and sign off on her homework and cuddle her when she’s hurt and try to answer those penetrating philosophical questions that kids ask only at bedtime. And adoption still matters. It’s not either/or. I am an adoptive mother. I am a real mother. I am not my daughter’s only mother, but I am her mommy, and she is my child. My adopted child.

* * *

Most days I feel good about the way we are together. I have become my child’s mother without denying her heritage, without erasing her origins. So why does this insignificant question on this routine insurance form bother me so much? Why can’t I just check “adopted child” and move on?

I can’t choose one because it’s a false dichotomy. My daughter is adopted, and she is my child. Both of those are true. I don’t want to deny any part of our relationship, even if it is just to answer a bureaucrat’s unthinking question.


Wendy said...

She is both. I can so see where the author of this is going--it is not that she is adopted, it is the negativity our society places on that term. If the world would see the term adopted as we do than it would not glare off the page. If people could understand that adoption is not a matter of possession of an object, not that the child should be removed by one step in varying aspects of our life, etc then it would not say subconsciously "your family 'different'" in a negative way or that somehow being a child of this parent in some way needs to be qualified further.
My child is adopted, I am not her only mother. I am not the only part of who makes her who she is. However, I am her Mom and having to prove how are connection as mother and child is made in this circumstance adds to that layer of pointing out the legitimacy of the adoptive relationship.
If this were a doctor's form then it would not seem as such as obviously our DNA difference is important to know about. I guess it goes back to who is asking and why.
This posting reminded me of the film and the Vero family--how their adopted daughter could not be listed or get benefits from the Daughters the Revolution--you are, but you aren't.

Anonymous said...

I'm with Wendy. If there is a legitimate reason (e.g. medical) for knowing my child was adopted, then I don't have a problem with it. Otherwise, it's a request for information to which they have no legitimate right. I might pursue this with the life insurance company to let them know they are out of line. I have discovered over the years that many businesses/agencies ask for more information than I am willing to give (not just about adoption) and seem startled when I question them about why they need the information. Their usual response is, "No one has ever had a problem giving us this information before." Not a satisfactory answer.