I must admit, I cringe just a little bit every time I hear an adoptive parent say they plan to follow their child’s lead when it comes to addressing the different aspects in adoption. Whether it’s talking about their child’s first family, integrating their child’s ethnic culture, addressing the subject of race and race consciousness, identity, loss, grief, feelings of rejection, fear of abandonment or resistance to trust, I can’t help but think what a tremendous burden it possibly might be on the child to have to be responsible to initiate and direct these kinds of conversations with their parents . . . the people a child looks up to, the authority figures and the ones who I believe should be behind the wheel.
* * *
Imagine being a child of 5, 8 or 12 years old and never having your parents approach the topic of your adoption other than saying things like “Be proud of the fact that you’re adopted”, “Being adopted makes you special” or “Other kids sure must be jealous of how lucky you are” without so much as an opening or opportunity to talk about the more complex and often times confusing aspects that accompany one’s status as an adoptee. Imagine how nervous, anxious and even frightened a child might be to ask their adoptive parents about his/her desire to know more about his/her first family, when it’s never been genuinely brought forth as a legitimate topic of discussion before. I personally believe that there are already so many responsibilities that many adoptees automatically take on and internalize when it comes to their relationship with their adoptive parents, that to ask an adopted child to be the facilitator of his/her own family adoption-related discussions is just too much of an unfair and unnecessary onus to place upon any adoptee.
Just today my son and I talked about his Korean family. I strive to find that balance in giving him the security of knowing that he is our son and that my husband nd I are the mom and dad who are raising him while still honoring his beginnings including acknowledging the parents of whom he was born; the family who will always be a part of his identity and a part of who he is at his core. We don’t talk about adoption everyday, but we have authentic and unprompted conversations several times a week - it’s just something I feel very passionately about discussing frequently and openly in our everyday lives. Some days he says very little and shows hardly any interest and sometimes he has a host of questions about his Korean family, foster family or the differences in appearances between him and many of his peers. But I make it a point to provide numerous opportunities to talk about the myriad of different aspects pertinent to his adoption and allow him to share as little or as much as he chooses. And that is where I follow his lead.
Thursday, March 5, 2009
Talking adoption -- lead or follow?
A recent post at Anti-Racist Parent is relevant to a discussion in the comments of my post on talking adoption tips. I agree with what both Mei-Ling and Lisa have said in the comments, especially the need for striking a balance between initiating adoption talk and not pushing issues the child isn't ready to hear. I thought I'd share another perspective on striking the right balance -- it's from Paula, adoptee and adoptive mom, who also blogs at Heart, Mind and Seoul: