Thursday, April 16, 2009

"Meant to be"

Maya went to Chick-fil-a with a ballet friend after their class yesterday, and then Zoe and I went there after Zoe's class ended. Maya became jealous that Zoe played with HER friend, and wouldn't play with Maya. As we were driving home, Maya said she wished she were in a different family -- her preschool friend, G's family.

Zoe tried to talk her out of the wish --

--that other mom might not buy her nice things. Maya says, "I don't care."

--that other mom might have different rules. Maya says, "I don't care."

--that other family might not have as nice a Mimi and Grandpa. Maya says, "I don't care."

--that other family will have other cousins, and they may play XBox all the time and not let the girls play it like cousin Patrick does. Maya says, "I don't care. And cousin William doesn't let us play XBox when he's playing."

So Zoe changed tactics, and said, "Well, that's not how adoption works. Mama promised to love you and take care of you forever. Adoption is PERMANENT, so you can't be in another family."

Maya says, "I don't care."

With increasing frustration that her persuasive powers weren't making a dent, Zoe declares plaintively, "But, Maya, we were MEANT to be together!"

Now, I've never used the "meant to be together" theme with my kids. I don't like it because it suggests that their abandonment was inevitable, ordained, predestined; that the pain and loss of their birth families was part of a karmic plan to make me a mother; that being institutionalized with the inevitable poor care that that brings was a necessary step in God's ultimate plan for them. I don't want my girls to think that their grief and loss matter not, because we were, after all, "meant to be together," and that seems to be the subtext to that theme. So I was surprised to hear Zoe make that argument to her sister.

I asked Zoe, "Why do you think we were meant to be together?" Zoe's very pragmatic answer, "Because we're smart, so they matched us all together!"

Ah, now that sounds familiar. I don't say "meant to be" in any karmic way, but I have talked about the CCAA matching process, and there are pictures of the CCAA matching room in Zoe's lifebook. I've said I don't know exactly how they matched us, but I thought they did a pretty good job. I've told them that the folks in China saw that I was a professor, and figured education was important to me, so they matched me with the two smartest girls in China. And I've said that in her referral picture, Zoe had a very round face, reddish hair and a double chin -- and so did I in my dossier pictures, so that must be why they matched us!

And that translated for Zoe into "we were meant to be together." It's a powerful and pervasive concept in adoption-speak, so I'm sure she must have heard it phrased that way at some point, and/or read books that phrase it that way. Looks like I need to do some de-programming on this point.

The argument didn't, however, sway Maya -- she says, "I don't care." She still wants to be in G's family, where there's no turn-coat sister who'll play with Maya's friend instead of Maya!

21 comments:

Mei-Ling said...

People like finding anything that justified the line "meant to be" in their heads.

In fact, they strive to do just that. It's why the Fate argument gets so heated.

Lynne said...

Do you not think that the creation of your family is God's plan for some "reason"?

No, it's not in anyone's plan to be abandoned, left alone - and there's free will, etc.

But, do you not think that God had a hand in allowing you the privilege to be the mother to these beautiful girls? I do.

Meadow said...

I Do not believe that my daughter was Meant to be abandoned by her family in order to be my daughter.... that thought makes me so uncomfortable. But I do believe that God, the Universe or whoever, has a hand in bringing people together after a tragedy? I don't believe that God causes bad things to happen, but that maybe fate or some such thing brought us together after the fact? It's hard to understand it, and maybe it IS total coincedence, but it FEELS like that. Having said that I do genuinely believe it would have been better for R to have grown up in her original family (but obviously don't know that for sure)

Wendy said...

I absolutely do NOT believe any divine intervention brought my daughter and I together. We were not "meant to be together", she was on a list and just as in all other attractions there was more than one thing about her that made me look deeper.

Mei-Ling said...

Lynne: I'm trying hard not to direct this comment in an offensive manner, so I do apologize if it is taken personally.

"But, do you not think that God had a hand in allowing you the privilege to be the mother to these beautiful girls?"

I find it rather astounding that people suggest everything in adoption happens for a reason. If it was already a plan, then where is the free will? If it was already pre-destined, then there is no such thing as choice - or we are deluded into believing there *was* a choice - so that the situation became what it was "meant to be."

I'm harboring a guess that you just don't see it that way - that things happen for a reason.

What I do not understand is why religion has to be so frequently mentioned in adoption. Not what you personally believe in - but why religion seems to be THE reason for adoption.

Could you perhaps explain that for me?

Wendy said...

Mei-Ling, I think we will never see adoption reform until religion is removed from adoption--my hope.

The thing is this, you cannot make the argument that a supernatural being stepped in to bring people together AFTER an incident so it is okay, where was that supernatural being before? Why did it not prevent the tragic loss of first parents?

Mei-Ling said...

Wendy: This is the answer I've received a few times on various forums:

"The thing is this, you cannot make the argument that a supernatural being stepped in to bring people together AFTER an incident so it is okay, where was that supernatural being before? Why did it not prevent the tragic loss of first parents?"

So that I could go through a life-changing experience and teach others.

Yes, that's it exactly! I was MEANT TO LOSE my first parents so I could teach others the pain of separation!! /sarcasm

Anne said...

I think one of the issues here is whether you see yourself as a "religious" (for lack of a better word) person or not. People who choose to believe in God tend to believe that God works in people's lives and that God has a plan for us. Quite simply, those who are not religious tend to believe the opposite. I don't think these two types of views can be reconciled. It has been my experience that just because someone chooses to believe that God had a hand in the creation of their family or in allowing them to be a parent does not mean that they are a red-thread fetishist incapable of understanding and addressing the complexity of adoption issues.

And then there are some of us who are a little bit of each. I consider myself a spiritual person. I acutally have a master's degree from a seminary and once considered ordained ministry. I think God is present in adoption. I think God's heart breaks and grieves for the pain and loss of the biological family. I also think that God is present in the fact that adoptive parents are able to love, bond and attach to their adopted child and vice versa. Does that make everything that happened okay? No. Big time no. But that's life. And even though life can really suck, it can still be pretty amazing and wonderful. Okay, done with the sermon.

Malinda: just one more thought on Zoe and the "meant to be". I find it interesting that Zoe herself chose this phrase. It's really got me thinking that there must be something very powerful about this concept that the mind/psyche chooses to process information about adoption in this manner despite being given other information to the contrary.

Wendy said...

Thank you Anne for your perspective. I cannot agree with a supernatural power picking and choosing when to intervene, if so I would never want a part of the type of believe system.

Malinda, I was wondering Zoe might have heard this terminology at school (religious, am I correct?). It could have been applied in another way or directly in relation to adoption.

Mei-Ling said...

"People who choose to believe in God tend to believe that God works in people's lives and that God has a plan for us."

What if you believe in God but don't think He has anything to do with adoption?

anne said...

Then you'd just be a person who believes in God but doesn't think God has anything to do with adoption.

malinda said...

Anne,

I agree that it's about world view -- I tried to convey that in my SECOND "meant to be" post, but didn't say it as well as you! But I do think that regardless of the parents' belief system, they do have to think through the implications when they share that world view with their children.

And not all religious or spiritual people think alike any more than nonreligious/nonspiritual people think alike, I absolutely agree.

But do you agree that some (maybe even most) religious people use their religious beliefs about adoption to justify ignoring the hard parts of adoption? When I did a google search to find adoptee blogs talking about this subject -- using search terms like adoption & God's will or destiny or fate or "meant to be" -- all I found were TONS of adoptive parent blogs doing the happy-happy-joy-joy thing, without any apparent recognition of the gray areas in adoption.

Wendy said...

That should be belief system--sorry, long day.

Anonymous said...

Hmmmm... I think the reason that my daughters and I were matched was because of our birthdates (daughter #1 and I are both born on the 12th, but different months, daughter #2 and I were both born in Feb.) Don't think God had anything to do with that, but I DO think God (the universe, whatever) had something to do with the fact that I was able to adopt my second daughter. I am a semi-spiritual person who thinks that God sort of intervenes here and there, especially if guidance is sought, but doesn't plan out everything in our lives.
Sue (aka anonymous)

Anne said...

Malinda,

As you yourself pointed out to me, people who blog are a skewed portion of the population; therefore, I’m not sure Google should be the ultimate litmus test of viewpoints. I do agree that there are people who believe that adoption into their family was God’s plan for their child, end of discussion. It is difficult, if not impossible, to have a dialogue with a person who thinks this way. I don’t think people adopt this mode of thinking so that they don’t have to do the “hard parts of adoption”. I think it’s more that if you choose to believe that adoption is God’s plan, then the rest is moot. My personal opinion is that people with this belief system are just delaying the inevitable for their children in terms of working through the issues of adoption. I also believe there are other people who although they may have initially thought this way, are willing to listen and do come to educate themselves as to the ramifications of this type of thinking on their child. I just think it’s possible to believe that God is present in adoption without also believing that God functions as a cosmic baby-broker for affluent, white North Americans and Europeans.

Not to beat a dead horse, but I’ve been continuing to think about the fact that Zoe herself used the phrase “meant to be” despite all of the information she has about adoption. Has it ever occurred to you that despite your best efforts that Zoe herself will come to believe all the things about adoption that you don’t agree with (or even worse in Malinda world, end up a republican?) For example, what if Zoe herself ultimately decides that adoption was God’s original plan for her? I don’t see this as a realistic scenario for Zoe, but it begs the question of allowing our children the freedom to think for themselves versus adopting our worldview, even if we think our worldview is more appropriate, emotionally healthy, better (insert phrase of choice here). Even though we think we’re giving them the best tools to process their adoption, we’re still sending a clear, unspoken message letting them know that we think this is the way to do it. This isn’t a criticism, just a thought. It’s an incredibly hard task to remain emotionally neutral and get yourself out of the way so that your child can figure things out for themselves. I think you did a really good job in asking Zoe what she meant when she used the phrase “meant to be” and in just letting her be an eight-year old processing through information at her own pace.

Mei-Ling said...

"It is difficult, if not impossible, to have a dialogue with a person who thinks this way."

That is EXACTLY why some adoptees do not like to discuss adoption with their parents - the "God's Plan" idea has a way of effectively shutting up anyone who opposes it.

"I don’t think people adopt this mode of thinking so that they don’t have to do the “hard parts of adoption."

But some people do use it to justify - which is sort of like the same thing. If they use it, then they don't have to think about the consequences of adoption in general.

"I think it’s more that if you choose to believe that adoption is God’s plan, then the rest is moot."

Which... essentially does not allow room for a refute.

Mei-Ling said...

ETA: Ack, meant to add that I used to believe God intended for me to be with the family I had ended up with. For almost all of my life, that is what I believed in, and if you had asked me just 3 years ago, I would have told you that my biological family was "just DNA" and that my ONLY real family was my adoptive family.

But after spending 2 years on the blogosphere, thinking, listening, discussing, and processing, I'm now at the other side of the Fate argument spectrum.

So it is possible... with some people. I've been able to make other parents think when they see the way I've presented my argument about the God issue. Some of them don't agree with me - that's life! But I do make them think, and that's just as rewarding rather than making people shut down because they don't want to hear what I have to say.

malinda said...

Anne asks: Has it ever occurred to you that despite your best efforts that Zoe herself will come to believe all the things about adoption that you don’t agree with (or even worse in Malinda world, end up a republican?) For example, what if Zoe herself ultimately decides that adoption was God’s original plan for her?

LOL! I've always remembered a cartoon I saw in my cousin's MADD magazine years (and years and years!) ago -- there are these conservative/Republican-looking parents, with these hippie kids, and then when the hippie kids grow up, they have these conservative/Republican-looking kids! Isn't that just how it's supposed to be?!

Despite my joke about "de-programming" to do on the "meant to be" point, I have to say that I'm OK with however Zoe and Maya choose to view their adoptions. THEY are the ones who have to live with it, all I can do is give them tools. If those tools lead them to different conclusions, or if they choose other tools altogether, then that's how it's "meant to be!"

You're undoubtedly right when you say, "Even though we think we’re giving them the best tools to process their adoption, we’re still sending a clear, unspoken message letting them know that we think this is the way to do it."

But that's equally right about all values we try to teach our kids. Parenting can't be value-neutral on any topic, including adoption. Yes, we need to be "emotionally neutral," as you phrase it, which I take to mean being accepting of any emotions our kids express about adoption -- but value neutral it cannot be. I'm not even sure it should be.

We're entitled to let our kids know what we think about adoption -- we just have to make sure we let them know that other people think differently, that they are free to disagree, to think differently themselves, that they can think one way today and another way next week, and that we will always accept all of their thoughts and feelings, whether we agree with them or not.

Mei-Ling said...

"We're entitled to let our kids know what we think about adoption"

But then, aren't we - as children - not supposed to argue with our parents?

Esp. about things that we had no control over and that they ended up in the "well they worked out anyway" category?

The problem I find with questioning adoption is that you end up questioning religion instead, and then you end up either directly confronting or directly insulting someone's personal beliefs re: adoption because they've put their mindset into believing that religion is the cause of adoption.

It's like a thread - question adoption = question religion = question foundation of family = question someone's personal viewpoint.

There is just no way out of it. :\

malinda said...

Mei-Ling wrote: "But then, aren't we - as children - not supposed to argue with our parents?"

LOL!!! I don't think my kids got the memo!

Truthfully, I don't want my kids to accept as gospel (pun intended) whatever I say about adoption. About the fact that it's bedtime? That we have to finish homework before we can play? Yes, I want no arguments there. . . . but what isn't always HAVE!

Ideally, parents share values by what they say and what they do, and one of those values is openness to other viewpoints, openness to what your children are saying and thinking and feeling.

I know the ideal is often unrealized, but I'd hope that the overall message of this blog is that with adoption, even if with nothing else, parents MUST be open and accepting.

Mei-Ling said...

Come on, Malinda, you knew what I meant. *slightly exasperation*