Sunday, October 25, 2009

Destroying the Past

Last year, a post showed up on the APC listserv, posted by an adoptive mother:

An interesting item did come with all her "regular" paperwork, though. It was a letter that her birth father had left for her stating that he was a cold hearted man and she was a costly burden to the family...etc.... When my guide translated it for me, I read it and then promptly shredded it. My guide was shocked. When should I give it to her, I asked, her wedding day???? I felt afraid that if I left that paper around and she was to find it one day, all the positive messages I was giving her would have been diminished in a split second. To me, it doesn't really matter how my 2 girls
got to me. All I care about is that they did. I do speak well of the bio parents of each girl to hopefully keep their self-esteem afloat.

Then recently this blog, written by an adoptive father, surfaced, thanks to a link at O Solo Mama's blog:
we also have the advantage of understanding our host culture’s worldview and their very deep superstitious beliefs. thus, we were not surprised that sterling was given to us with a jade luck charm - a buddhist charm meant to bring good luck, fortune and protection. we, however, know that this charm is associated with spiritual forces meant to keep people in bondage. thus, we smiled and accepted it as we should, and then later went to the park, broke it, and threw it into the pond, and prayed for our sterling that all spiritual bondage over him would be broken.
I'm saddened by both acts of destruction, even if motivated by concern for the child. We have so little information about our children's lives before we met, so few mementos of their lives in their birth countries -- how could one destroy what little exists? These little bits and pieces are likely to be vitally important to our kids as they grow up, and we might well be destroying more than we know.

We might be unwittingly destroying additional information. That note from the birth father might actually be translated in a variety of ways. It might have been incompletely translated, and another translation might reveal more information. That's what happened with Zoe's note -- the translation I was given in China said the note only contained her date of birth. A recent translation revealed that it also included the time of birth, which might not seem much, but every bit of information is valuable to Zoe.

By destroying the note and the orphanage gift of a jade pendant, I believe the adoptive parents are also destroying their children's trust. Imagine what will happen when their children find out that their parents destroyed parts of their pasts. Could you forgive that breach of trust? I'm not sure I could.

Our kids' stories from birth are THEIR stories; we are merely custodians. We have a fiduciary duty -- a solemn duty based on trust -- to preserve those stories. Those bits and pieces might turn out to be valuable puzzle pieces that make clearer the mysterious picture of their pasts. They need these pieces to form and understand their identity.

We may have the discretion to decide when to share the whole story with our children, but not whether to preserve those stories. Keeping or destroying those pieces -- like deciding about eye surgery -- is not our decision, but the decision of our children as they become adults.

7 comments:

osolomama said...

"Our kids' stories from birth are THEIR stories; we are merely custodians. We have a fiduciary duty -- a solemn duty based on trust -- to preserve those stories. Those bits and pieces might turn out to be valuable puzzle pieces that make clearer the mysterious picture of their pasts. They need these pieces to form and understand their identity"

As you can see from the contents of my OP where Andrea linked us to the jade charm blog, some Evangelicals do not believe that the original stories are of any value whatsoever. Far from having a duty to maintain history, these parents believe they have the right to obliterate it.

Wendy said...

So sad. I don't understand this thinking at all, it is not their right--as you pointed out--to decide the value of anything that comes with or was left with the child.

It angers me, saddens me, frustrates, me...I can only imagine how the person violated will feel someday. Truly unjust.

Margie said...

Depressing, because I keep wanting to believe that APs are getting more sensitive to their responsibilities to their children's histories.

travelmom and more said...

Thanks for posting about this, I read the APC comment about the woman destroying her daughters note when it was first on APC, and I was horrified. The woman's own account of what the birth father said indicated that the AP knew nothing about China or how people may communicate remorse or shame. Additionally, as Malinda pointed out, translations can differ greatly so knowing exactly what the note said would be hard with one brief translation. I would give anything to have a note for my daughter or any object that may have come from her birth parents, sadly I have nothing.

anonadoptee said...

Things like this make me so angry. I found out recently that my first father was/is Jewish ands that his mother was a holocaust survivor. This knowledge absolutely rocked my world and I can't imagine how angry I would have been if the reason i hadn't know this was because it was deliberately kept from me.

those parents who destroyed the jade pendant are incredibly ignorant, I had an email correspondence with them which I blogged about here

I do really feel sorry for that child

Anonymous said...

The problem is that the father (jarod?) insists that the pendant was given to the parents and not the child ... somehow I seriously doubt that the SWI was not intending the gift be held for the son ... the guy is an ass.

Mommy My Own Way said...

"There is no one perfect way to be a good mother. Each situation is unique. Each mother has different challenges, different skills and abilities, and certainly different children. The choice is different and unique for each mother and each family." M. Russell Ballard