Friday, April 17, 2009

"Meant to Be" II

I understand that everyone comes to adoption with a different world view. Some earnestly believe that their adopted child was "meant to be" with them, whether they express it as God's will, karma, purim (the Casting of Fate), the red thread, or destiny. I appreciate the thoughtful comments to the previous "meant to be" post, and parents' careful distinction between "meant to be abandoned" or "meant to lose his/her first family" and "meant to be with us" after the tragedy of being unable to stay with birth family. Not all adoptive parents are that careful -- consider this quote from an adoptive mom: "It is destiny that her parents deserted her so she could meet me," Ms Thornton said." And do you remember when Rosie O'Donald told an interviewer how she explained adoption to her son -- "you grew in the wrong tummy, but God fixed that?" ICK! Obviously, our commenters wouldn't express it that way.

But one of my concerns is that even when we're careful, our children won't get the distinction, especially when they're young. And then when they are old enough for that level of abstract thought, we've already red-threaded them into silence. After all, if it was all "meant to be," doesn't it remove the ability to be sad or angry or confused or ambivalent, to express any less-than-happy emotion? You were meant to be mine, God chose you for our family, there's a special reason you're in our family, your adoption is part of God's plan -- all of these strike me as ways to make adoption inarguably positive -- and when it's inarguably positive, no dissenting views are allowed! A child may internalize that view, and then feel unable to work through the dissonance it causes when they also have feelings of pain and loss. And they may feel they can't talk about that dissonance with their parents, making it even more difficult to work through it.

I think many parents see the "God's plan" theme as comforting, giving children a sense of belonging, of certainty that they are where they belong -- in their forever families. I get that. But I've also heard from many adult adoptees that the God's will/destiny/karma/red thread justification is painful, not comforting (see, for example, here and here ("One doesn't have to say God spent a lot of time getting rid of one set of parents just so another could benefit.")and here ("Saying that adoption is God’s plan is like saying that amputation is God’s plan.")). Of course, not all adoptees are alike, so this reaction is not universal. Sherrie Eldridge, of Twenty Things Adopted Kids Wish Their Adoptive Parents Knew, has a new adoption book (published January 2009) out that is completely God focused: Questions Adoptees Are Asking. The title of the book made it seem right up my alley, but turned out not to be! There's a poem at the front called "The Beautiful Braid of Adoption," that says that God created the beautiful braid called adoption, and then describes the adoptive family as "chosen to nurture that God-given gift passed on from the birth family." That gets another "ick" from me! (And I'm kind of tickled at the idea of APs who've HATED Sherrie Eldridge because they didn't want to acknowledge the pain and loss of adoption suddenly LOVING her because she talks about adoption as God's plan!)

In a comment to a post about adoption as God's plan at Third Mom's blog, I said:
We "credit" God with adoptions in ways we simply wouldn't tolerate in another context. Imagine someone telling a widow, "God [fate, karma, etc.] intended your husband to die and for your children to lose their father so that you could meet this NEW man and marry him, and so he can father these children now." I think the widow and her children would have every reason to punch that someone in the face. But tell an adoptee that, and they're supposed to be overwhelmed by the love of God?! I don't think so.

So to sum up my problems with the karmic argument -- it has great potential to mask the pain and loss of both birth families and adoptees, to silence the expression of that pain and loss, and actually distance children from the God who would allow such pain and loss. I understand those who see God's hand or fate or destiny or karma or purim in all things, who see this as just another why-do-bad-things-happen-to-good-people problem that adopted kids will just have to deal with. I'm not trying to change anyone's mind on the issue. This is just a head's up to enter the issue with eyes wide open.


Mei-Ling said...

"You were meant to be mine, God chose you for our family, there's a special reason you're in our family, your adoption is part of God's plan -- all of these strike me as ways to make adoption inarguably positive -- and when it's inarguably positive, no dissenting views are allowed!"

I get *that* message loud and clear.

Question the AP's "Fate" opinion = question the adoption = question the foundation of family = question those who had your "best interests" at hand.

And people don't like being questioned on their intentions, no matter how good or bad they initially seemed.

Jeff and Madeline said...

It is interesting because I see this same type of discussion--God's will--in the area limb difference (God made you special)--there is a sure way to have someone turn away from God! All of M's healthcare professionals tell parents NEVER to tell a child that and yet, I see parents who see the same doctors as we do proclaiming those very things and "arming" their children with that terminology.
I have seen first hand the result of a lifetime of that type of talk--my cousin was paralyzed at 2, he just died last month at 40 after a lifetime of struggle physically and spiritually. His parents told him God has a special plan for him, what? Pain? Suffering? Discrimination?
I wish parents would stop putting their beliefs in relation to adoption, disability, whatever onto their kids. They do not have to live the life that their children do or come to terms with the same messages/circumstances/pain.

Spring said...

I was slapped in the face by some of this recently when my daughter faced painful surgery. Even little kids won't buy "cause God made you this way" when they're in pain. Humbling.

Lynne said...

ZOE HERSELF said it was "meant to be." SHE put that together HERSELF with no prompting from Malinda. I say let her formulate her own thoughts without our own agenda inserted.

Anyway, it's obvious that it depends on where God is in YOUR life whether or not you feel God's hand is at work in adoption. Even adoptees themselves do not agree on God's role in adoption, as Malinda rightly points out.

Let's listen to Zoe speak. Without judgment.

malinda said...


No worries, I've done nothing to disabuse Zoe of the notion that we are meant to be together.

But aren't parents who tell their kids that God meant them to be together guilty of inserting their own agenda, not letting their kids formulate their own thoughts without their own agenda inserted?

Lyabuki said...

As a Christ-follower and adoptive parent, I would like to add my thoughts on the "meant to be" issue. While I would never say that my daughter's abandonment was meant to be in order for her to join our family, I do believe that God is orchestrating events in our lives for His glory and our best good. Does that mean that God causes pain and suffering? No, but we live in a world that is rife with it. Can God redeem ugly circumstances and turn them into something good? Yes, He can. In fact, I believe He specializes in this.

I think the problems arise when we start to think of "meant to be" in a way that is adopted child centered or adoptive parent centered instead of God-centered. It's not about me forcing my agenda onto my child; it's about both of us learning to discern God's agenda. And I do ultimately believe that God can use even the negative aspects of adoption to shape my daughter's life as He can use the negative aspects in all of our lives.

So, it is possible to see adoption as part of God's plan without minimizing the sad/painful/inarguably negative parts. It doesn't have to be sugar-coated to be part of God's plan.

Mei-Ling said...

"Can God redeem ugly circumstances and turn them into something good? Yes, He can. In fact, I believe He specializes in this."

Perfectly believable and understandable. However, as Wendy also mentioned in the other post - why wouldn't He just prevent the loss happening in the first place?

Why is it in conversations of adoption people only mention Him *after* the separation? Why not before it all happens?

Lyabuki said...

I think God was involved in everything in my daughter's life, not just after I met her.

Unknown said...

Yesterday my 10 year old popped out the same statement - "Ya know Mommy, sometimes I think our family was meant to be. I think all of our family is with who they need to be with."
Thanks to Malinda and those who have tackled this complex issue through their blogs! It helped me a lot when faced with the same sentiment from my daughter.

Lynne said...

I "meant to" blog some more on this, but it seems everyone has made their point! :)