Thursday, September 10, 2009


One of my least favorite aspects of blogging is getting letters from hit-and-run commenters who think it is their God-given right to pontificate on a pet issue, no matter how tangentially related to the post at hand, and take it very personally if you disagree, or consider it proof of their "rightness" if you refuse to engage them in further discussion. While dialogue is always good, I've learned the hard way that there are some people who will never consider any other viewpoint but their own, rendering further discussion pointless.

Memo to my most recent ranters at EMN: The fact that other people don't see the world exactly as you do does not necessarily mean that we are (a) cerebrally challenged, (b) willfully ignorant or (c) morally depraved (e.g. "unChristian"). Sometimes, it's simply a matter of the available facts going through a different filter, based on a unique set of experiences that gives each of us a certain point of view.

I understand -- truly I do -- why people like me, who advocate strongly for adoptive parents and their best interests, might be easy targets. You see us as part of the problem, because we insist that ALL THREE SIDES of the issue must be held in balance. You feel cheated by the fact that you perceive the legal system favors the adoptive bond -- the adopted child's legal parents.

What I don't understand -- will never understand -- is how little regard you sometimes show for adoptive parents and birth parents alike, or how quick you are to judge our motives and criticize our choices.

You call us "infertiles" (hoping to pick a fight, I guess) or simply "selfish people," because we consider ourselves our child's real family after spending 18-22 years of our lives raising him or her. You minimize and even mock the sacrifice, the struggle, and the fears -- and have not a single ounce of the compassion for those who feel genuine pain over their grown child's choice to "find himself" in another family. And then you wonder why we tune you out, like a mother who ignores a toddler throwing a temper tantrum.

In your single-minded quest for what you "lost," you completely disregard what you were spared -- the neglect, the abuse, the untimely death. Now that the danger is past, that's easily done. But we remember where you came from. It's part of your story . . . and in a real sense, part of ours as well. Because we are your parents, who labored for you in ways you can never begin to understand.

So you'll have to make allowances if at times we seem to have more concern for your first parents than you think is right, or if we have little patience for your whining about what cannot be undone. You'll have to realize that yes, we are GLAD, things turned out as they did . . . because we love you and cannot imagine what our lives would have been like had you never been a part of them.

It's not so hard for us to imagine why someone brave enough to choose adoption would object to an untimely reminder of their past (even if they are happy to hear the child himself is well) after having kept it a secret for decades, often due to the circumstances that led to the adoption in the first place. We respect that original sacrifice, and agree that parent should have the option to be left alone, and not have to explain themselves or their decisions to individuals decades removed from the situation. It was hard enough the first time. (If the first parents want contact, that's a different matter. No less painful, but different.)

Yes, some first parents are happy to learn -- years later -- that their child is alive and well. (And yes, the increase in open adoption may very well render the very concept of "closed records" obsolete. Time will tell what this will do for the children caught in the middle.) But others are not, and should not be forced into it. Let's create and improve the national registry, and promote it well. Let's make sure the adopted children have access to medical information. Above all, let's find ways to help the current generation of adopted children, so they don't waste so much time in the emotional limbo of wanting something they cannot have.

Sooner or later, most children grow up and realize that their parents didn't set out to mess up their kids. They made the best possible choices for us that they could, based on the information they had at the time. They couldn't see all the ramifications of those choices, or anticipate how we would interpret those choices twenty or thirty years hence. They probably realized their kids wouldn't always agree with the choices they made for us; that, too is part of parenthood. The best they could hope for is to teach us the skills we needed to recover from our disappointment . . . and stand strong as we made our own way in the world.

This is as true for "home grown" children as it is for adopted ones. Both varieties may have "roots" that have been damaged through our parents choices, and may require some TLC or even professional intervention. Or they may not. I've encountered both kinds of adult adoptees -- and adult "biologicals." The connections between parent and child -- any parent and child -- are individual, personal, and permanent.

Again, I'm not looking for a discussion here. Frankly, I've heard enough. I just want you to know there IS another side.