Friday, November 2, 2012

we aren't perfect: debunking myths

recently, our daughter has begun opening up about her birth mother.*

it has caused me to think a lot about the myths surrounding birth parents and adoptive parents. myths like "your children are so lucky to be adopted" (translation: your children are so lucky to live in america now and not that third world country they were born in) or "you are so inspiring and amazing" (translation: only the most saintly people can adopt) or "wow, those women who give up their children are the most self-sacrificing people ever" (translation: birth parents are perfect) or "ugh, it's so horrible that those women just give up their children" (translation: birth parents are the scum of the earth).

if it weren't a breach of my children's privacy, i wish i could invite people into my home to observe how untrue all of these myths are.

for starters, the lucky children are actually those who have never had a disruption in their family unit.

and me? i'm not a saint. sure, when you first start the adoption process, it feels like you're doing something extraordinarily radical. but then you get your child(ren) home, and you realize you're just like any other parent -- a big, fat sinner, grossly unaware up to that point of how flawed you truly are.

seeing this about myself has caused me considerable struggle recently as kal has begun asking about her birth mother.

birth parent myths are easy to perpetuate, particularly in international adoption situations where there are often few details (and even when there are details, nothing is ever guaranteed to be 100% accurate). this is why we take good care to protect our children's stories, as the tendency of most people is to add or infer information that's not really there.

it's not so much that i feel threatened by the existence of this other woman, as if my daughter hates me. in fact, i rejoice that this woman is now becoming part of our daily conversations. but when i think of her, all i hear is the resounding throng of voices championing the sacrifice of birth parents. and, in my mind, i think she must have been perfect.

i think she must have never yelled. or lost her temper. or been impatient.

i think she must have always played with kal and never needed a break. and always took every opportunity to cuddle and kiss. and always encouaged rather than criticized. and always found every, single thing kal did to be amazing (and never annoying).

i know these things aren't true, because as jamie put it to me, "she's still a sinner too."

but still, these myths can creep into the soul and fester there. some cause insecurity and sadness, others cause pride and flattery. so while it's not bad to honor birth parents because many of them have made enormous sacrifices, or to honor adoptive parents (they make sacrifices too), or to admit that some birth parents suck and are guilty of abuse, neglect, etc...we all should use caution when we speak, guarding our words and weighing the implications of them.

thankfully, i'm an adult who can see how these myths play out in my own family. unfortunately, my children don't have that perception yet, and they are particularly vulnerable to believing things about themselves and their unique situations that aren't true.

*as an aside, we do not make it a practice to discuss the intimate details of our children's lives pre-adoption. however, i do feel at ease making this statement because there is no hiding that all adopted children had birth parents regardless of how/why/when they ultimately came to be adopted.

1 comment:

  1. AMEN! My kiddos have not talked about birth family and maybe never will since they were removed from them at such a young age, but this was a good post! Very well said. - Amanda McAlpine