Do a search for adoption in the news (human adoption–NOT pet adoption; Google likes to lump those two together) and you’ll be overwhelmed by the number of adoption “journey” stories told not by adoptees, but by adoptive parents.
Sandra Bullock, these random white parents of a transracial adoptee, and yet another white woman’s story of adopting a Chinese baby do make for compelling blog posts and articles. We’ve got the fuzzy-feels of saving a child, helping a child, and of course, lots of tears.
But that’s not all! Countless books have been written on what it’s like to adopt, from the financial hardships, the invasive home studies, the marriage strain, and the pseudo-enwokening of transracial adoptive parents. Most conclude with a happy tale of a family formed, love gained, and a child destined for greatness.
Why is this a problem?
For adoptees, these parent-centric narratives have several unintended consequences:
- Parents’ voice overrides the child’s before the child can articulate their side
- By the time the child can speak up, the community’s already defined the kid’s life, so any adoptee-generated criticism is automatically discounted
- Weird photos and personal details of a kid’s life are shared without the child’s permission
- The kid will be a CHILD FOREVER, based on their early portrayal
- Traps kid in state of forced gratitude forever
By selling or sharing these stories–undoubtedly coming from a place of parental pride–I wonder if this borders on exploitation.
As a mother, I’m hesitant to share my son’s um, birth journey. I guess the biological kid equivalent would be his story starting from conception to the push out the womb and all the details in between.
First of all, sharing that would be awkward. Second, he’s going to grow up one day and probably direct teenage angst at me for a zillion reasons and my oversharing of his trip from being the sperm that won to a disgruntled teenager doesn’t need to be complicated by my inability to keep my mouth shut.
Why is that any different for adoptees?
Being adopted, I get the process of obtaining me was fraught with complications, paperwork, stress, and probably heartache. Sharing that over several decades ago, however, was limited to conversations over wall-mounted corded phones and maybe a Christmas card. Today, I get that instant Facebook likes and blog post shares offer a validation more addicting than those provided by an adoptive-parent support group.
We get you love your adopted child.
We understand the process was difficult.
And we acknowledge infertility sucks.
But please remember your child will inevitably become an adult. An adult who, upon reflection, will want freedom of expression without being chained to their parents’ pre-existing portrayal and public back-pats.
There’s one other less obvious side effect of these stories and that’s the continuation of adoption as a practice without consideration of an adoptee’s experience. The sunshine-and-roses narrative–while realistic for some adoptive families–means prospective adoptive parents will use these articles as mirrors for their own experiences, leading to potential horror and disillusion when their child grows up and doesn’t fulfill these pre-existing stereotypes.
To borrow a slightly cliched and Biblical saying, pride comes before a fall. In this case, I ask adoptive parents to restrain themselves a bit for their child’s sake, remembering their kid grows up and deserves to tell their adoption story themselves. Adoptees own their adoptions story. You don’t need the validation of thousands of strangers to justify your decision to adopt your child.
2 thoughts on “who owns an adoptee’s story? overshare versus pride in adoption”
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I found this one really interesting for a few reasons. Like you, I’m not a huge fan of rosy adoption stories. I think they perpetuate a happily-ever-after myth. I also think they push the adoption-as-a-cure-for-infertility narrative. Some of us adopt for other reasons, not all of us adopt babies etc etc. However, I would disagree with the overshare. I wish there were more blogs like mine around when we started out. It can be so isolating to feel like the only parent whose child beats you black-and-blue while you’re forced to justify, “yeah I am really glad we got into this” to every non-adoptive family. The bruises on my body are mine. Part of this story is mine. I hope that by sharing all the nitty gritty and not-so-pretty I can help prepare the next parent. Maybe I can show someone else they aren’t alone. Maybe I can convince that foster teen somewhere that, yes, there are families who want to adopt them and hang on for the ride.
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