When adoption removes the person from their story

Over the years I’ve seen many adoptive parents talking about ignorant strangers, friends, family who ask questions about the adoption, the child’s story.  They believe it is the adopted one’s story to share, or not.  They discuss any challenges the child has or parenting in general terms, and do not name their child or themselves.

There are also adoptive parents that can’t stop talking, or writing in minute detail about both their child’s pre and post adoption story, some have even gone as far as publishing the story, or book that identifies everyone, including the one adopted who is still a minor.  A minor who will have that story follow them for life.

All of the above is to say that there is a specific divide in adoption and adoptive parenting.  It’s not new, unusual, or even worth talking about, except that yet again, another story is making the rounds.  This story started as a picture of a black boy who offered a white police officer a hug.  It should have been left at that, a nice, feel good story.  Instead, it turns out that the boy is a transracial adoptee.  Even at that point it could have been just an interesting tidbit to a feel good story.  Instead, cue the predicted response.  It’s made news media, blogs, twitter, you name it, it’s there.  His story, the one crafted and woven with absolutely nothing redeeming, or anyone worth a damn in his pre-adoption story and everything is peachy-keen in his new adopted life.  Perhaps in his story before adoption there isn’t a single good person, or story, but someone told his story, or allowed his story told while he is still a minor.

Including his pre-adoption story and the challenges he had when he was adopted, turned it into the adoption savior story.  Good white folks adopt a black boy, raise him right despite all the challenges he brought with him.

See what a difference adoption has done!

The adopted one is being used.  His story, his very private story is told.  Tossed around as fodder to make adoptive parents and adoption the true hero’s in the story, a ‘but for adoption’ story.  They have done that without stopping to ask if the child at the center of it all, is just a very empathetic and sensitive little boy at heart.  A boy who would have done that, or would have wanted too, regardless of what color his parents were, whether he was raised by his family of birth, or an adoptive family.  That narrative would be about who he is as a person, and that does not seem to work once adoption is mentioned.  His story about who he is as a person is gone.

In adoption and the stories that are woven, the child, without adoption was destined to be worthless.  A failure.  He would never do anything but for being adopted.  Adoption saved him.

That isn’t how adoption works.

There is no magic wand that changes us from abject failures we were ‘born to be’ into amazing ‘bound to be successful’ people.  There just isn’t.  Of course, we benefit from having good parents, having opportunities open to us, being loved, accepted, part of a functional strong family.  No one is denying that.

Everyone benefits from having a good family, adopted and non-adopted.

It seems though, when adoption is part of the story, the person who the story is about fades from focal point of the story.  Depending on the spin, they can disappear completely.  The focus shifts solely to adoption, being adopted and those who raised them.  Not just a nod, or recognition gladly given, the credit for any action taken, or success.

Please don’t discredit what is in our hearts to begin with, our personalities, inherent traits and skills, the trauma we have experienced in addition to love, our feelings, desires, will, intelligence.  We are the sum total of who we were born to be, our lived experiences, our successes and failures, and how we were raised.  Singling out adoption and adoptive parents as what caused us to succeed, reduces and diminishes us to mere foot notes in our own story.  It means nothing we do, or have done, is worthy of recognition of our own hard work, our minds, our will, and natural talent, when you are adopted, all the credit is given solely to us being adopted, and our adoptive parents.

Final note: I received the exact same foundation, love, attention, opportunities, focus, that my siblings did.  We were all adopted in infancy, never moved, attended the same schools – we couldn’t be more different from each other in what we have achieved, done, are.  You may be tempted to believe we weren’t raised by the same parents.  If you are ever tempted to use ‘but for adoption’ for anything, or everything an adoptee achieves, and blaming what happened before adoption when an adoptee doesn’t live up to your pre-defined expectations of what adoption does for the adoptee…please refrain…


5 thoughts on “When adoption removes the person from their story

  1. Thank you for sharing your new home, Tao. I hope this remains a place of serene harmony for you.

    I knew of this young man but was not aware that he was adopted. In the wake of your post, I poked around and only saw his early story described once but it was uniformly awful, and something you can barely call a story, i.e., when it’s so bad the child is presented as never having had a chance and arrives in the adoption situation with less than nothing. I noticed in one of the postings that one reader attributed the young man’s success to his two mothers but also to his “core”. Thought that was a very perceptive remark.

    However, I have to say this is typical in many adoptions. Many are framed in the “baby-patch” way. The babies just appear. The first family recedes into nothingness. Let’s hope his parents continue to see all the strength and kindness in him that they see today and that they are open to him reconnecting one day if he wants to. (Also, another perceptive reader said that the whole “huggy” thing was kind of weird and the poor kid needed some black role models to teach him realistic boundaries with law enforcement. ITA.)


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