A phenomenon I have noticed among adoptive parents is a tendency—despite exposure to the realities and truths about the adoption experience—to choose to believe that their adopted child will be the exception, the one child that will never face such realities and truths.
Parents may have read the book, “Twenty Things Adopted Kids Wish Their Parents Knew” or may have participated in seminars and groups that educate adoptive parents about the issues of loss and grief inherent to the adoption experience. Yet, these parents seem to reject this education and choose rather to assume that their adopted child will grow up issue-free. It’s as though they choose to believe, “My child will be different. My child’s experience won’t be like other adoptees.”
Well, my initial answer is ultimately that I cannot speak with certainty, simply because I imagine the reasons vary just as much as people’s personalities vary.
But one postulation is simply that these parents believe that the love they give to the adoptee is so special and so complete that it will inoculate the adoptee against the harder realities of adoption. Despite the voices of adult adoptees and all the literature and research that support our voices, many parents still choose to ignore what these resources offer.
Parents want to believe that they will be so sufficient and effective as parents that the adoptees will not be affected by the loss they have experienced.
Wow, not only is that a lot of pressure to put on oneself as a parent, but that’s a lot of pressure to put on a child.
It’s a common albeit unfortunate assumption to make. It’s not any different from a parent who has biological children making the well-intentioned although wrong assumption that their love and parenting will prevent their children from ever experiencing disappointment, failure, hurt, etc. in life. Most parents understand that the task of parenting is not to shelter their children from the unfairness and injustices of life, but rather to equip them with the tools to face them.
The task is similar when dealing with adopted children, except that they come to the parents with a loss that has already taken place unlike children who remain with their biological parents. Such an awareness of this loss need not cause panic nor should it be handled by choosing to ignore or deny it.
It is not that love is not needed, and it’s not that your love as a parent is not sufficient as far as love is concerned. It’s simply that it is more accurate to realize that love does not abolish the adopted person’s pain and loss.
When the adoptee bursts into a fit of rage or falls to the ground in tears, it’s nothing personal toward the parent. It does not mean that your love or your parenting has failed or somehow shown inadequate. Rather it means that the adoptee needs your love as a parent to be strong and secure enough to allow the adoptee to feel the rage and sob the tears without you putting pressure on yourself as a parent or on the adoptee as your child.
In short, a parent who loves does not prevent, eradicate, or deny such suffering or emotion. Rather a parent who loves must acknowledge, be patient with, and comfort such suffering and emotion, without fear or judgment, but with understanding and acceptance.