Tuesday, May 11, 2010

I am not a traitor

Why should I feel like a traitor for having the hope that both of my families could one day come together? Why should I feel like a fool for desiring that both sets of parents would have mutual respect and consideration for one another? Why should I feel like I am asking for too much to wish that both sets of parents could acknowledge the crucial role of each part in my existence?

Why should I feel like a terrible person for experiencing hurt and pain that none of the above is happening?

It’s as though my expressions of longing for a day when my American family and my Korean family could sit in a room together are treated as ludicrous, na├»ve, insensitive, and selfish. This harsh treatment of what seems to me a very natural desire pierces me in the deepest places of who I am.

It’s not as though I am not already aware of the obstacles that such a hope will face. It is not as though I am not already drowning daily in the dissenting arguments and disagreements that people so readily pour out.

“Well, your parents come from a generation when people who adopted never expected to have to deal with the biological parents. You need to understand this.” Yes, thank you, I am fully aware of this fact. Remember, I’m the adoptee who has had to live with this truth on a daily basis. Remember, I’m the adoptee who continues to have to manage the consequences of decisions that were made for me, over which I had no control. Oh, don’t worry, I understand this more than you will ever know.

“You can’t expect people to change so readily, especially at such mature ages.” Really? Okay, then, I suppose with that kind of thinking, we should just let racism and bigotry run rampant, and lower our expectations that people need to change even if they don’t want to change.

I know I am ranting a bit here, which is a divergence from my usual tone. But I’m really struggling right now. Quite honestly, I’m tired of people telling me how I should deal with my adoption. I’m so tired of people telling me what I need to understand about adoption. I’m tired of adoptive parents always being the ones who are defended, lauded and justified, while I get pushed around, smothered, and consistently misunderstood.

Listen, it’s not that I don’t absolutely love my parents. I also happen to admire and respect them. I'm not saying that they are not wonderful parents. By ranting here, I'm not discounting all that they have done for me over the years. As far as I am concerned, I adore them and always will.

But why do I feel as though I always have to add a disclaimer to almost everything I say? Why is it that if I have any type of criticism regarding how adoption is viewed and treated, it automatically negates the very clear truth that I have expressed repeatedly—that I love my American family and would never want to be without them. But just because I love them doesn't mean that I am not hurt by the great chasm between my American and Korean parents--all the more so because I love them. Just because they love me does not mean that I am not pained by their passive and silent resistance toward my Korean family--all the more so, because they love me, and my Korean origins are a part of me.

[I do feel compelled to clarify, however, that my American parents are incredibly loving and have been supportive in their own way of my "reunion" with my Korean parents. They even contributed a considerable amount of money toward the cost of the first trip to Korea, and even took me back to visit Korea when I was 10 years old. Their resistance toward my Korean family I believe truly is because they love me and feel so protective of me and of our relationship. I almost feel guilty for posting this entry...and I hope that if any of my family should happen to stumble upon this that it will not be misinterpreted as an attack on their very real love for me. These are simply the realities of post-reunion, but they should not be misconstrued as a reflection of an absence of love...]

Are we as human beings perfect? Do we not make mistakes that result in pain and suffering? Am I permitted to share what I feel only as long as I attach to it warm, fuzzy feelings?

I. Am. So. Tired. So tired of always feeling like I’m the bad guy in all of this. So tired of feeling like I’m the one who did something wrong by wanting to know my origins. I’m tired of feeling like the one who has to defend myself. I’m so tired of feeling like I’ve committed a crime against my American family for wanting them to know my Korean family.

How many times do I have to explain that I did not search for my origins to find a new family? How many times do I have to justify that what I am doing is normal, natural, and NOT wrong. Why is it so unacceptable to want my American parents to meet my Korean parents and vice versa?

Those of us who are married have all kinds of in-laws. Are these in-laws a threat? (Generally-speaking, no.) It’s generally accepted that once we marry, our family expands to include our spouses’ parents, siblings, uncles, aunts, cousins, nieces, nephews, etc. Can we not have a similar view of adoptive and biological families?

Just as can be the case with in-law relations, I am not suggesting that such a transition will always be easy or simple or without complication. I’m not suggesting that it is not potentially emotionally challenging for all parties involved. But I am suggesting that it should be not only acceptable, but also viewed as normal, healthy, and natural.

Why am I treated like a crazy person for hoping that my family could also include, what? Some alien life form or the practice of polygamy? Nope. Just my actual biological parents.

Now, again, I realize that to do so is more complicated than to say so. But the fact that something is complicated does not therefore mean we should not attempt to do it.

So, please, don’t tell me what I need to understand about the complexities of adoptive families in post-reunion. Don't tell me what I should and should not expect. Don’t tell me that I need to be “okay” with the ongoing distance between my two families.

Don’t tell me that I just need to understand it.

I do understand it.

I have to live it.

But that doesn’t mean that I, therefore, am supposed to simply sit down and stick with the status quo. Understanding something doesn’t always mean leaving it be. Understanding often serves to compel us to action, to change, to doing something to improve the situation.

If you want to help, the most and the best you can do is simply to listen, and not try to "fix it" with remarks and statements that serve to do nothing but justify the brokenness of the status quo while diminishing from the very real pain and confusion that I experience.

I do realize, ever so clearly, the realities of my situation. I realize that it is very possible that things with my family may never change. But it won’t be because I didn’t try. It won’t be because I just shrugged my shoulders in resignation to be “okay” with it.

I know that ultimately I can’t force other people to change their minds, and I can’t make their decisions for them, nor do I want to do so. But I can change, even amidst obstinacy. And I can hope, even against all odds. So, don’t tell me what I can and cannot hope for, and what I can and cannot change by changing myself and working for change otherwise.

Cynicism and fear of disappointment won’t help or change a thing.

And I happen to be someone one who still believes in help and in change.

If that makes me crazy and a fool, then so be it.

[click here to read a related poem, Dissident]


Von said...

You don't have to justify what you feel and think to anyone.
Being an adoptee who is aware and wants things to change is exhausting sometimes.The adoption industry is huge and powerful it's tentacles and influence, it's propoganda and brainwashing spread everywhere.It's ahrd to just take on the bit of it that directly affects us.
Of course you have wishes and needs for your families to come together, part of being who you are but it's probably only other adoptees who truly understand that feeling and where it comes from, how deep it is and how it affects you.
You are not a traitor and it's wrong that anyone should give the impression that they think you are.Good wishes.....

Anonymous said...

i think we have lost the art of listening especially to the voices we don't want to hear.....the biggest crimes are against the children who had no choice in being adopted and are now being silenced by those who adopted them........even your ranting is eloquent!!!


Mei Mei Journal said...

This is hard for me to understand...the love both my husband and I have for our adopted daughters makes us in turn love their biological parents, even though we have not (yet?) found them. How could we love these two so much and not by extension feel a sense of love for their bio family? I don't mean in the sense that if it weren't for them giving birth and giving them up their daughters we wouldn't be blessed with them in our family. I mean in the sense that they share the same genetic make up. They are family and we are family so to us it seems natural that we all share a connection. Of course we don't know how the girls' birth families will feel about this if we succeed in out search.
I hope your parents will learn to see this differently.

Soojung Jo said...

Melissa, I feel so much for you right now that I can't express. You have absolutely no reason to ever have to qualify any of your statements, justify any of your emotions, or mince any of your words. You have earned every single bit of feeling that you have. It is valid and real, and I applaud you for trudging through it and continuing to share, even at your own expense. I would stand by you against anyone who dares question one. single. emotion. They haven't earned the right. How dare anyone.

Michael said...

Feelings are neither right or wrong, they just are. And they are yours. They do not have to be explained, but explaining them can help you understand them and work through them. I did not say forget them or ignore them. It is best not to bury them or wall them off. Just my 2 cents.

I have been on the strange end of this type of extended family. My oldest son was adopted as an adult (he asked us to adopt him). His parents and family did not quite understand as he had changed his last name to ours. He is not estranged from them.

Three years ago, we attended his cousin's wedding. She treats as an Uncle and Aunt. We talked with his parents at the wedding (difficult because of a language barrier). I used my limited Spanish. It is hard to explain the feeling of being with his parents and all of us enjoying the moment.

Each of us have a part in the son we share. They raised him until he left for political asylum and we helped him become the man he is. It was the first time we met his father, but not the first time we met his mother. It was also the first time we met his brother and sister and he was not there as we had gone to the wedding alone.

These extended familial relationships are not easy. We are involved in two different extended families as our oldest two adopted us.

It is easier for my daughter to think of me in the Dad role, because her father left her and moved back to another country. However, her mother died from cancer and it is much harder for her to think of my wife in the Mom role. It is also hard for her to explain us to others -- she will say that we are surrogate parents. Yet now that she has married we have in-laws who accept us in the parent role and with the birth of her first child has easily moved to us as grandparents.

Sorry to write so much, but it is all so complicated. Don't let others dictate your feelings. They are yours. This is paradox that you live with as I do with my tri-cultural family (four cultures including mine).


The Byrd's Nest said...

Oh Melissa. As others have voiced....your feelings are YOUR feelings and they are not wrong. When we adopted Emma I was so excited that they gave me her Mother's name and her Grandmother's name. I thought to myself....how wonderful for us to be able to search for them one day.

I send her letters (through Holt) trying to keep her updated with pictures and info on Emma but I have no way of knowing if she gets them. But the one thing I always tell her is that we are one family because without her Emma would not be my daughter so we ARE connected....we are related...in my mind and heart anyway. I don't know how she feels.

I am sorry for all of the heartache you are experiencing. I am praying for you and your entire family. You are not wrong though my friend.

This is nowhere NEAR the same but when my parents divorced when I was 10 years old my mother literally hated my father....and did so until the day he died. For many many years my life was miserable any time I wanted to have both of them to my house for the holidays or birthdays or whatever. I realize this is nothing like your situation but I have a small small sense of what it felt like to be the child of "said parents". My feelings for them never changed and I love them both very much and respect and admire them but I wish they could have seen the harm they did to us when we were just trying to be a family.

Eloise said...

I am a friend of Kim from 3Peanuts and I came to your blog on her recommendation. I'm not adopted nor do I have children who are adopted, but I believe that you are delivering a message that is vital for everyone to read. You have certainly enlightened me a great deal. Thank you for opening your heart to us here.

I truly hope that the reunion you long for between your two families becomes a reality and I look forward to reading about it.

Mila said...

Thank you, everyone, for your support and understanding. I appreciate you.

I added the following "clarification" to the actual post and wanted to include it here in the comments also:

[I do feel compelled to clarify, however, that my American parents are incredibly loving and have been supportive in their own way of my "reunion" with my Korean parents. They even contributed a considerable amount of money toward the cost of the first trip to Korea, and even took me back to visit Korea when I was 10 years old. Their resistance toward my Korean family I believe truly is because they love me and feel so protective of me and of our relationship. I almost feel guilty for posting this entry...and I hope that if any of my family should happen to stumble upon this that it will not be misinterpreted as an attack on their very real love for me. These are simply the realities of post-reunion, but they should not be misconstrued as a reflection of an absence of love...]

Third Mom said...

Melissa, I'd give my eye teeth to sit in a room with my kids' parents. I sincerely hope your adoptive parents come to a different point of view.

You have seen Deann Borshay Liem's "First Person Plural?" I'm guessing yes, but if not, when I watched it, seriously, I got what my kids are experiencing so much more clearly than before. Maybe it would give your folks some new insights.

Many apologies if this is a suggestion you've tried before.

Jenna said...

I understand exactly what you are saying. I have a relationship with some of my birth family (domestic adoption for me), but I cannot share any of that with my family. My own children have learned that when they are around my family, then they cannot talk about any contact or relationship that they have with my birth family. It upsets me greatly, and I feel like a traitor on many occasions.

The Richerts said...

As a mom of an adopted daughter, it is so good to hear what you have to say. We went into the process feeling compelled to help our daughter embrace her birth country and the parents/family that we do not know. She is just a baby, but reading your experience will challenge me and others to continue to support the dreams of our children, even if they are outside our comfort zone.
Thank you for sharing,

Mila said...

Jenna, thanks for stopping by and thank you for you comment. I am sad to acknowledge that you can relate, but at the same time it comforts me to know that I am not alone or crazy for what I feel and experience.

Margie, thank you for your suggestion...They're not exactly open to literature or films or any kind of adoption-related media or insight at this point. I think it hurts them too much...but maybe at some point they'll be more receptive...

And Barbara, thank you for being willing to go outside of your comfort zone. Starting now will enable you to build a strong foundation so crucial to developing an open and secure relationship with your daughter...

Laurie said...

I am an adoptive mother - and I think that there is nothing traitorous about what you want.

Believing in help and change doesn't make you crazy or foolish. It makes you hopeful. Good luck to you - I hope your families come together.