Thursday, April 7, 2011

Deflection: A choice weapon of defense among Adoptive Parents

[I accidentally published this post prematurely--for those of you who might have noticed--but anyway, here's the finished post]

It is a pretty classic response these days for some adoptive parents to say that it's not "healthy" to listen to certain types of adoptees.

They also like to deflect and turn it around on the adoptee--that's the weapon of choice to silence us and "put you in your place." They might say something like, Puh, yeah, ok, Mrs. Adoptee, would you read a blog by an adoptive parent that went off on how adoptees are ungrateful little witches that need to shut their pieholes and get over it?

Uh, first of all, I don't need to read a blog to expose myself to such sentiments and perspective--I hear it all the time, unsolicited and unfiltered. Second of all, as a result of blogging, I get emails and comments that basically communicate the same. Thirdly, that has been the predominate and accepted attitude and response toward adoptees like myself since the inception of modern international adoption--unlike the predominate and accepted attitude and response toward adoptive parents of utter worship and adulation. OK, maybe not worship, but you get my drift.

But most importantly, such deflection ignores the real issue: a lot of adoptive parents still don't get it, and they'll employ a host of defense mechanisms to make sure that they can maintain the illusion that they get it when in reality they don't.

Turning it back on adoptees or making rationalizations like the one above demonstrates an unwillingness to acknowledge the imbalance of power, the continued sense of privilege that adoptive parents ultimately are the heroes and should not have to deal with the "negativity" of adoptees, and the responsibility that adoptive parents have to seek out the whole truth of the adoptee experience regardless of how painful or difficult it may be.

Look, I know being an adoptive parent comes with a lot of pressure and expectation, but no more so than what an adopted person faces, while the adopted person must also overcome the expectation, almost a culture, of suppression that surrounds the adoptee.

I'm not out to attack adoptive parents. But I'm also not here to ignore what I see and experience, and I'm certainly not here to make excuses for adoptive parents or for myself.

So, deal with it. I have to deal with adoptive parents on a daily basis, and I have to deal with being an adoptee in the larger society.

I'm just about fed up with all the fuss and gentleness, all the prancing and dancing that adoptive parents expect from adult adoptees. Although you may have experienced your own losses and griefs does not therefore entitle you to be a sanctimonious arbiter of adult adoptees and our voices.


Claudia said...

I'm not entirely sure I understand what you are saying to those of us who do think we are doing our best to 'get it'.

I've learned a lot from reading writing by adopted adults, and I think any AP / PAP who doesn't make an effort to read from that perspective is crazy. But I don't think that means that I need to agree with the perspective of every adopted adult - I couldn't possibly anyway, right? Because adopted adults are individuals and have individual opinions. As are adoptive parents.

scotched said...

^So you're saying the adoptee's opinions on the "effects" of adoption (on the adoptee), hold LESS weight than the adoptive parent's opinion?


The "goal" is harm reduction on the adoptee, not protection of adoptive parent's feelings. It's like some of these AP's need to feel *loved* more than we do.

The more you minimize/ignore the real issues, the more you'll produce problematic adult-adoptee's like me.

It doesn't take a statistician.

Anonymous said...

Claudia, if this post doesn't apply to you, then read it, feel outraged that adoptees even have to listen to this crap from people, then move along.

mrkmommy said...

we can be a sanctimonious bunch can't we? I am an AP who doesn't have it as all together as I would like for my daughters but most APs make me want to pound my head on a brick wall.

Unknown said...

I think this post applies to all adoptive parents regardless of their level of 'openness'.

Although I may be raising school age children, it is imperative to recognize the innuendo that my children may be subjected to all the way into adulthood. As well as being reminded of and owning the power differential. It may be hard to absorb, but it is a powerful reminder of how it is not an adoptee's obligation, no matter their age, to absolve me of anything and reassure me that all will be well...when it most certainly may be far from well at all.

May the AP pandering stop...and the adoptee's honesty continually flow...for the sake of adoptees (who are now my peers)...and the adopted children who follow in their footsteps.

Claudia said...

no, I'm not trying to say that at all, scotched!

Lately, I've been thinking a lot about what the obligations of APs (as individuals, as a community) should be to adopted adults (as individuals, as a community). Especially considering how diverse both communities are, and the power dynamics Melissa mentions. Melissa's post touched on a lot of what I've been thinking about, but I wasn't quite clear on some of what she was saying. That's why I asked for clarification. Nothing more sinister than that!

Reena said...


Again, it both saddens and angers me that you and other Adotpees continually have to post these types of messages.

I agree with Diane, as an aparent who is trying to be open, learn from Adoptees, with the hopes of being able to be supportive of my daughters-- society will continually send them the message that they should be grateful and have no valid complaints concerning their adoption.

This reality for my daughters saddens and infuriates me even more!

Mila said...

Claudia--here's the point, as excerpted from the post:

"But most importantly, such deflection ignores the real issue: a lot of adoptive parents still don't get it, and they'll employ a host of defense mechanisms to make sure that they can maintain the illusion that they get it when in reality they don't."

I didn't saying anything about agreeing or disagreeing. That's not the point. Obviously, we won't always agree. But...

I was focusing on AP's who don't even give certain experiences an ear, and by choosing to block out the various experiences & voices of adult adoptees they consider "not healthy to listen to," these AP's demonstrate to me that they inherently don't get it...that it's not about them--as Scotched succinctly stated, it's "not protection of adoptive parent's feelings. It's like some of these AP's need to feel *loved* more than we do."

Adoptees have to listen to AP's all the time who bad mouth us or challenge our experiences and viewpoints, AP's w/whom we disagree--that's just the reality and I'm willing to deal with it because, for now, it is the reality of the adoption world. And I do my best to do so civilly and productively.

AP's need to recognize and do the same when it comes to adult adoptees instead of deflecting...

But for some reason some AP's think they're entitled to immunity and should not have to "deal" with certain adoptees, despite the fact that we ALL represent the adoptee community that their children are a part of...but of course, you're able to disagree w/me. At least you're willing to listen, I think. ;)

Mila said...

@ Diane- "for the sake of adoptees (who are now my peers)...and the adopted children who follow in their footsteps."

Glory hallelujah and thank you.

(You may be the one & only adoptive parent I've ever encountered as of yet to spontaneously acknowledge the fact that we are adult peers--and even seniors, in some cases *smirk-wink*--to many adoptive parents.)

Claudia said...

Melissa, thanks for your very civil and productive response!

Your post from today (about adoption agency newsletters) has reminded me once again that the UK context I'm familiar with is hugely different from what goes on the US. I'm not saying the UK has got adoption practice nailed (obviously) but adoption isn't a business here - everything (including homestudies and so on) is done at a government or para-government level. Since nobody is making money from it, there isn't the same incentive for happy-shiny-adoption stories here. Our adoption training *did* include narratives from adult adoptees who painted very non-rosy picture of their adoption experiences. (And yes, that's a very good thing, of course!) Nobody is pandering to us, because nobody wants our money. And that's probably why we have fewer than 200 international adoptions a year, and no domestic adoption at all except through the foster care system.

My point (I do have a point, I promise) is that sometimes I don't recognise the picture that gets painted about the world loving APs, and I do get frustrated about that. I honestly don't think that's the case to the same extent where I live - but I probably need to remember how much of my experience is a function of geography.

Anonymous said...

Adoptive parents need to be parents which means putting their children first. Parenting is a tough job, but adoptive parenting, if it is done well, is much more difficult. If I would addend one of your sentences, it would read "Although you may have experienced your own losses and griefs... you are asking to be a parent and you must deal with those issues, so you can help your child manage the losses and griefs that are inherent in adoption". As a parent, my child will always be my child. My children may never thank me, but I am not in it for thanks and I shiver any time anyone infers that I might be a hero - I am not. I am with Diane in considering you a peer and someone from which I can learn.