Understanding In Stages

Well, if you were looking for a blog that solely displayed my analytic perspective on adoption, SURPRISE. It does not exist. Yesterday’s post was merely one of those confusing days where everything was on my mind and things were spewing like fire. Today though, I have cleaned up; I would like to explain to you how complicated it is to adopt, to be adopted, to live.

Adoption is not like bringing a newborn baby home  from the hospital. To be honest, it is a bit more complicated than that. I guess what frustrates me is when people think it is the same thing, but it is not. A newborn baby has never really known any other environment from the hospital to your home. An adopted baby probably lived in a children’s home, and then was brought your home. Sure, they might have been one year old, but even one year old’s know when a change has occurred. I will tell you now, there is no book that will tell you how your adopted baby will act when they are brought home. Some might scream all week until your ear drums give way and someone goes ballistic. Some might be quiet and unresponsive, you are now all probably asking how this is different from bringing a newborn home. At some point (unless you adopted right at birth), your child will know something’s up. The fact is is that they were taken from a way of life that they knew to be their own and then were brought into another, your life. Change is inevitable, but when you are little change can be scary. I wish people understood that.

If your baby rejects you, or has a hard time adjusting, it does not mean that they do not love you, or that you are not coddling them enough. It is simple, they do not know you. Cripes…you hardly know them. You’ve seen each other in pictures and short visits. They do not know you to be Mommy or Daddy, yet. And that is when one can change things, understanding that two different worlds have been brought together for the better and now they must try to mesh as one. That is how adoption is different. It is what you signed up for, enjoy the ride.

I do not remember my infant years, but my parents will tell you that I cried a lot in my room at night. My mother will tell you that it was heart-breaking, listening to her baby girl sob at night. But one thing she did know was that some nights I had to cry it out. I could not develop a fear of being alone in my room. But some nights, I had to sleep with my parents, it was the only way anyone could get shut-eye. Those nights when I did sleep in my parents room, it was catching up for lost time. I was not brought home as a newborn. There are parents who swear to those silly books about “What to expect in the first few years” or the “All About Adoption” novels. They include training methods, and nightly habits and everything that sort of makes me cringe. Not because I think the authors are lunatics, but because I think the whole idea that parenting comes with a manual is ludicrous. But, what would I know, I’m not a parent. I will tell you now, I turned out alright, even if I did sleep with my parents a few times at night. Sometime, we will all grow up and become who we were meant to be, the “training” we receive from those books will not shape who we are. You shape who we are, our roots shape who we are.

My whole concept about my adoption came in stages. Of course, I was very aware that I was adopted but at various times in my development did I understand my feelings about it. When you are young, say, five or six, we do not really care if we do not look like our parents. We live our life like a typical five year old would, self-absorbed and inquisitive. I am cautious to say that we are normal, because it varies for everyone but I can say that if your child is self-absorbed or has control issues at the age of five, don’t you dare blame it on them being adopted. Have you met five-year old’s? Most of them are all like that. In fact, anything that is maybe slightly awry with a kid should never be lead back to “because they were adopted”. Very few scenarios are caused because of that.

The middle years, seven to ten years old, well, I will resort to my personal experiences. I was at a stage where I acknowledged my differences from my parents but I had no desire for anyone to ever emphasize it. I was comfortable with who I was and I did not appreciate there being this huge hoopla about it. I participated in a Nativeland Visit when I was eight. It was this event where children from Thailand who were adopted visited their homeland and hung around with other adoptees. This experience was terrible. Before you all go and criticize my reluctance to participate in this event, hear me out. I was eight, I had no desire to revisit my past yet, and while other children benefited from this, I was still having troubles understanding things and this made things worse. Nothing that anyone could have done for me to prepare me for this would have helped. It was all personal. For years I knew that I was different from the rest of my family, and all that really mattered to me was that people stopped emphasizing it and I hoped people would treat me ‘normally’. That is all I wanted then. I would realize that this Nativeland Visit would be beneficial for me when I was older, ready to revisit my past. Eight years old was too young, for me.

The last and second Nativeland Visit that I would participate in was amazing. I was twelve. I met people from Canada who were the same age as me. I was ready to tackle what I had not been ready to tackle as a younger child. My parents respected that, that was probably the best. Supporting me and encouraging me to seek out answers, while themselves letting me take charge in how things were going to go.  It was my history after all. At the age of twelve I guess I was finding who I was, most tweenies are. And visiting Thailand helped me accomplish some of that. Visiting my children’s home was less painful this time.

Now, I am almost an adult. And I sort of have this mix between both of the previous stages. Talk to me like I am part of the family, treat me normally, adoption should not define who I am or how I act. My roots do, I am Thai. I am Canadian. My interaction with the world around me defines who I am. I am not different because I am adopted. I have different issues that I have to work out, when I was younger things had to be treated a bit differently but that does not make me special.  Everyone has things they need to work out. I do not desire to be introduced as the adopted daughter, I never was thankfully, but you see how insulting it can be? It is like categorizing, we are perfectly aware that we are adopted, does there really need to be a bright pink sticker stuck to our foreheads reminding us of it each day?

My understanding will grow, my opinions may change but for now, that is what I’ve got for you.

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3 thoughts on “Understanding In Stages

  1. Michelle says:

    My son, adopted at 9 domestically, slept in our room for months when he first moved in. It was over a year before he could consistently sleep in his own room. He too had to catch up on lost time.

  2. Kate says:

    I love your take on the “experts”…you’re ahead of your time on that. Our daughter came home with us as a newborn; she’s two now and still sleeps with us. We figure that if that’s what she needs, then there is no reason not to meet that need. She won’t be in our bed when she’s 14, so if our tiny girl wants to be with her parents at night, we’re fine with it. I don’t know for sure whether or not, as a newborn, she felt the loss of her birthmom (there are different, very polarized opinions about this out there), but I’d rather err on the side of doing everything I can to mitigate any feelings of loss…so she sees her birthmom often, sleeps with us, has playmates who’re adopted and so on. It’s a tough balance sometimes as an adoptive parent – you want to normalize the adoption situation so that it doesn’t define your child, but at the same time, do everything you can to acknowledge it, anticipate feelings of grief/loss/identity issues, and provide opportunities for discussion for your child. It sounds like your parents did a great job walking that tightrope…maybe you could get your parents blogging too!

    Thanks again for writing about your experience; it’s much appreciated.

  3. ornblovo says:

    Thank you very much! Yes, a little mommy and daddy TLC isn’t a bad thing at all! Heck, I bet the authors of those books had a bit of it too! I will pass the note along to the parental units, I too have been trying to convince them to blog!
    Thank you for reading!

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