Saturday, September 11, 2010

Respect Vs. Emotional Caretaking

Here she is, the epitome of fecundity, Gaia, the earth mother, ancient Goddess of fertility. She is the personification, in her bulges and fleshy folds, of the fear ancient men had of the mysteries of the female who brought forth life....something they, as males, couldn't do. It is interesting to see that, once ancient man connected the act of intercourse with the production of children, men started owning and subjugating women so that they could be sure the offspring were of their seed....and, because they are bigger, stronger and they could.

We fertile women certainly took a tumble off that divine pedestal..from life-giver to breeder in just a few thousand years. Now, it seems that the child-takers, rather than the life-givers, are the ones who get all  the kudos and halos.

A friend on Facebook said something very profound in a discussion. I hope she doesn't mind if I cite it here. "All babies turn into toddlers and then kids then teenagers etc. They are supposed to learn to think for themselves and be independent people. It is not their job to shower parents ( either adoptive or bio) with gratitude. We are supposed to raise them to be independent and think for themselves. It is healthy if they feel safe enough to not try to cater to the parents and can show us even their worst side. If someone wants or expects something different don't have kids (either store-bought or born to you)."

This simple but pithy comment exemplifies, to me, everything that is dysfunctional in adoption, especially adoption as it has been practiced in this society. The infant goes to a home with expectations already on his/her shoulders. They are the cure for the adopters' infertility, the keeper of the "as if born to" myth and the caretakers of the adult adopters' emotional welfare. I get a daily "I love you" from my raised kids because that is something we have always done. But if I have emotional quandaries, they are mine, not theirs. And I would rather have their natural respect and love than be a burden on them, expecting paeans of gratitude and loyalty.

My raised children have never idealised me. They love me, warts and all, and we have butted heads just like all mothers and children have since families came into existence. I am taken aback when I see adult adoptees bending over backwards to express their gratitude and loyalty to their adopters. It really isn't natural. The premise for that behavior is also in error, said premise being that the adopters rescued them from a fate worse than death, that of being raised by their natural mother who, the adopters will intimate, "didn't want them." That idea is just more manure on the giant, reeking pile that is adoption mythology.

An adult adoptee was trying her hand at writing fiction. She liked the Sci-Fi/Horror genre, so that is where she was going with her writing. The monster in the picture was a sort of ghost,  vicious, faceless and female. The heroine bore the name of the woman who adopted her. This was prior to her reunion with her natural mother. Can we guess who that monster represented? But I was more taken up in the virtues and strengths she attributed to her heroine. NO WOMAN is that pure, good, strong and flawless in real life, including those who adopt. Such a person would bore me to tears and, I am thinking, would not make very good mother material. I would hope that a good mother would understand their children's flaws and love them unconditionally because she is totally aware and accepting of her own. In other words, she is REAL.

With some adopted adults, I have seen their growing-up years as more being indoctrinated rather than reared. Some become so immersed in the fantasy that there is no room for the natural parents if they refuse to worship at the adopters' shrine. I can respect the feelings of love and attachment the adoptee has for the adopters, but I don't think I should be required to deny my true feelings by giving lip-service to a fantasy.

I can think for myself because I was raised to do so by a mother who did not expect beatification or undying gratitude. She was a real rose, but she had her thorns. My emotions, therefore, are my own responsibility, not my raised or surrendered children's. How can they be expected to deal with their own lives and emotional growth while working to protect my view of my role in their lives? That role is something that is just there. It needs no bolstering or reinforcing. I have allowed them to get on with their own lives. That's what real mothers do. We let go and, if we are lucky, our children love and respect us for it.

I don't think there can be much respect for either the adopter or the adoptee if the emotional welfare of each is dependent on the other. This is co-dependence and it is very unhealthy for all concerned. As for me, I prefer handling my own emotional welfare. My adult children, all of them, should be and are, I hope, seeing to their own. I only worry about one who has enshrined her adopters in a way that has estranged us. I cannot join her in her illusions and that is not in her comfort zone. I miss her, I love her and I wish her well. I can't say that there is not the motherly part of me that worries about her...that worry is there. I think that comes with being female.  But it doesn't consume me.

And I would rather my children respect me than be responsible for my feelings, especially after I am dead and gone. And Kiddos? There comes a time when we are no longer responsible for your feelings, either.


Anonymous said...

When we first reunited, my adopted daughter described her amom as a saint and oh, I would love her. Almost 3 years later, her parents have disowned her 3 times and now these mean, selfish people are no longer saints. In fact, they haven't spoken for almost a year. And yet, she will still try to excuse this mean behavior from time to time. I get it that she needs to believe that they are ok and her life growing up was ok, but in the time since reunion, her eyes have been opened to what these adoptors are really about, and she has become strong enough to see how things were for all those years. She has always described her amom, the saint, as passive-aggressive and controlling to me. Oh, did I mention that it took her 38 years to search? And she only searched then after getting her adoptors permission (to get her medical information). Boy, I bet they really regret giving that permission. I see in my support groups, exactly what you are talking about: each adoptee to some degree feels they are the keeper of their adoptors' happiness, and, even as adults, they are still trying to buy the adoptor's favor with their behavior and gratitude. It's really sad to me that they feel that obligation. I am with you Robin, my 2 raised daughters are responsible for their own lives and happiness, but only I am responsible for my own. Soon after reunion, I began telling that to my adopted daughter. If I am sad remembering the past, then I will deal with it, she was not responsible for fixing or alleviating my pain. She got it ( with gratitude for not having that responsibility) and we have a wonderful relationship. The adoptors' own mean behavior broke the spell and removed her from her obligation for their happiness, but that feeling of responsibility and gratitude still bubbles up from time to time.

Lori said...

When I found my daughter, myself, I found that my daughter still worshipped (and I believe she still does) on the alter of if I am good you will love me. She got adopters in the nastiness connotation. To me, if my daughter is pissed of at me, so be it...she is an adult and I am not dependant upon her for my happiness. But my daughter, she has to have the approval of someone - right now it is her third husband - to be happy...which is why, in my estimation, she is totally unhappy. And you can bet that I did not pass that behavior with my genes! My father would be spinnning in his grave - as it is, I am pretty sure everytime she gets a little grit in her face it is my Dad shouting WAKE UP! To his favorite grandchild.

Robin said...

My daughter got very upset when I was visiting her and was looking through an album of her baby pictures. I started quietly weeping and she blamed herself for showing me the pictures. I told her, then, "Honey, my grief is my own and is not your responsibility. I'll be fine but I have to go through the process." I don't think she understood the concept.

Sandy Young said...

I keep thinking of the saying my grandmother use...Oh what a tangled web we weave when first we practice to deceive. I think that there is so much energy used up in maintaining a lie, any lie, that it takes on a life of its own. What bigger lie than "as if born to"? Imagine basing an entire lifetime on maintaining that whopper. I think that dysfunction spawns dysfunction, and this is another example. From holding secrets to upholding the feelings. Terrible burden to place on a child....

Lori said...

@Robin, on the day of our first f2f, my daughter showed me some pictures that her adopters was as if she went from me to them...the same clothes...I got tight chested and I must have looked very sad...She reacted, but almost with a glee that it hurt me...

I wish...a lot of things.