"You're awesome for adopting these kids. They're so lucky to have you."
This was recently said to me.
I am not an adoptee, and I do not pretend to know the depths to which adoption might/will affect a child or adult who has been adopted. I don't even pretend, despite having watched my own children begin to deal with their losses, to start to comprehend.
What I do notice is that adoption seems to be a mostly celebrated event.
People regularly tell me how awesome it is that we adopted. People have told me on dozens of occasions that they have always wanted to adopt so that they, too, could 'save' a child. And I cannot even count the number of people who have told me how fortunate, how blessed, my younger children are for having been adopted into our family.
I am so uncomfortable with these kinds of comments...it's hard to express exactly how uncomfortable I am with them. I hate them, to be perfectly honest, and I can barely restrain my fidgeting as I try to answer politely. If the kids also hear the comment, I have to work hard not to cringe.
I usually respond by saying how we are the ones who are blessed by our younger kids, but invariably the person I am speaking with thinks that I'm just being polite.
I'm not. Really.
On a few occasions, I have spoken a little further with the person who has expressed the view that our kids are so lucky. Usually a comment is made about how the kids will have so much more opportunity here, that they've been given a chance at a good life, etc etc etc. The people who speak this way mean well...I know they do. To a degree they are even right, if by "good life" they mean that the kids will have a greater chance at an education and provision of all of life's basic necessities and a few luxuries beyond.
But what does it mean to have a 'good life?' The assumption, when making a comment about how blessed my children are, is that the good life is to be had here, in western society, where wealth and privilege are readily accessible, particularly by comparison to developing countries. The assumption is that the privileges and lifestyle to be had here constitute a better life than the one that might have been spent with one's birth parents and within one's country and culture of birth.
I do think that where death or destitution or a childhood spent in an orphanage are the only options, international adoption is the next best alternative to remaining in one's country of birth, with one's parent(s) of origin.
But to Seth and Lizzie, all of that theory is just gobbly goop. They don't live in a reality that would have them espousing complex perspectives on international adoption. I didn't really get that, shame on me, until the past twenty months, when we brought home these beloved children and saw them begin to grieve and be angry for what they have lost.
The bottom line is this: An essential problem with holding a perspective the that kids are the lucky ones in our family scenario is, at least in part, the assumption that they should be grateful to us for adopting them.
Grateful. I can't even begin to imagine why I would expect my younger children to be grateful for having been ripped from everything familiar and known to them. None of this was of their doing. None of it was their fault. They knew nothing beyond assuming a life with their first parent(s).
Though I certainly hope that someday my kids will look back on their lives and know that we did our absolute best to give them a great life, that is a vastly different kind of appreciation than the kind of gratitude that is inferred when one speaks of a child who has been adopted being lucky to have been adopted.
I recently came across a quote by a Rev. Keith C. Griffith, who says it perfectly: "Adoption loss is the only trauma in the world where the victims are expected by the whole of society to be grateful."
When I say that it's Geoff and me (I??) who are the lucky ones, I mean that it is truly we who are the fortunate, the blessed, the lucky ones. We're the ones fortunate enough to be able to bring more children into our lives; we are the ones whose lives are so enriched by the kids' presence in our lives; we're the ones who are awed (and daunted) by the gift of being able to parent these kids and to be assumed to be 'enough' to help them through their struggles and adaptations.
So the next time you're telling me how lucky you think the kids are for being adopted, know that I'm not just being polite by responding that we're the lucky ones. Really.