Yes, You Can Get Angry

When I read articles or blog posts written by adult adoptees, in the comments section I am often horrified by what I read because there is a consistent theme. “You should be grateful to your adoptive parents” or “Fine. They should’ve just left you in the orphanage.” While I want people to support adoption, I don’t want the narrative to be hard on adoptees. I don’t want people to tell Lydia or any other adoptee that they cannot feel what they feel. Adoption is so complicated, and I often feel a range of emotions about it as an adoptive mom. It would only be natural for some (or many) adoptees to feel the same way (a range of emotions). I want to listen to adoptees so that I can learn from them – their voice is the most important one I want to listen to. And I don’t like when others try to silence or shame adoptees for being honest about their feelings and experiences.
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So here is the deal. I never want anyone in our village to say “you should be grateful” to my kids. The narrative that adoptees hear from the larger culture can be damaging.

– Lydia has the right to be pissed. Don’t tell her otherwise.
– Lydia can get angry. Don’t tell her that’s not valid. Adoption can be good, but begins with tremendous loss.
– Lydia is not obligated to feel thankful to us. We wanted a family.
– Lydia can grieve. She will likely experience grief in different ways at different ages. Don’t tell her to move on.
– Lydia can wonder about her first family and feel sad.
– Lydia can do a first family search for her first family and miss them. This in no way is a reflection of her love for B and me or our parenting. We will do everything we can to help her if she wants our help.
– Lydia can disagree with ways that we will raise her, and voice that criticism.
– Lydia can tell us about experiences she has where she feels hurt that people treated her poorly about her race, adoption, or limb differences, and she will never hear from us that she is “too sensitive.” She can talk with us about white privilege and we will nod our heads in agreement. And if it is appropriate, Lydia can be confident that her parents will either stand beside her as she handles it with others or that we will lead conversations about these topics.
– Lydia can change her name back to her Chinese name.
– Lydia can be disappointed that she no longer lives in China. Lydia can try to get a job where she moves back to China when she is an adult.

Though Lydia doesn’t need my permission, I just want her to know she always has my blessing to feel what she feels and to do what she wants in terms of making sense of her adoption as she grows older. Same for Barrett. I don’t want her to be afraid to explore healthy and normal emotions or ideas because she is afraid of the way it will make us feel. We are adults. We can handle it. She’s not obligated to us to feel a certain way about her adoption.

It is easy (and ridiculous) for us to say someone should feel thankful when we haven’t lived their experience.