Dear Adoptive Parents,
We all have worries about our parenting skills. These days it is not just all the basics of teaching right from wrong and potty training. We are now inundated with “Pinterest project guilt” and overly structured play dates and the push to enroll kiddos in multiple activities. Then add in the fact that your child came to you via adoption and all the opinions and labels that others want to add to that and you have the recipe for a panic attack. But don’t. Grab yourself a paper bag, breathe deeply and listen to what my parents did right.
I was adopted at 14 months of age and have always been happy with the way my life evolved after my birthmother left me with friends and did not return. My happiness and being so well adjusted, in large part I believe, can be attributed to the ways my parents loved me and addressed my adoption. In a world where people seem to want to call their parents out on anything they did wrong, I have to tell you, mine got it right.
Today I want to share with you 3 things my parents did that made a big difference in my happiness and perception of myself and my adoption as I was growing up. These are a few of the things my parents did for me that made an impact in how normal my adoption was for me. This is just a taste of what will be included in my upcoming book “Dear Adoptive Parents – Where my Parents went RIGHT – Insights from an Adoptee” (working title).
1. Telling me my story from the start. There is NEVER a time in my life that I do not remember knowing that I was adopted. I never had a traumatic “Lifetime Movie” moment of “finding out” that I was adopted, because it just always was. Just as any parent tells their child their story of labor pains or pickle cravings, a child from adoption should be told their story in age appropriate ways, always. Then there is no awkward moment or, God forbid, a feeling that secrets had been kept. It was just a part of my story. If this is something you have been putting off, DO IT TODAY. It is never too early. Even if your child is a baby, you can begin. What better time than NOW?
2. Acknowledging I may or may not have a need to know more. While I went through periods of wanting to know more and my parents sharing that with me, I never knew the draw of needing to search for my birth family. I never felt any type of primal wound or direct loss. I BELIEVE I was meant to be loved and raised by the Mommy I knew from 14 months on. I can be saddened by the pain and loss my birth mother knew as life brought her to a difficult crossroads without feeling loss myself. I think people try and put things into black and white where things are often gray in relationship to adoption. I can feel this way while other adoptees do feel a great loss. EVERY story is different.
3. Not allowing adoption to define me. I WAS adopted. It is something I really only think about out of thanksgiving and because I now work in the field. It was not something I thought about daily, as a child. It was not something my parents pushed on me or forced conversations about, but I knew they were there if I wanted to. I WAS adopted, but I have been and will continue to be a million other things in my life. I should be, as should your child.
You love your child. You want to give him/her the sun and stars and do everything in “practically perfect in every way,” Mary Poppins fashion. You can do this – just don’t plan on the dancing penguins or toys that put themselves away. Parents are not perfect and neither are children. You will learn and grow together. You will make mistakes and so will they. That is o.k. That is normal! Brush yourself off and get to the parenting that you hoped, wished, prayed you would one day get to do!
Copyright 2014, Madeleine Melcher
This article in its entirety or portions thereof may not be published elsewhere without the express permissions of the author.