“To Icarus, love Mom” by sume
When I was in the fourth grade, a boy whom I’ll call Travis lost his parents to a car accident. The entire class had been told to prepare us for his return to school in a few days. We were not to speak of it so as not to upset him which made no sense to me since he would naturally be upset anyway. We were allowed to split up into groups and “discuss” what had happened to Travis and how we would help him when he returned to school.
During the discussion someone mentioned how sad it was that Travis was now an orphan. He would have to live with his grandmother. Thinking it true at the time, I mentioned that I too was an orphan and that it was great that he had grandparents to live with after losing his parents. Some of my classmates were surprised and asked me how my parents had died. I could only tell them that I didn’t know. “I never knew them,” I said. “How sad, ” said one of my classmates.
Upon hearing our discussion, my teacher interjected saying, “Yeah, but now she has new parents who love her.” All discussion ceased and we just kind of stared at her. She eventually moved to another group but the damage had already been done. None of us had much to say after that.
Reflecting back on the this, I’m filled with the desire to smack my former teacher upside the head and point out her insensitivity and the stupidity of her statement. Aside from totally dismissing my loss, she cut off all conversation that might have led to a productive discussion of loss, mourning and recovery. Others might have shared their own stories of loss whether it was about family members, pets, or whatever if she’d just kept her mouth shut.
Children, as well as adults can further their sense of compassion by relating their own experiences to those of their fellow human beings. It also a comfort knowing that you’re not alone in your situation or in how you feel about events in your life. It’s just how things work. My teacher had unwittingly interrupted that process.
Maybe that’s why I bristle at the thought of people trying to monitor, interrupt and direct adoptee discussions whether it’s on blogs, during camps or other get-togethers. It’s especially irritating when this happens during adult adoptee discussions but even children need room to talk amongst themselves.
I received an email from an adoptive parent who’d adopted two girls from China. One was reluctant to talk to her adoptive mother but would talk to her adopted sister. I didn’t know what to tell her other than my own opinion that she should just step back and let them talk. I didn’t think she should take it as a personal sign of rejection. Sometimes kids just need to talk with other kids who can relate, without fear of hurting feelings or making people angry. It’s not that she should completely ignore the situation but too much interference could begin to feel invasive only exacerbating her daughter’s silence.
One of my fears is that by reading our blogs, AP’s will become paranoid and feel the need to monitor and direct every moment of their adopted children’s lives. Horrible pictures come to mind of AP’s desperately grasping at and suffocating their adopted children, all the while wrapping them in specially fitted “Glad-wrap” bags. Ulgh.
The danger in not giving adoptee children or children in general some space is that it can create resentment driving a wedge between parents and their children. It’s like parenting in general and I’m speaking as a recovering control-freak when it comes to my kids. I’ve learned that there are times when I have to step out of the picture and just let them express and explore life and their feelings with their peers. I’m always glad when they choose to include me or ask my opinion, but I don’t feel the need anymore to constantly be “in their faces”.
I let try to let my kids know that I’m still there, always available but that they have room to grow and think for themselves as long as they’re responsible. Isn’t it every parents wish to have children who grow, learn to think for themselves and deal with life on their own? Anyway, I figure it’s better to step back a little now rather than waiting until they turn on you screaming, “Will you just back OFF!”
I still screw up but I’m slowly learning that parenting in general is all about balance and not about control. With room to breathe comes room to grow though there are days when I find myself turning blue from holding my breath.