it is nice to hear about conflict and adoption. My daughter is Chinese and we did adopt her from an orphanage. we have always been up front about the tiny bit of information we have. We went back to her founding site to try and get information with her, so far to no avail.
She lives with the conflict. She started living with it at 9. I am surprised how many families say their Chinese daughters are fine and they never talk about their adoption. I think that they are deluded as most of the parents do not ask. one parent said her daughter is clueless and she has said things to me that makes me certain she is not clueless at all!
As an early adolescent, my daughter is going to have more feelings come out. I feel all I can do is support her and make it ok for her to talk about whatever worries her. She has said she misses her first mom. I have had friends say ” that must hurt you” but you know? it really doesn’t. I want her to know all her feelings are valid and I know this doesn’t have anything to do with me anyway. it is just her trying to figure it out. I sometimes feel I made an error taking her away from her country but it is a done deal so we plan on taking her back a few times and we try to keep her involved. It doesn’t really help though or might not. I don’t know. She loves AND hates China.— Posted by melanie
Melanie, just speaking from personal experience here, but I think it does help just knowing communication lines remain open. I wasn’t equipped with the vocabulary to convey a lot of my feelings so much remained unsaid. Even if I’d had the words to express my curiosity and conflicted feelings, I’d already gotten the impression that my adoption wasn’t a comfortable topic. It was “weird” so I, myself wasn’t comfortable with discussing it.
All children are different, but I think age and environment contribute a lot. Kids do different things at different ages and pick up things not only from their parents but from their peers. A lot of the problems I had stemmed from teasing and rude questions from my peers. Again the problem became communication because I couldn’t talk to my my parents about it.
Some adoptive parents do take the approach of waiting until their child directly confronts them about their adoptions. Not that I’m saying that’s the wrong way, but there is always that danger of unintentionally giving the impression that it’s a taboo subject. Additionally, adoptive parents saying their adopted children are oblivious sends up a red flag especially in the case of TRAs. Kids notice differences at very young ages. If they don’t notice themselves, their peers usually do. If they are being educated about and exposed to their birth ethnicities, how can they not notice? If they aren’t being exposed to their birth ethnicities and interacting with other adoptees and people with similar ethnic backgrounds, then I don’t think it’s the kids who are oblivious.
Your story is beautifully written and speaks directly to the betrayal of keeping identity a secret (sperm doners/donees take note). I was particularly struck by “We should be past the days when adoptees are forced to shoulder the burden of maintaining the illusion that none of it matters.” It’s sad that this is not the case, even in the State of New York. I began my search in 1982. In 1991 my mother died. I never met her and didn’t know until 10 years later. In 2001 I hired an investigor for thousands of dollars to find her. Although my father is named in my birth records (I asked my agency social worker), by law I am not allowed to know who he is. I’ll leave it to the reader to imagine how many secrets & lies are scattered here, and how much it hurt me (and my birthmother) to have been kept from knowing each other.
It’s hard for me to imagine how Sumeia must feel, given that her father – not an anonymous social worker – held on to the keys to her past. The best interest of the child is the truth.
— Posted by Barbara
Barbara, thank you for sharing some of your own story. I’m so sorry to hear you were never able to meet your mother in person. I can barely imagine how you feel also being prevented from knowing your father. What is it going to take to get this these secrecy laws changed?
Our status as adoptees makes it acceptable for us to be lied to, deceived and flat out denied knowledge that for others is only natural to have. This has always baffled and infuriated me. As adoptees, our rights often get trumped when it comes knowing our histories. It all makes me feel very much like a second class citizen. Isn’t it amazing that we’re told to “move on” and “get over it” while in many ways, our “status” as adoptees never really changes?
My best wishes to you.
Until I was going on twelve years of age, I was in several foster homes, having been abandoned by both birth mother and father, and then “adopted” by the father. I also was confused as a youngster about “who” I really was, but when I went to my father and his family I became even more confused with a smoldering anger that burst into a permanent sundering with the immediate “blood” relatives. A successful search for my birth mother after I had married simply added to my confusion and anger. I have felt like an “outsider” all my life even though I am aware of the facts of that life. And yes, I do feel sorry for myself, but I am sorrier for those children who are made strangers in this world through the violence of war and individual acts of the desperate, the confused, the selfish, and the evil. I believe that orphans are always orphaned.
— Posted by george
Hi George, ah so there is another adoptee who was adopted by their own father. No longer the case with me it seems, but thinking that throughout my adolescence and early adulthood was confusing for me as well. Even if I hadn’t been an adoptee, that part of my identity had already been too deeply ingrained in my head. It didn’t do much for my self-esteem either thinking that he’d previously been ashamed to acknowledge me as “his” before he’d changed his mind for whatever reason.
On some level, I agree with you about always being an “orphan”; the outsider, being rootless, not belonging, identity-challenged, lack of closure. It seems we have varying ways to describe the feeling but as adoptees, we seem to point to the same feelings of uncertainty and limbo.
…I will be going to Vietnam in January and would be glad to visit the orphanage and ask for information on Ta Kim Cuc if you wish.
— Posted by Dave Garrod
Dave, thank you for the information and for your generous offer. There are a few people looking for her now so hopefully news will turn up soon. I’ve visited both sites you mentioned (Amerasian Family Finder) and still look through Joe’s on occasion. I also keep intending to email him but am not sure of what to say. Maybe later, if and when I learn a little more about what happened. From what I can tell, I couldn’t have stayed in Hoi Duc Anh for more than a few weeks.
Suppose the adoptive history includes the mother’s history of violent schizophrenia with multiple personality disorder? Suppose mom sequentially abandoned of all of her 6 children some of them in garbage cans? How about birth dad’s drug addiction? At what age does one share this information? As a preschooler? 8 year old? Adolescent? How about the fact that the birth mom is now a missing person who promised to stay in touch, but who disappeared weeks later and cannot be found even with the help of a detective. For me the line in the essay that is most telling is that the child’s is held in trust until the time when he or she is mature enough to receive the information. When will this be? We are not sure, and we admit we are conflicted about this. In the meantime, we are determined not to lie or to give out misleading piecemeal information; however, not all stories are appropriate for childen, even when it is their story.
— Posted by Mimi
Mimi, I don’ t think adoption and all that comes with it should ever be “dumped” on an adoptee as either a child or an adult. It’s common sense when dealing with children and difficult circumstances like the ones you mentioned that age and maturity appropriateness must be considered. When dealing with minors, I think when they are mature enough depends on the individual adoptee. I know that sounds vague but some kids are ready to handle things before others. Honestly, I don’t think there is an ideal time to disclose such things as they aren’t easy for either the one telling them or the one hearing them.
There just isn’t a “right” answer. Certainly one wouldn’t want to tell a child something before they’re able to understand what it means and that the circumstances of their adoptions don’t reflect on them as people.
I hate to leave it at that, but a well thought out answer would require an entire blog post or maybe even a series. Hmmm…you just given me an idea…