Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Sharing our children's adoption history?

I was reading a blog post by swerl this morning about how and when we should share our child’s adoption story and it really got me thinking. I have to say that I disagree with the conclusion he came to. He said,

To make it "private" to me is tantamount to shame. Or, worse yet, acting like they AREN'T different, when, in fact, they ARE. The problem comes when different equates with "less than". I think that, for a multi-cultural country, we are all pretty slow to realize that "different" means "a unique perspective" and "fresh insight", and that getting to know "different" people is a great way to broaden your horizons. So, I can't imagine, (unless someone is out-and-out racist) ever being "put off" by any questions, no matter how ignorant, because it's an opportunity to share our reality and experience with someone else. If we all do that, all the time, "different" won't be something to fear or "keep private" anymore.

We all want our children to feel like their entrance to our family is just as “normal” and special as the traditional bio child route. We have to contend with society tell them always that they are different and not quite as important because they are adopted. It hard to fight the established mode of thought and I think all adoptive parents try hard to visibly value their children’s unique journey and to educate our communities to the dynamics of adoption.

That said I still believe that privacy is crucial when sharing information about our children’s very personal story. In my opinion it’s not a matter of keeping something private for fear of being “different”, it’s protecting our children legacy.

All of these children have a tremendous loss in their young lives, but many come from places of horrors and tragedy that are difficult to consider. Usually our children will be too young to understand the whole story or all the implications of it. People will change how they treat the child or how they think of him based on the information shared. I know that I have experiences in my life that I chose to share with very few people or sometimes none; not because I’m ashamed of them, but because they are deeply personal and I’m a very private person. I would hate if I always had to face the world conscious that everyone already knew those deeply personal things about me.

Why do people need to know every detail of their history? Folks are nosy…just look at celebrity magazines and voyeur’s web sites. Heck even blog reading is a kind of voyeurism. We don’t “need” to know, we just want to! Why should we share information that could potential change how people view or treat our child just because they are curious?

I think there is a balance between showing our children’s story has value and openly accepting their experiences and differences, and invading their privacy. I don’t want my child to feel like their story is a big secret and therefore that something is “wrong” or “bad” about it. I hope that I can incorporate their story into their lives all the time and we can feel comfortable talking about their history and unique journey. I don’t however; feel any need to share extremely personal information with any Tom, Dick or Harry on the street just because they feel some inkling of curiosity.

I plan to talk about my child’s adoption. I plan to give very general information about their history and story. I’m more than happy to talk about why we chose adoption and Ethiopia. I can blabber non stop about the orphan problem that country currently faces and the economic and social challenges that face parents their. I can generalize about the reasons there are children available for international adoption and discuss the process until the cows come home. But in the end I am a parent and my job is nurture my child and respect his or her wishes about the information shared. Until they are old enough to tell me what those wishes are, I’m going to error on the side of caution.


jayme & jon said...

Thanks for such a heartfelt and articulate post. I agree completely.

As adoptive parents, we do take on the role as educators for those whose lives have not been touched by adoption. However, we need to be sensitive to the fact that our children may not always want to be the subject of a lesson. We can't "tokenize" them, nor can we assume that their experience will be universal.

I think it's great to talk in generalities, but most of the specific details will remain private until my children can decide what they want to share and with whom.

I agree that in America, different almost always carries a positive or negative undertone, and we all need to try to change that type of thinking. However, there are many other ways to "normalize" difference without going into my childrens' personal histories.

Jenny and Matt said...

I'm with you, Carrie. I'm still struggling with how to answer nosy questions in private, how to educate our family on proper responses, etc

Waiting for Iyasu said...

Sounds like you have a good, balanced approach! And you're right; I guess blog reading is a little voyeristic, isn't it? I never thought about it... but true.

Swerl said...

Thanks for citing my post.

I wrote on this further.

I'd love for everyone to check it out:


MMrussianadoption said...

I share with those I feel comfortable with and dont with those I dont. End of story.

Starfish said...

We made it clear to our families (even our parents) that we would not share seamonkey's social history. We feel very strongly that it is his story to tell, when and if he wants to tell it. It's not a matter of being ashamed, it's a matter of respecting the person our son is going to be. There's no way of knowing right now how he's going to feel about it, so why not wait and find out before we blab his private information to everyone we know?