Mirroring

Miss independent
Miss self-sufficient
Miss keep your distance, no
Miss on her own
Miss almost grown
Miss never let a man help her off her throne
So, by keeping her heart protected
She’d never ever feel rejected
Little miss apprehensive

– Kelly Clarkson, Miss Independent

A dear adoptee friend of mine is struggling with her adoptive mom. Adoptee is trying desperately to work through her adoption related trauma, feelings, etc. and the adoptive mom is dismissing them. Adoptive mom doesn’t understand, makes my friend feel like she is being silly, etc. So friend vents to me.

Is this adoptive mom that dismissive? That much in denial? That mean? Perhaps. Maybe she is. Maybe she cannot look at her adopted daughter and see her pain and realize that she may have contributed to it (or could have alleviated it but didn’t)  Maybe, just maybe, that adoptive daughter triggers something deep within adoptive mom since adoptive mom is also an adoptee. Perhaps adoptive mom doesn’t want to look at and feel the pain that the adoptive daughter is feeling so its easier to dismiss it. Who knows. I am only guessing.

I do believe that part of their challenge, based on what I know of my friend, is the lack of genetic mirroring. Adoptive mom may truly want to understand but she cannot. They are wired differently.  Adoptive daughter has cells, molecules, blood that adoptive mom doesn’t have. Their brains work differently. They feel differently. Is it any wonder they cannot relate to each other? I mean, really? Can a white man understand the challenges of black men in America? No. Can an adoptive mom really understand the pain of a natural mother? No. Can I, as a fertile woman, understand the pain that infertile women experience?  No.

Genetic mirroring extends beyond the surface. It’s not just the fact that someone now LOOKS like you but they may act like you, think like you do, feel like you do. They accept you and your foibles because they share them. They understand them. Amazing stuff nature versus nurture.

I say this with confidence because I have seen it with my own daughter. Sure, we have physical resemblances. We also have a similar style, a chronic hair coloring gene, the same college major, similar tastes in the arts. We are also both fiercely independent (kinda to a fault but that’s another post).

Besides myself, the person who has seen this the most is my younger sister. I share emails and details of my relationship with my daughter with my sister and a few select friends via a private LiveJournal. There are times when I have shared parts of her emails to me with my friends (all who are adoptees or natural mothers). They often get very protective and defensive of me.  “Shes a bitch” they proclaim. “OMG, Suz, I am so sorry she is so mean to you and so distant”, some state.

I always find this intriguing because what my friends find offensive in my daughter, I don’t. My daughter is, well, my daughter. She is candid, intelligent, I guess sometimes rude. But guess what?

So am I (or at least people have told me I was). I don’t believe either one of us is that way intentionally or with the desire to hurt anyone.

My sister, also on my journal, always has the opposite view of my friends. She is never offended. She is never protective. She rarely finds my daughter to be harsh. She finds her to be, well, my daughter. My sister grew up with me and those traits she sees in my daughter? She lived through them with me.

My sister regularly comments on how much my daughter is like me. In her desire to stay distant, her communication style, her thoughts, her coping mechanisms.

Sure, I am startled at times at things daughter says to me but after a while, I find myself chuckling and smirking and saying “Yup, that’s my kid”. If I raised her, it wouldn’t faze me. Since I did not, I am often momentarily surprised and then I recover.

I see it with my raised  sons. My eldest is very much like my husband. Just this weekend my mother commented how much he is like his dad. His mannerisms, his personality, the way he smiles, laughs, jokes. One might argue that is nurture, that he is imitating his environment. If that’s true, why is my daughter so like me?

My youngest son?  Not only does he look like my daughter at that age but yeah, again, my personality is shining through. He is often shy, anxious but can be quite a beast. He is highly verbal, very intelligent, and exceptionally emotive. He can be fresh at times, or what some would perceive as fresh.  But I laugh. Because he says things I would say.

Consider this car conversation (son is 4).

“Dad.?”, son says.

Dad doesn’t reply.“Dad!”

Still no reply

“DAAAAAAAAAD”, he screams.

Still no reply. So I answer.

“What, Stefan, what do you want?”, I ask.

“I wasn’t talking to YOU. I was talking to Dad”. He retorts.

A little harsh, yeah? But he’s right. He wasn’t talking to me. He is very logical and candid. He was trying to get his Dads attention. I laugh. I tell him not to be fresh and I urge my husband to please answer him.

I cannot count the number of times he has said something and my husband responds with laughter and says “Jeesh, you sound just like your mother”.

And he does.

And so does she.

And I love them both.

3 Thoughts.

  1. I think you guess right. “Maybe she cannot look at her adopted daughter and see her pain and realize that she may have contributed to it (or could have alleviated it but didn’t) Maybe, just maybe, that adoptive daughter triggers something deep within adoptive mom since adoptive mom is also an adoptee. Perhaps adoptive mom doesn’t want to look at and feel the pain that the adoptive daughter is feeling so its easier to dismiss it.” So, now that we’ve figured it out, WHAT DO I DO? You know me, I can’t just sit idly by. I must DO something. I just have no idea what. Poop. Thanks for taking the time to listen, to advise and to offer support. You know I love you, R

  2. This one is complicated. I think fear may be playing a role – the adoptive mom’s fear of having to face her own, perhaps deeply hidden, emotions and fears. It has to be hard on both of them.
    The concept of genetic mirroring is interesting, and when I look at my family I can see it at play. Although there are similarities between the way we and our children respond and react to things, they possess other behaviors that are absolutely their own. Our son’s incredible need for self-reliance, and almost iron-willed desire to do and solve everything on his own; our daughter’s almost unbelievably sunny personality. Neither of these came from my husband or me, and I would bet that if – when? – they reunite with their families, we’ll see those characteristics in one of their parents.

  3. “Genetic mirroring extends beyond the surface. It’s not just the fact that someone now LOOKS like you but they may act like you, think like you do, feel like you do. They accept you and your foibles because they share them. They understand them. Amazing stuff nature versus nurture.” This is a fantastic comment from you, thank you. I am going to send it to my daughter. We are so much alike, and after a brief visit, with her husband, we had 2days without him. From the moment he was gone at the airport, she became my daughter. She was bouncing off the mirror, the humor, the banter. We are so much alike, and I understand her pain. She has been a pleaser to her amom because she has been told to not act like herself. She is so depressed and in pain, because she has suppressed her real personality which is opposite of her aparents. They are quiet, she is loud. They are non confrontational, she is in your face. She had two days of life to be herself with me. She has been reflecting on that for the last year and a half, as the only time she has been a kid, and herself, her real self. You have very informative insite. Thank you. I have been looking for others experiences to compare mine to. But you get it, really get the heart of it all. You should write a book.

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