Freaks and Bastards

"The road to truth is long, and lined the entire way with annoying bastards.” – Alexander Jablokov

Do children really view adopted children as freaks?

Do they tease adopted children?

Make fun of them? 

I was shocked to read this.

I never experienced this as a child and I had adopted friends. I also have never heard/seen my own children do this and they have adopted friends. My son was once afraid of an adopted Chinese girl. When I probed him on it I learned it had to do with the fact that she looked different not that she was adopted (“I don’t even know what adopted means, Ma”).

I suppose it can and does happen. Children are cruel.  My son has a very overweight girl in his 3rd grade class. He routinely tells me that he feels bad for Leah as the other kids make fun of her about her weight.

But for a child to taunt another child because they were adopted? Oh my.

Paula lived a few houses up from my childhood home. She and her brother were adopted and they lived with her amom and agramma. Adad had passed away when she was very young. I don’t know how or when I learned that Paula was adopted. I just knew. I don’t recall every finding it wrong or odd of freak-worthy. I do remember being curious about it. Wondering what she felt like, if she thought of her “real’ parents. But I never asked. That would be invasive, rude, no?

Mary lived down the street from us. Also, adopted, only child. Again, never occurred to me that she was any better, or worse, or different than I. Surely I knew they weren’t her real parents but I never made a connection to her being unwanted, bad, loser-ish, or a bastard. I didn’t think that way and was obviously never exposed to anything negative about adoption (too bad, that might have helped me years later).

I did however make this negative connection with my cousin – the bastard.

My oldest female cousin was conceived out of wedlock in the early 60s. My grandparents locked my aunt in a convent with the intent of giving the bastard child up for adoption. My aunt climbed out a window and went to her boyfriend’s home. Her boyfriends family took her in, they married, she gave birth to my cousin.

But, she was clearly treated differently. I remember as a very young child staring at her wondering what was wrong with her. Did she get less fingers because she was conceived out of wedlock? Less brains? Was something wrong with her physically?

I wondered why my grandfather called her a bastard. I wondered what it really meant and why everyone was so ashamed of her. I listened intently behind closed doors as the adults spoke in hushed tones about my cousin. I always felt bad for her but I knew not why. My grandfather isolated her. His second born grandchild – the bastard one.

I was never taught that there was anything wrong with being adopted. I was definitely taught – early and deeply – that unwed mothers and their bastard children were very wrong. (Is it any wonder I was prime fodder for the baby brokers many years later).

My grandfather was a bit of a prig. He was fine to me and my siblings (we weren’t bastards) but to others he was very difficult.  Staunch Irish Catholic from Brooklyn, he had his ways and views and if you disagreed, God help you.

My mother and my uncle were the only ones who deviated from the norm. They married outside their kind. My mother married a Polish guy and my uncle married a Puerto Rican woman.  Grampa kinda warmed to my dad. I guess. At least I don’t recall any obvious signs of dislike. Course my dad rarely went with us when we visited my grandparents. Maybe that was a sign. Grampa never accepted my “Spic” aunt.  He was cruel to her.

I remember being in awe of my aunt and my cousin. What was really wrong with them? What did they have (or not have) that made Grampa treat them that way and made all others leary to be around them? Was being a bastard and a Puerto Rican a contagious disease? Could I get it? If I spent too much time with my cousin, would be bad too?

I knew from the way the adults acted that the bastard thing was something wrong, bad, and I hurt for my cousin. She appeared normal to me. Why were they so mean to her? What had she done wrong?

As an adult, a mother of loss, I wonder who were the real freaks and bastards?

The individuals being called those names or those that were uttering them? 

6 Thoughts.

  1. Yes Suz, I really was called an adopted freak. Those exact words. What’s worse, I had a huge crush on the boy who was so cruel to me. I never, NEVER, told another soul I was adopted until I was years into reunion.

  2. elizabeth – i am so sorry that was ever said to you or any other adoptee. its horrible. truly horrible. (((elizabeth)))

  3. I was never teased as a child, but most adoptees I have talked to were, my friends did show a level of concern about me though.
    I grew up around very nice caring kids.

  4. Our language is horribly negative when it comes to people whose personalities, size, skin color, age, gender, religion and the like is viewed differently….and in many cases those who do the labeling live in glass houses. The very term used for an out-of-wedlock child (bastard) is negative and considered vulgar.
    I would like to think that in this day and age “it ain’t so” but I know better. Kids can be cruel, but where do they get their attitudes? Parents? Peers? Media? Probably a bit from all.
    I never knew anyone that was adopted while I grew up but that doesn’t mean they didn’t know me. There could have been kids, like Elizabeth, who just didn’t want to be considered different and kept silent. The sad thing is the very thought you had to keep silent is disturbing to me and hopefully others. I have a dream…

  5. Yes, I was made fun of. Telling someone that my parents chose me wasn’t enough to convince them that I wasn’t wanted by my birth parents. Of course, I was called a bastard. There is a reason that my first true love was also adopted and the only friends I have left from highschool are too. It’s just the way it was.

  6. An (adoptive) cousin and I got into a big fight when we were 13 and she “won” by yelling, “You’re adopted and you’re not even a part of this family!” I thought I’d forgiven her, because we got back to normal. But I guess no. When it came time to doing our will, I remembered that and couldn’t bring myself to include her. So there.

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