What do I expect?

"Expecting the world to treat you fairly
because you are a good person
is a little like expecting the bull not to attack you
because you are a vegetarian." – Dennis Wholey

She reminds me a lot of my daughter in many ways. I have enjoyed getting to know her and while she can be a bit bristly at times, I don’t mind. As I told another friend, I believe anyone who has been torched by adoption has the right to be supremely pissed off at any given moment. I don’t mind anger. It’s obvious. I despise passive aggressive behavior or thinly disguised contempt. That is harder to deal with. You are never really sure where you are at with someone who is pretending to feel or be something they are not.

But I digress.

This friend recently said this to me:

“this fear that I will find out what my birthmother wants from me and I will learn that I’m not living up to her standards…”

This really struck me, deeply.  I recall my daughter telling me years ago that I had all these expectations of her and she was not going to be able to live up to them and that was always going to be a problem.

Huh? How does she determine out of one or two emails that I have “all these expectations of her”.

This stumped me in a major way when she said it. It was totally off and in the context of our relationship at the time it was completely well, unfounded. . It made no sense to me. I filed it away in my head for future rumination.  I figured it would make sense to me at some point.

Now that yet another adoptee has alluded to the same thing it makes me think yet again.

What do I want from my daughter? Why would she think I “want” anything at all? Why would she think I expect anything from her? What could I possibly expect?

Why do so many adoptees feel they have to be something, or live up to something, or whatever?

My daughter doesn’t owe me anything. Being a mother does not mean your children owe you anything. Maybe that is just me. It’s just the mother I am. Even to the child I did not raise. My children are not here on this earth to make me happier, me better, me safer or anything. That is my job for them – not the reverse.

Am I the only one that feels that way? 

As I thought more about it, I was reminded of yet another adoptee friend. She told me she always felt like a dancing bear. That she was adopted to make her mother feel like a mother, like a whole woman, a fertile woman. She told me she was told she was adopted to fix her aparents failing marriage. She told me she always felt like she never belonged  but forced herself to pretend like she belonged so her amother could be happy. Her life was always about making her amother happy and not herself. If she was sad, she was never sad around her amother. That might make her amother sad and it was her job, as the adopted child, to keep her amother happy.

Holy sheet.  Yeah, it might now make sense to me.

My daughter MAY feel that she has to live up to the ghost child, the child her parents could never have. She MAY be projecting feelings she has towards her parents on to me.  My other friend might be doing the same.

How do we, as mothers in reunion, reassure our children that they don’t have to be anything but their glorious wonderful selves?

I don’t want anything from my daughter. It is not her job to “fix” me, to heal me, to make me feel better. That is my job. Any sadness, pain and torment in my life related to adoption was NOT caused by her. It was caused by society, by Seymour Kurtz, by my parents, even my own ignorance, but never her.

What do I expect of her?

Guh. I don’t know. To be a decent human being? To not savagely kill kittens in her spare time? To be kind to the elderly and the handicapped? I don’t know. .

It’s not really about expectations or demands. It’s more about hopes and dreams.

I hope she is happy.
I hope she finds her emotional voice
I hope she finds a job she loves.
I hope she finds a partner – male or female – that she loves and one that loves her back
I hope she is healthy.
I hope she laughs often.
I hope she has awesome, thrilling life experiences.
I hope she gets all she wants and more.
I hope she is able to someday find a way to work through her adoption trauma.
I hope someday her aparents are able to love and appreciate her for her who she is, not who they want her to be.
I hope and I hope some more.

Are those expectations? I don’t think so. She may be my child but she is not a child. I can expect my 5 year old to act a certain way because he is being raised by me and he is well, five.

I just expect her to be HER. Whoever she is. Whatever she is. It’s why I have not pushed meeting, or demands, or anything. I don’t want an unnatural relationship with her. I don’t want her doing anything out of some perceived obligation. I don’t want a hostile witness. If she wants to know me, meet me, etc. I want her to do it because SHE wants to. Because it suits her, not me.

This is so critical to me as I know all to well what it is like to give up a part of yourself (or your child) for someone else’s happiness. I won’t do it to my children.

I just want her to be real and happy and herself.

That is all I “expect”.

6 Thoughts.

  1. Hooray! Shout to meeeee!
    Really though. My line of thinking is like, “Well, the last time I saw her, I just wasn’t enough, and she left. So now, I shall try to be everything!” It’s the same reason why people who almost drowned aren’t crazy about the water and people who got burned don’t like the fire. People who were ‘abandoned’ just CAN. NOT. STAND. the thought of being alone. (I can’t, anyway.) I spend my time either making sure people don’t get close to me so I can ensure I never have to watch them leave, or I do everything in my power to keep them around. Imagine the kinds of things a girl must to do keep her mother around.
    I also sometimes have this ‘I can have you, but you can’t have me’ attitude.

  2. still born – your comment makes perfect psychological sense to me. but i wonder, as a mom, if there is anything i/we could do to help with that (or even to hurt that?). do we just sit around – and is that enough? is this something adoptees have to work through on their own or is there something a mom can/would/should do? or should not do? as always, you sound like someone i know. hugs.

  3. I love the post by stillborn.
    I felt much of the same way. In addition, I just knew that I was no longer that cute 7 lb baby. I grew up into my own person, with my own thoughts. Far from perfect and not nearly as cute. I was afraid she would be dissapointed in me. Dissapointment could lead to abandonment in my sometimes warped mind.
    As a mom all you can do is keep telling her that you love her and continue to be there. Always.

  4. Oh and what you expect has brought tears to my eyea. Suz, you are wonderful and amazing. I am so glad I found you on this big word of the internet, you teach me so much.

  5. Being a mother does not mean your children owe you anything
    I couldn’t have said it better myself. THOUGH, when I was living with my parents through age 21, I thought that I did owe them something. It took having my own children to understand that the sacrifices that parents make (speaking of parenting parents but also works for first parents) are not because they expect something in return, immediately or later on, but just because that’s the way that parenting, in its many forms, happens to be. (Though, I know that some parents, obviously, don’t view it this way, but again, it’s how I view it and how I was raised to view it even though it took some years to get through my thick skull.)

  6. Still Born said:
    “Well, the last time I saw her, I just wasn’t enough, and she left. So now, I shall try to be everything!”
    This hit me like a freight train.
    This is EXACTLY how I have felt.
    As well as everything else she said in her comment.
    We’re set up for a life of pleasing – and a life of running scared that people we care for are going to leave us.
    Poss. xx

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