“All the arguments to prove man’s superiority cannot shatter this hard fact: in suffering the animals are our equals.” – Peter Singer
A curious characteristic of several of the reunions I have assisted in facilitating includes a rather condescending attitude on part of our children towards us mothers. I include myself in that as well.
I find myself wondering if this is adoption related or if this type of attitude would exist even if we had raised our daughters. I say daughters because I don’t see quite the same attitude with mother-son reunions. The only mother daughter relationship I can use as a basis for comparison is that with my own mother. I can tell you that if I said things to my mother that my daughter said to me, or that others say to their natural mothers, I would have been bitch slapped by my mother or my father. There was a degree of respect required in my family – simply because she was my mother.
Does that not exist in reunion? Does our unfamiliarity with each other breed contempt? Do all manners and common decency go by the wayside? Should we assume that we will get no respect from our children? In addition to a surrendering our children, did we unknowingly surrender our right to be treated with some degree of respect and understanding? Furthermore, do we tolerate it and allow it because we also agree we deserve it?
Perhaps condescension is the wrong term. Perhaps not. By definition to condescend means “to assume a tone of superiority when it is unjustified.” That might be the right word after all.
In several conversations with friends of mine they have relayed conversations they have had with their reunited daughters. Without fail, there is a consistent attitude that leaves us mothers feeling as though we are being spoken down to, that we are idiots, perhaps even that we take the short bus to work or school every day.
Its subtle but its there. At least four of my friends and I have noticed in our dialogue with our children. It has a patronizing tone or quality to it.
I found myself wondering if our children assume since we were naïve, ignorant, easily taken advantage of at say, 17, do they think we stayed that way? Do they presume, even subconsciously, that we are not so bright and need to be spoken to in a childish manner? Maybe they think our elevators don’t go to the top floor? As in the lights are on but nobody is home?
I dare say we feel as if they say “Well, you were too stupid to keep me clearly you cannot understand what I am saying to you now?” or “Your were not smart enough to have a job, not get pregnant, not be marriage material so surely there is something not quite right about you” or "You did not finish college. I did. You are a moron. I am not. I would never give my baby away. You did. Morons do that. Therefore I shall treat you like a moron."
I reflect again on my own mother. There were many times in my life where I did not respect my mother. There were times in my youth when I was quite confident that I knew better than her, was better than her, and was more intelligent. This issue has perplexed me so much I opened dialogue with my mother yesterday. I told her of some of the situations my friends had encountered; I shared some of the words my daughter had expressed to me. My mother’s response?
She stated she knew that I was always very angry with her. But she (or Dad or hey, maybe Father Pitoniak and his teachings) kept me in check. If I was disrespectful to her, it was in silent. She never felt I was outwardly verbally mean or abusive. She never felt like I was talking down to her. I may not have been overly loving or open to her but I was always respectful of her as a person.
Yet, I am not adopted. So, is this attitude unique to adoption?
My friend Lori has been in what appears to be a pretty good reunion for almost ten years. Yet, even with the “pretty good status” and the length of time, she states that her daughter still talks to her as if she was born yesterday.
What is this? Is it thinly disguised contempt rooted in adoption trauma and related anger? Or do our children really think we are idiots? Can we change that? Or must we just navigate around it? Or is this normal mother daughter relationship stuff?