“Your only obligation in any lifetime is to be true to yourself.” – Richard Bach
The word has stayed with me for days. I have heard it over and over in my mind. I even looked up the meaning in wiktionary (even though I knew what it meant). I could even hear JM’s voice saying it.
In a recent comment thread, my dear friend JM (an adoptee AND a firstmom), indicated she did not want to search for her first family as she did not want to find more people she was obligated to love.
The word "obligated" hit me between the eyes and caused a big owie in my heart. It is a rather telling statement when an adoptee says she does not want to search and find more people she is obligated to love.
I don’t want to speak for JM (although I don’t think she would mind THAT much since we were both incarcerated in the same maternity home in 1986 and have remained friends ever since) nor do I mean to suggest that all adoptees feel this way.
However, the fact that ONE adoptee does, and that one adoptee is a dear friend of mine makes me sad.
The word obligated is an adjective used to imply commitment, having an obligation or being obliged. It is the simple past tense and past participle of the world obligate. Obligate means:
- To bind, compel, or constrain by a social, legal, or moral tie.
- To cause to be grateful or indebted; to oblige. (transitive)
- To commit (money, for example) in order to fulfill an obligation.
A synonym of obligate is the word force.
Does anyone but me feel that it is terribly sad that our children would not find us because they feel "obligated" to love us? That they feel they have to force love to their adoptive parents and/or their first family? What have we done to our children if this is how they view love?
Furthermore, where would that assumption come from? Perhaps the fact that they felt (or were made to feel) obligated to love the strangers that adopted them? Indebted? Grateful that they were adopted and saved from a fate worse than death (growing up with their first family)?
On a more personal level, this word hit me because I sense, from words my daughter and I have exchanged, that she may feel the same. I wonder if she, like other adoptees, might be so exhausted from fulfilling her obligation to those that adopted her that she is lacking the ability to love anyone beyond that? Or said differently, and perhaps more impactful, isn’t it sad that our children would find reunion as taking something from them versus giving something? Isn’t it a sad statement when instead of viewing reunion as more people to love them they view it as more people to demand something of them?