â€œA mature person is one who
is does not think only in absolutes, who is able to be objective even
when deeply stirred emotionally, who has learned that there is both
good and bad in all people and all things, and who walks humbly and
deals charitablyâ€ – Eleanor Roosevelt
Three different conversations this week all asked the same question:
"When is a good time to find an adoptee?’
I don’t have an answer.
As always, if I were to tell someone "18" and they find their child at 18 and it is horrible, they could easily blame me or resent me. I don’t have to live with those decisions and repercussions – they do. So while it may seem like a cop out, I always tell people to follow their own instincts. They have to live in their own head every day, I don’t.
I have always believed that when you are ready to search, you will. You should be as well equipped as possible (support structure identified, some reading completed, somehwat realistic expectations and more). But thats ME! That was my approach. I know many who decided on Monday and were reunited and in their missing families arms by Tuesday (no joke).
But that doesn’t answer the bigger philosophical questions of "when".
If you are a mom and you are ready but your child is only 20, should you wait?
If you are a mom and you KNOW where your child is but you think they are too young (but over 18), should you wait? Will they appreciate knowing you watched from afar for some number of years but did not contact them? Are you tuned into your primal mothering instincts when you feel your child is not ready? Or are you fearing rejection? Perhaps you are still sipping the adoption kool-aid?
I don’t have the answers. True to my nature I can look at all sides and come up with arguments for and against each position. That helps no one.
I know I personally ticked off the years till my daughter was 18. On her eighteenth birthday the search dogs were released full force and the journey began . (I would later learn she had found me herself two years earlier but did not contact me).
I waited till 18 because I believed a) that is when it was "legal" to find her and b) she would be considered an adult and it would be her choice.
Things did not exactly work out that way. My first contact was a very generic, benign letter that was intercepted by her parents and kept by them. Not exactly what I had planned for. Clearly this approach and the end result contributed greatly to our reunion. I often wonder what might have happened if she had gotten it, on her own, and was able to think and process that first contact without the emotional noise of her parents feelings.
Was she an adult at 18? Is anyone ever really an adult at 18? How about at 21? Sheet, I know people in their 50s who still aren’t adults.
Is age an appropriate criterion?
The two adoptees I will spend my weekend with are my daughters age. They are (from what I can tell based on very limited contact with my daughter) LIGHTYEARS ahead of her in emotional maturity.
(I realize I am rambling now and that should be indicative of how complex this issue can be.)
Generalizations abound in adoption. The industry tries a one size fits all approach to mothers and their children and well, frankly, in my opinion, it doesn’t work.
We are humans. We are unique. What works for you, or your child, might not work for mine.
The best I can offer, again, is to trust your instincts, read, talk, research, be prepared for acceptance AND rejection. Think through how your child will feel if you do know where they are and you don’t contact them. Dont assume that all those pretty pictures indicate a wonderful life and a child who does not miss or want to know her mother. Dont assume that because the son has a wife and children that you would be "ruining" his life and his families life by contacting them.
Hey, here is a novel idea:
Let the adopted adult decide for themselves what they want and what they can handle.
They have spent years being the emotional and physical property of someone else. Their names were changed without their permission, they were ripped from their mothers breasts without any say in it. They have false birth certificates and are unable, in most states, to obtain their original. They can die in Iraq fighting for our country but we wont give them their birth certificate.
Give them a say.
At what age should you do that?
I have no freaking idea.
In my experience, it will be difficult and shocking and upsetting at any age. Even when the adoptees do the searching, they are upset. One friend of mine insisted SHE had to be the one to do the search yet she was equally ticked off that her mother had not come looking for her.
Adoptee after adoptee has told me of their control issues where it had to be THEIR choice to find their mother but damn her if she did not find them first.
How does one navigate the emotional waters where you are damned if you do and damned if you don’t?
I don’t know that either. I struggle with it daily. (My daughters college graduation and birthday are coming up. She has refused gifts. I am struggling with my overwhelming desire to send her a gift for graduation. I am leaning towards doing it even though she has refused things. I figure I will be damned if I do, damned if I don’t, why not be true to myself and be who I am not who she wants to make me into? At least that is my thought for today, check back with me, I may waiver.)
The best I can offer, again, is trust yourself, talk, read, get a support structure and when you are ready to jump, JUMP and believe that no matter how it ends up, you did the right thing.
Every baby deserves to know his mama. Every adopted adult is entitled to make their own decisions, unimpeded by others, on contact, or NOT, with their natural families.
Every adopted adult deserves to be treated like a human being and not a piece of property.