Adoption has been such a beautifully complicated journey for us. Emphasis on the beautiful part. Not everyone adopts out of necessity either. I love when people add to their brood through this system. Building a family with that sort of intentionality is a slice of heaven on earth. Soul thrilling stuff.
I worried when I started this process that I would find myself hurt or offended by little things people said (off-handed and largely unintentional) about children who are adopted. The current American climate is falling all over itself to be inclusive and that bodes well for adopted children, driving most of the reprehensible and ridiculous to the dark corners to hang out and whisper. So what is left behind? Mostly, the insensitive or the ignorant. And like it or not, those two points of observation still have power.
I could take a few minutes to catalog some of those comments I have internalized over the years, but I won’t. I tend to look past the insensitivity of the moment to the heart of that person towards me and my family. A good heart covers a multitude of sins. Give me about fifteen minutes, and I will say something stupid too. That’s just life in an earth suit.
However, one of those comments I have found persistently irritating. It’s the “but you know, he’s adopted” revelation. A child can’t sit for more than two minutes in the classroom and teacher says to co-worker, “Yes, it’s frustrating, but you know, he’s adopted.” Teenager sneaks out, takes her mom’s car and spends the night at a drunken party. Mom’s friends discuss the incident amongst themselves the next day, “That girl makes such poor decisions. But you know, she’s adopted.” I especially appreciate it when this declaration is accompanied by a judicious head nod or a discerning smirk. It’s interesting to me that out of the hundreds of times I have heard that phrase uttered, it has never been in reference to anything positive. Anytime I hear it, it drips with either a knowing condescension or a pathetic pity . . . a catch-all explanation for ill-adjusted children and either way, it makes my stomach turn.
The truth is, as a teacher, I have seen a thousand and one biological kids make some pretty hare-brained decisions. Head scratchers, if you will. It has never occurred to me to look at a parent and say, “Wow, your child is operating on the shallow end of your gene pool.” Not once. And look, I’m no fool. Adopted kids come with a lot of baggage, some more than others. Learning the dance of attachment can be tricky, and navigating the laundry list of adoptive issues can make your mind spin. However, I’m not sure it is altogether different than negotiating the emotional travails and pitfalls of a child with your own DNA.
At the end of the day, kids are kids. They just are. They are maddening and majestic. They are explicitly enigmatic. They will drive you straight to the edge of the cliff and then suddenly save your life. Sometimes there is no rhyme or reason. And maybe that is why we feel the need to constantly fill in the blanks.