5/25/12 “Don’t be an asshole parent.”

This morning a fellow tour mate and I had the chance to talk to a couple who were here adopting their second child (their first was also adopted from Korea). They, well mainly the wife, had a lot of questions and concerns and were really interested in hearing our thoughts on adoption. It was good to be able to talk with a couple who are going through the process and get a glimpse as to their intentions and their parenting style. At times they would negate some of the things we would say, but to be fair I believe that it was because they were honestly trying to understand our perspective, while at the same time deflecting their own pains and worries, as well as their child’s. One of the things I’ve learned is that you can’t hide from this kind of pain, not forever at least…it’s there and every turn.

The irony about talking to this couple and sharing our experiences is that we have both had really negative experiences with our adoptive parents, so we are more critical of the adoption system. When asked what our advice would be to them, as parents of Korean adoptees, our response was basically “don’t be an asshole parent.”

How does one not be this type of parent? Well, on a basic level, it’s simple:

  • Don’t threaten to send your child back to the orphanage, where they would be forced to run around naked and go hungry.
  • Don’t tell them that you regret adopting them.
  • Don’t compare them with your biological children or treat them differently, regardless of if the latter is positive or negative.
  • Don’t deny the hardships and discrimination that they will face by saying “you’re just as white (or American) as us” because everyone knows this is a lie. In fact, your child will be reminded of this whenever he/she looks in the mirror, even if sometimes it is only recognized on a subconscious level. Claiming that we are “just as white/American” ignores the fact that we are different, thereby ignoring and discounting our feelings. As an adult, I understand that many individuals probably say this as a coping mechanism, protecting themselves from feeling the pain that we feel (denial of our pain = denial of their pain for us).
  • Don’t tell your children that they should be grateful for “rescuing them.”
  • Likewise, don’t put a monetary price on how thankful they should be (ie: we paid x-amount of dollars for you).

All of these “don’ts” are pretty intuitive tips for both biological and adoptive children. Biological children may hear things like ‘we wish you were never born,’ but adoptive children have a whole new set of cards that can be used against them, given its unnaturalness. For example, a biological child will probably never hear “I wish I could stuff you back in my uterus” or “let me show you the hospital bills!”

Again, as you can probably tell, we are at one extreme of the adoption spectrum. Other individuals have had more positive experiences with their adoptive families. In fact, most people on the trip have had positive experiences– some are even accompanied by their families or a family member.

It’s been really eye-opening to see these families and to hear about how other adoptees were raised.

On the first day of the trip I was talking to the dad of one of the adoptees. He talked about how he always told his son that if he was ever interested in going to Korea, they’d go, regardless of if it was when he was young or old.

I was, and am, so envious of him. This, all of this, would be so much easier if I didn’t feel, on a fundamental level,  like I was alone in the world and on an impossible journey to find that which cannot be found.

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