A theme that keeps cropping up is this idea that adoptees, although I still don’t really like that title, are not really related to their adoptive families. It seems that underlying this argument is the assumption that family is defined by who is biologically related to each other. Obviously though, as I’m sure everyone acknowledges there are exceptions.
One of these exceptions is marriage. For the sake of brevity lets just consider my biological parents. Lets also assume they were married, which to my knowledge they were not, when they had me and are still married today. I, as well as society, fully acknowledges (not to mention celebrates) their marriage and considers them to be to the fullest extent family. But wait, they aren’t biologically related are they? Well, if they were I can tell you society surely wouldn’t be celebrating their marriage.
The marriage was validated not only by society, but by the law. Adoption, somewhat validated by society is also validated by the law. I am curious why some people do not consider to be related to their adoptive families on the grounds that they are not family because they are not biologically related whereas they validate their biological parents relation to each other via marriage?
I’m not trying to grill anyone or say they should think about family the way I do, but cannot help but be curious of experiences I have not had. Personally speaking I don’t mind if you consider your adoptive family family or not because that is your decision to make, but I am very curious about how you make the decision of who you consider family.
I know for me personally, it is hard to articulate rules or guidelines for who I consider family because that group of people is always in flux. New members are always being added, others are dying or leaving by other means. Its a very complex process.
7 thoughts on “Family In Flux”
Kumar, I don’t think I know any adoptee who does not consider their [adoptive] family – their family – I am sure there are some who don’t. I four family trees – two paternal – two maternal just like I have a mom and dad and a mother and father – that is what adoption creates.
I have certainly found people who completely reject their adoptive families. The reasons vary widely. In some cases people feel rejected by their families.
I think there are a fair number of people, I have no empirical data, who have had very negative adoption experiences. I think partially the circumstances in which a child is adopted have a large part to play in the experience people have. I mean just think of the number of ways a child could be adopted they are unending. They could’ve taken from their home by the Department of Social Services (DSS), given up by a young mother, abandoned (my case I suppose), a child concieved by rape, a domestic child, an international adoption (my case as well), the child could’ve been unplanned, the parents my not have wanted to give the child up for adoption but were forced….etc. and the list goes on and on.
None of these circumstances guarentee that someone will have a good or bad experience (as if it were that easy to define). But it is easy to see that some people would feel a stronger connection to their biological family if they feel they were taken away from that family. I personally do not feel this way.
I also would like to take issue with your assertion that adoption creates four family trees. For me it has simply maintained two. I lost the two I had from my biological relatives and have replaced those two with those of my mother and father. Some adoptees don’t have contact with their biological relatives and are not especially motivated to make contact (I believe this motivation is also heavily influenced by the circumstances in which someone was adopted). I do not personally have much desire, currently, to seek my biological relatives out.
Lastly, I like your use brackets for adoptive. I don’t presonally find it necessary to use adoptive as a clarification when talking about my family. But since this is a public space and I am writing for others as well as myself I wanted to acknowledge that some people do make that distinction and find it important.
Whoa! Sorry for all that, I hope its coherent.
Kumar – we all will define adoption differently and there is no right or wrong way. You choose two trees – I choose four trees – neither are right or wrong. Never allow anyone else to define your values – they make you – you. Only do what is right to you and all will be well.
Long before (decades) I even knew a name I had four trees and I have never, nor will I ever meet my mother or father. Just who I am – a genealogist at heart – I am perhaps more interested in the lineage than anything else, as I can waste literally hours upon hours researching relatives dead for hundreds of years – yet each one combines to tell the story of my creation, my upbringing, my values, my ethics, my instrinsic abilities and traits, my strengths and weaknesses – all shaped by my ancestors found in my four trees.
Writing on line is problematic in needing to provide qualifiers – that you don’t use in real life – why I try to remember to use brackets as it is a decent compromise. In real life mom and dad modelled the mom and dad and mother and father terminology – we did not use adoptive or biological, birth, first, natural qualifiers for any. Mom would refer to our mothers as “your mother” or your sisters mother, to specify whose other mother she was speaking about. Just habit and normal and right for me. I don’t care what others use unless it is deragotory such as sperm or egg donor or incubator or vessel – those cross my line in the sand and I will speak out.
So true. It is difficult to write online, especailly because of the use of qualifiers! I think it is also hard to tell when someone is writing about themselves and when they are writing about for others as well. I respond differently depending on how they are writing.
I’d never heard those deragotory lines used before and hope you don’t come across them often.
It is funny you should mention this. I have asked people before if they have had the privelege to meet a couple about ten years into a really good arranged marriage. It is like that. I am amazed with the miracle of conception, but to add to that that of all the billions of people in the world that we ended up with the most perfect children for us…that just really cements my faith. Just found your blog and am looking forward to reading more.
Thanks Elaine and Steve. I guess I’m curious what cements your faith? Thanks for reading and I hope you keep doing so!
I always had trouble accepting my adoptive family as my family. I could not understand why most people, my adoptive family included had close, natural family and I did not. Holidays were spent with their extended families. They shared so many characteristics which I did not.
I also use the analogy of arranged marriage when thinking of adoptions. To me, it’s the type of marriage where one party has no say at all, and simply has to live with another stranger. I did not consent to my adoption, as an unwilling bride may not consent to her arranged marriage, legal though it may be.
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