There are a lot of negative adoption stories and experiences “out there”. I have been privileged in many many ways and that privilege carries over into my experiences with adoption. Although it hasn’t all been good, I can confidently say that I am glad I was adopted. I can’t really say I would prefer it to the life I left with my biological relatives in India because I have no way of knowing what that life would have been like. But I am fairly happy with who I am and I think that is a fine measure of my experience being adopted.
I should put out the disclaimer, because I have read quite a few adoption stories/blogs that do not approve of positive adoption stories because they feel they only perpetuate what they feel is a negative process (adoption). I write this as a reflection of my own experiences, as all of my scribbling is. I am not trying to be representative of adoption as a process.
My sister and I talk on the phone a lot, well once a week or so, since she graduated from school and moved. Most of our phone conversations revolve around our experiences growing up. We often remark how interesting it is that we had such different experiences growing up in the same household together with the same parents and same dog, same spiders and same pit toilet.
Over the summer one of our phone conversations turned into a mini-reflection on how I felt our family engaged me being adopted or didn’t while I was growing up. I’m not too sure what I actually recounted to her, but it did get me musing.
Growing up my parents never talked about me being adopted. At least, not that I recall. I am sure they answered any questions I had, but they I don’t remember them bringing it up often. I remember starting to notice at a very early age that I was somehow different from my parents and sister. I knew that our family was different than others, or at least I knew we looked different. I’m not sure I knew how to process that difference though. I remember that I would sometimes go upstairs or leave the house in order to let my family be together without me. I did this because I thought they might want to have time together, as they did before I was a part of the family.
I suspect I came to this conclusion because I had had the experience of spending time with a friend and then having another friend become a part of our relationship and missing the individual relationship I had with the first friend. I think I reasoned that my family may feel that way sometimes. They might want to spend time together as a they did before I was in the picture. As a result I’d leave the kitchen or go play outside in order to give them time alone.
Now, looking back , it seems a bit odd. I mean for a five-year-old to do that. I don’t remember feeling hurt by it though. I remember feeling like it was a nice thing for me to do. I was trying to empathize with them, I suppose. I don’t think it was detrimental to my upbringing, nor do I think my parents or sister had any idea I was doing it.
Now at a point in my life where I am reflecting on these experiences I can only come up with a few things that I wish they had done for me while I was growing up. Sometimes I do wish I had learned Tamil or Hindi or knew more about Indian culture. But that’s usually only when someone makes me feel bad about not knowing those things. Also, as far as I understand my parents’ teaching philosophy they tended to follow us kids and allow us to do what we wanted. Thus, I suspect I showed little interest in India/Indian culture and so they decided not to “impress” it upon me.
With that said, I think there is one thing that I now wish would’ve been a part of growing up. I guess I think it would have been good if I had had a space to talk about how I felt different. A space for our family to openly talk about the fact that our family came together for other than conventional reasons. I certainly lacked any real understanding of that as a child and teenager. I think this would’ve been helpful because I knew we were not the same.
Part of me feeling this way, now, is a result of how I felt growing up and part of it is a reflection on seeing other people’s adoption experiences. It seems that it can be very detrimental to pretend that an adopted child has the exact same upbringing experience as a biological child. I feel that it would have been good to acknowledge and provide an “open space” (maybe even a little facilitated) for me to ask questions or talk about how I felt growing up.
It seems like a knee-jerk reaction from most to say (about their adoptive child) that they are just like any other child and that there are no differences. In some respects of course this is true. I felt very much a part of my family, I felt loved by my parents and sister…etc. But adopted child are different. They often look different, as I do, they often don’t develop the same mannerisms as their parents, they were brought into a family for different reasons (normally) than biological children, they have a different experience on the playground, they have a different experience every time they meet someone who doesn’t quite understand how they “fit” into their family, they have a different experience when they go to the doctor, when they are asked for their medical history…etc.
Now that difference doesn’t mean they are any less family. For me, I think it would’ve been nice to have a space to talk about those differences and how frustrating it was when I told people who I was and they either didn’t believe me or I had to explain that I was a part of my family, but “I was adopted”. I don’t actually know if that space would’ve helped. Who knows maybe I would’ve become really rebellious and tried to run away from my family, or disowned them, or maybe I would be the same as I am today, maybe I’d feel a little more secure about being adopted. I don’t know, nor is knowing important in this case.
In this case, my case, its important that I’m thinking of these things now. It is important, I think, to acknowledge and try to understand how I am different from my family in many ways, but how I am family nonetheless.
I not so sure this is how I anticipated ending this, but I suppose that’s alright.