Saturday, October 22, 2016

45 Years From Now



In 45 years time, OB will be 50 - the same age as adult adoptee Chris, whose story appeared in the papers this week as part of the National Adoption Week coverage.

Reading his story, I couldn't help looking for information between the lines, and hints at threads woven into the story that might help me to empathise with my own children's experiences. There was mention of a shaky start to life, some turbulence during the teen years, and a search for birth family that culminated in the significant moment when this adoptee finally looked into somebody else's face and saw glimmers of his own features. There was relevance there.

But this was perhaps not a 'modern adoption' story. There was no mention of problems accessing post-placement support, difficulties navigating the education system, the ongoing battle of trying to get various professionals to 'get it', the radically altered expectations of family life, the realisation that everything you thought you understood about parenting is not going to cut it here.

And then I took another look at the list of things not mentioned, and I realised that most of the things on that list are not my children's stories. They are mine. It is me who researches all things attachment, me who works so hard to keep our lives safe and predictable, me who makes the phone calls and sends the emails again and again. I am the one who mentally prepares answers to questions my children might ask about their early lives. I am the one who adjusts our environment to reduce anxieties, who de-escalates dramas before they become crises.

I am not saying that none of these things affect my children or are relevant to them. Of course not. Adoption has happened to them. Loss of birth family has happened to them. Not to me. What I am saying is that their story is not mine. I have my story as an adoptive parent. They have their stories as adoptees.

There are many experiences of being an adoptive parent, and many experiences of being an adopted person. We need to hear them all, even if they do not fit with the narrative that runs in our own heads. If I was to be asked to tell the story of my own childhood in 500 or so words, I would probably amaze my parents in what I have remembered and what I have completely forgotten.  It's a long time since I was a child. Perceptions of an event differ from person to person. Some things fade and blur, others remain in sharp relief. Hindsight affects perspective. Things that consume my world now might be barely noticed by my son. His current concerns might surprise me.

In 45 years time, if my son should happen to be interviewed for a national paper about his experience of being adopted, I do not know what he will say. But I do hope that he will tell his story, and not mine.

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