I don’t know which emotion is stronger:
Amusement or fury.
Because I feel them both, at the same time, whenever it is alluded to.
You know, IT
Adoptees know what IT is. IT’s the holy grail of knowledge, the forbidden secret, the answer to the great mystery:
What horrible, dreadful mistake did our adoptive parents make, to make us feel the way we do.
Why aren’t I so happy to be adopted, the way their brother-in-law’s cousin’s adopted housekeeper is? Why am I so angry, so much not like that adopted co-worker who is jumping cartwheels with glee over not knowing her genealogy?
I gotta think about it. How was my adoptive mom different than the adoptive moms of today?
Hmmm. Well, I remember a discussion I read once between some adoptive moms about a young adoptee who had drawn on the walls of her house. There was a big thread going over what an appropriate consequence would have been.
And that’s when it hit me. What my adoptive mom did wrong.
Because I as well, at a very young age, drew on the walls of my house. In a very bad place too. You see, my adoptive mom was rather ahead of her time design-wise, and had a very stunning trompe d'oeil painted on the living room wall. I wanted to add a bit to it. So I drew on it. A very fine cat, if I remember correctly.
And what was my consequence? In the thread, I seem to remember various ideas from cleaning it up to taking the adoptee to see a priest.
That’s where my adoptive mom went wrong.
She took me instead, to a closet. The toy closet, to be exact.
And here’s what she did to me in that closet. Gather close, here’s where the big, deep, dark secret comes in.
She said to me,
brace yourself now,
“Here’s a better place to draw on the walls.”
I know, it’s shocking. I’ll give you a minute to compose yourself. Because it gets worse.
She let me draw, all over the walls of that closet. And she let me have friends come and draw on the walls too. When every single inch of that wall was covered with drawing and graffiti, you know what she did then?
Please, give me a moment, this is very difficult to get this out.
She had the closet walls painted white, so we could start over.
God, oh god, it feels so good to finally get that out. I feel so relieved. Years of therapy, and I’ve never told this story. There’s more to tell. This abuse continued.
When I was a little older, I went to visit the new home of one of my aunts. And my aunt had something on her bedroom wall that I had never seen before: a collage.
While the grown-ups downstairs sat at the coffee table for hours talking and gossiping, I didn’t leave the bedroom. I was fascinated. I wanted to look at every single picture, every single square inch. I couldn’t believe someone had spent this much time to make something so beautiful.
On the drive home, I asked if I could have a collage on my wall.
And I know this is hard to read, but she said yes.
It took me about six months, but from floor to ceiling, glued, yes, GLUED to the wall, were pictures cut out of magazines.
As I’ve written about before, a few years later we moved. And moved again. And moved again. Every time my adoptive dad got a promotion, we’d move. The houses got substantially bigger each time. My bedrooms got substantially bigger each time. The walls to collage got substantially bigger each time. Yep, in every house, until I moved out at 18, I had a collage.
It’s shocking, but I saw nothing wrong with it. When you’re abused like that, it becomes normal. You think everyone lives like you do.
There was one house that we knew would be temporary. That we’d only be there for about 9 months to a year before moving again. In this house, I was not allowed to glue magazine pictures to my bedroom wall. She made me do something else instead.
She got huge sheets of butcher paper, and had them thumb tacked to the wall. I had to glue my pictures on the butcher paper instead. And when it was time to move, she had the movers carefully take the collage down, and pack it up inside stiff cardboard so it would be safe inside the truck, so that it could be put on the wall of the next house.
Please take this to heart. The key to having a happy adoptee is never, ever, ever allow them to draw on walls unconsequenced. Otherwise, when they grow up, they’ll be just like me.
In truth, my adoptive parents did make mistakes. Just like their parents made mistakes. And their grandparents made mistakes. Just like I made mistakes, and just like my kids will make mistakes, and my grandkids will make mistakes. Blood related or not, the one thing that draws us all together, has been and will be that look, eye to eye alone with the mirror, with only ourselves and our conscious to know. When we feel that rip of guilt in our hearts as we remember something we said or did as parents and think: “My god, how could I?”
Because we’re human and frail and faulty and we make mistakes.
None of which have any impact whatsoever on my feelings about adoption.
So please don’t write me nice emails nicely insulting my adoptive parents, asking what they did wrong. I just delete them and add your address to my blocked senders list. Instead I’ll answer it here once and for all
Here it is, no snark, no snide, no joke
The #1 thing my adoptive parents did wrong:
They thought they could love the adoption away.
So for all you recipient moms who truly believe that it is/was something my mother did in raising me that caused me (or any other offspring who disagrees with donor conception) to feel the way I do, maybe you need to rethink your theory. Your theory is a cop-out because no one wants to acknowledge that kids raised with all the love in the world could turn out [god-forbid] like me...but alas, they do!
The truth is, no matter what you do or don't do, your child is going to form his or her own opinion of their conception, and contrary to popular belief, reminding them every day that they were so loved and wanted is not going to stop it. You can't erase biology, you can't erase the donor from your child, and you can't erase your child's need for an identity.