Monday, December 14, 2009

"Find My Family" Reignites Old Cliches and Who's The Mother Battle Lines

I posted on Dec 7 about the ABC show "Find My Family" and pondered with others why adoptive parents felt it exploitive.

One adoptive mother has posted on Adopt-a-Tude an in depth reaction to the program - and to reunions in general - including why she feels it exploitive and much, much more.  It apparently is also being discussed at MotherLode, and one reviewer called the show "grotesque."

Here are some excerpts:

I understood too the longing: "I deserve to see where I came from." And sadly, as a single mom raising a daughter who's an only child, I've spent more than a few sleepless nights worrying whether my daughter will feel "alone in the world"—as more than one adoptee on the show articulated. In truth, the show made me long all the more for the possibility that my daughter might someday find and connect with her Chinese kin.

So, on the one hand, the show made me question again the wisdom of closed adoptions. The bottom line is blood relations are family. You don't cease being "family" just because you're not there. Adopted or not, we all have far-flung family members. Is there a draw there? The possibility for that sense of kindred connection? I'd be lying if I said no.....

In the meantime, as much as I feel sympathetic to the pain articulated by the adult adoptees and birth mothers in Find My Family, I'm also an adoptive parent and—I’m human. So while I understand the deep-seated need to discover the connection and sense of belonging that comes from blood ties, from the sense of having been molded from the same clay, there is another part of me, in my head, in my heart, that feels there are things about Find My Family that are one-sided, superficial, and potentially exploitative....

Lisa then she goes into the old cliches that parenting "is about being there, day in and day out, year in and year out, through the good, the bad, the sick, the rebellious, and ugly" yada yada.  DNA is cast aside and the "babysitter" cliche dragged back out.   She concludes with: "when the Find My Family hosts and adoptees kept saying, "That's your mother" and "We found your mother" and "We found your family"—as if these adoptees were still orphaned and alone in the world—I couldn't help but cringe.....The bottom line for me is that, as an adoptive parent, the show made me feel incredibly invisible [emphasis added]."

The flowing is my reply. I encourage you to read her post in full and add your own comments.


I appreciate your articulate honesty. What I get the sense of, as I read your reactions, is a huge dichotomy - a conflicting duality of feelings.

You say you understand and agree with the AAC statement and feel the pain of loss and the need to connect of adoptees, yet… you feel left out, as if a reunion would cast you aside as a babysitter...a not an uncommon concern of adoptive parents, albeit an irrational fear.

I have been involved in thousands of reunions and read about a thousand more over the past 30 years.  As for the “statistical results” you long to see, they are all over the place, like any interpersonal relationships, prime example being marriage. Are marriages good or bad? Are married people happy, content or not? Is marriage stable, secure and faithful? The answer, of course, is that some are and some aren't, and there are all degrees of happiness and contentment and all kinds of arrangements within the framework of marriage.

Reunions, like any other relationships, are as unique as the people in them.

Adoptive parents are not included in reunions because it is not about them! You no more belong at your daughter's reunion than you do on her honeymoon! Interestingly, however, the one episode I saw - the one with Ashley who finds a brother and sister - they DO show her siblings visiting her at her adoptive parents home. This is as it should be. These are now extended family members and should be welcomed as any other extended family.

Lisa, it is not the sweat equity which makes you feel angry - it is your fear and your insecurity that blood really is thicker than water. It’s your insecurity that this child is NOT blood related to you as you would like her to be; did not come from your body and does not have your DNA. These are YOUR issues and ones you need help to overcome so that you do not inflict them on your child and create feelings of indebtedness and gratitude on top of those you already recognize: the abandonment and identity issues.

What troubles you the most was the show referring to the original mothers and father and siblings of the adoptees as what they ARE: mother, father, sisters and brothers. We need no more fight for such linguistic titles as we need to fight over the children themselves. To truly love an adopted child is to love, accept and embrace fully all of her kin. That’s what they are and the fact of her adoption does not re-write that biological truth of kinship no more than it changed her hair color.  Have the confidence to believe that the "sweat equity" you put by in by virtue of being able to "be there” in ways that your child’s original mother was not, is shared by your daughter.

A mother is always a mother – even if one subsequently acquires a step-mother or if your mother dies. She is still your mother. She may be loved dearly or not. Some people feel far more attachment to a step-parent than their biological parent. Neither distance nor death, nor time apart, erase or change that reality.  They are mother and father…but adoptive (or step) parents can still be Mommy and Daddy!

Lisa, many mothers love more than just the one child and our children have aunts, uncles and grandparents that they love without taking anything away from Mom and Dad. Why would her having yet other RELATIVES in her life be any different? Unless an adoptive parent has been abusive - emotionally or physically - they have nothing to fear when their adult child reunites.  No more to fear than when that adult child marries!

I pray you find help to deal with your not uncommon insecurities so that you can give your little girl the gift of not feeling guilty about loving all the people that created and love and care for her.  Adoptees – like children of divorce- need Not to feel in a loyalty bind but allowed to love all of their parents because love is not finite but abundant and a renewable resource.

PS Despite the costs of adoption, neither sweat nor financial equity makes being  motherhood about ownerdhip. Read or re-read Kahil Gibran's "Your Children"

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