Monday, July 16, 2012

“Avengers” of Adoption

When Marvel Comics released The Avengers, adoption community went to a tizzy about an offensive  joke in the blockbuster movie that suggests that being adopted explains being a serial killer.

So incensed were those who are or have adopted by the “joke” – which apparently audiences thought uproariously funny – that a petition was set up to encourage movie maker Marvel to issue an apology. Adam Pertman, Executive Director of the Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute issued a statement making it clear that the joke was discriminatory, tweeting: “Avengers has a ‘joke’ line that the villain kills because he was adopted. What if it said ‘because he was Asian or Jewish or Black?’ Gasp.”

Adoptees are aghast and – rightly and deservedly - indignant at the suggestion that being adopted is a mark of being suspect of any inherently bad or violent behavior, and especially a propensity to murder. Others worry that such stereotyping comments and references will scare off prospective adopters, who already steer clear – for the most part – from adopting foster children in need of permanent families. The label “special needs” is too often translated as “damaged” and incites fear already perpetuated in movies such as Orphan, which play on the “bad blood” theories despite the plot twist that reveals the “child” is not the orphan they thought her to be.  Orphan was boycotted by the adoption community.

Adopted persons have every right to be offended and voice their disapproval at being labeled serial killers or prospective murderers. Abbie Goldberg, however, writing for Psychology Today blog about The Avengers attempt at adoption humor decries the issue from the eyes of those who adopt. She uses the excuse of the movie to express a common complaint of adopters: the difficulty of dealing with comments and questions about their child’s “real” family.

Who are the “Real” Avengers of Adoption?

To avenge means to inflict harm in return for an injury or wrong done to oneself or another. To seek revenge or “justice” via retaliation.

It seems to me that this is a case of adoptive parents seeking to avenge those who think less of them for adopting. Goldberg writes of the anger and frustration of adoptive parents having to face such questions over and over and their need to defend “the notion that adoption is a ‘second-rate’ route to parenthood and that others are their children’s “real” parents.

Perhaps some of her – and others’ – anger and frustration is mis-directed. Much of the public perception of adoption as “second-rate” comes from the fact that many who are adopting today share their entire start-to-finish "adoption journey" online via blogs etc.  Adopters detail their struggles with infertility every painful and expensive treatment they endure and the pain of accepting that they cannot have a child of "their own." How hard it is to come to terms with that. Were read all the time, on blogs and in magazine and newspaper articles how those "struggling with infertility" consider other options like surrogacy or embryo adoption to either have a pregnancy experience if that's possible or at least still have a child that is blood related to one of them.

It's perfectly clear to the public - and adoptees - that adoption is, in fact, very much a last resort for most adopters. It's a "choice" made in most cases only after all else fails and sometimes one spouse accepts adoption as an option sooner than the other.

Adoption "journey" blogs will often then detail the choices and the costs of each type of adoption versus the timeframe, etc. What nationality should we choose?  What disability/problems are we willing to handle?  How difficult or easy is each country to deal with, etc., etc. And no one thinks that their children and other adopted children are reading all of this and seeing how they are chosen like selecting what make, model and color CAR to BUY?  When the public is made blatantly aware how often adoption is NOT a first choice but rather a last resort - how can you expect it to be seen as otherwise???  Adoptive parents, in so many ways, want their cake and to eat it too. They want sympathy for their plight and yet then for it to be ignored? They want kudos for adopting, yet they want the media not to mention a child is the "adopted child of…"

What of the teen adoptees who read those "adoption journey" blogs?  Does anyone consider their feelings as you do the feelings of adopted children watching the Avengers?

Adoption IS a last resort for ALL of the parties to it. Parents would prefer to have children who are related to them. Children would prefer living in families they are related to. And mothers and fathers would prefer never to have to loose a child to adoption for any reason. Adoption is a last resort, a second best choice for all. You cannot get kudos for "rescuing" a child without recognizing that it would have been preferable for that child and his family not to have faced a tragedy that needed rescuing, can you??

And, I am sorry to say, adoption is not natural.  It is a social construct to protect and help children whose family is unable or unwilling to care for them. ... and a way to create a family for those not able to have one NATURALLY. So why should the public not ask about their child's "real" family - and why should that be insulting??  Healthy, evolved adoptive parents recognize and embrace that they are raising a child who already has a family. Their child did not sprout from a cabbage patch. Adoptive parents today no longer play the pretense games of yesteryear that the child "is the same as if" he were born to them, in some cases in the past never even telling the child he was adopted, as was encouraged by social workers of past decades.

Facts are facts. It is the job of adoptive parents to face them and do so with as much grace as possible.  You cannot consider and try multiple options before adopting and then expect the world to accept your choice as anything other than a last resort. Accept it as that yourself and accept that your child is not naturally yours. You and your child will live happier, healthier lives when you remove all the pretenses and start dealing with what is. You can love a child who is not naturally, genetically, biologically "yours" as Goldberg suggests. Accept and embrace that. Adopted youngsters they are not related to their adoptive family. Why should either adoptive parents or they take offense when someone inquires about an adopted child's roots or heritage? Adopted children's heritage should be something adoptive parents are open about and proud of, so their children can be. If you make such questions an issue and relate feelings of shame, embarrassment or discomfort over theme, that is the message you are sending to your adopted children: their past is shameful and should be a secret. It’s impolite to ask questions about it.

Adoptive parents need to deal with their own insecurities of being labeled not their child's "real" parents. They need to deal with those insecurities and feelings of loss of the child they "might" have had in therapy -- preferably prior to adopting --  and not put their fears and doubts of blood being ticker than water on your children anymore than anyone should think or perpetuate the myth that all adoptees are products of “bad blood.”

To avenge is to inflict harm in return for an injury or wrong done to oneself or another. Adoptive parents have not been wronged by negative stereotyping comments about adoptees. The place of adoptive parents in these debates is to support their children from being maligned, not to play victim and seek public empathy and support for their struggles.

The only other parties harmed by such assumptions are the original families into which adopted persons were born; their genetic kin who are being equally defamed by suppositions that all people who loose children to adoption – often simply for financial reasons – are somehow inferior or worse, deviant.  Yet even the “adoption community” in their petition omits them, and calling upon Marvel Comics to apologize to “adopted children, adult adoptees, and adoptive parents.”

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Adoptive people have to deal with their insecurities, absolutely. They think it is normal. It is not. The child they are raising, in most cases, will have to endure a lot of pain. I belong to an adoption family and the adoptive relative has never been normal. Always resentful and angry. Never wanting to participate with other family members. Always feeling abandoned and not equal. And even resenting been adopted. Adoptive parents have to embrace and respect the adoptive child's background and heritage and make them feel proud of it, accept the birth families unless the child is an orphan or other very sad story.
We all come from somewhere and have a background. That child was not just dropped in their home. As you mention, happier and healthier lives will be achieved only with the truth.

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