Adoptees: if you could have picked your own adoptive parents, would you have chose the ones you have?

Adoptees: if you could have picked your own adoptive parents, would you have chose the ones you have?

No, not being adopted is not an option.  How would the APs you were to be raised by be different, if you’d had the chance to choose them?

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4 thoughts on “Adoptees: if you could have picked your own adoptive parents, would you have chose the ones you have?

  1. I would have liked to have established a RELATIONSHIP with them FIRST, so I could see what their true colors were and make my decision based upon that. Trust should be earned. Relationships should be built. Even children deserve that.

    The problem with adoption is you become an instant family. Back in the day, this was sight un-seen. They at least got a photograph. I didn’t get any. I didn’t know them from Adam, but I had to live with them. Even today, it is typically just a visit or two. I not only had zero choice, but I had zero opportunity to bond except after I had already been totally uprooted and totally dependent upon them for – EVERYTHING. I was stranded with strangers, powerless. I also couldn’t speak English so I couldn’t even communicate my fears, reservations, or needs. I also had no way to leave a bad situation. I didn’t even get an interpreter… I can’t understand why adoptive parents would want a child under those circumstances, where love is forced because there is no alternative. I wouldn’t want a parent willing to settle for something that shallow.

    I wouldn’t have chosen the parents I got. They provided well, but they failed not only me but also their own biological children in every other way – in all the ways that count. They should have been screened better. And asking me to choose my own adoptive parents isn’t enough, as I would have also traded in my siblings who didn’t appreciate the fuss and disruption of my presence, so I had to grow up with them hating and resenting me.

    If I could have chosen parents, I would have chosen people who bothered to get to know me first, who liked me for me and not because I filled a need and provided a role for them. In fact, I think someone like a caring big brother or big sister would have been a much better choice than having to go live with a new family, to tell you the truth. The amount of quality bonding time might even have exceeded what I got with my parents.

    I would have chosen people who respected and loved children enough to not re-traumatize them and abruptly rip them from their country, their culture, and everyone they could identify with. I would have chosen local people in my own country. Local adoptive parents or the orphanage, surrounded with others like myself – that is what I would have chosen.

    How would my AP’s be different? My only friend in jr. high school had five sisters, a step brother, a step mother, and her dad. All nine of them lived in a two bedroom cottage and attic space. There was more life and love in that tiny struggling house than could be found in my house times ten. Careful, conservative, proper, respectable people don’t always make good parents, just because they go to church, can fill out forms, and can balance their budget. Opportunity can go to hell. Without a vibrant, caring, genuine family like my friend had, my opportunities seem like poverty in comparison. My parents of choice wouldn’t have been so superficially perfect.

    Adoption can be just as creepy as an arranged marriage. You can qualify perfect attributes of the perfect people and they can still be perfectly hideous to live with and govern you. You can create a laundry list of what you want in a child, and find you hate them once they are in your care. And there’s something very creepy about being sought after with no established history and no relationship. Without any test, without any trial relationship, we can’t even establish whether these humans even LIKE each other. This kind of courtship takes time and proximity. It takes more effort. It is so much more meaningful.

    In my world, love comes first and legal recognition comes after – not the other way around. That’s the kind of world I want to live in. People who prioritize values like that are the kind of parent I wish I had.

    • The analogy with arranged marriage seems germane here.

      Arranged marriage presupposes the absolute right of adults to dispose of their children, whether those adults take in the child’s desires or not. Even in a completely overbearing situation, parents understand from an “avoiding future complications” standpoint that some kind of consideration for their son or daughter’s interests is simply good policy. But this detail, hopefully more present than not, remains a luxury; arrange marriage in itself does not demand or necessarily include this aspect.

      Hence, it too proposes instant family The two people–barring an extraordinarily poor fit–understand, “Okay,w e have to make this work, even if that means we barely interact with each other ever.” In Vietnam (just to pick an example I know), the massage parlors provide an alternative means of sexual outlet for males; for those who can afford it, they do not need to impose of their arranged wives. (I’m not ignoring the problematic aspect of sex trafficking, of course.) The aristocracy of Europe often lived in completely separate castles and essentially lived wholly separate lives. The only and primary obligation consists in providing an heir and keeping her or him alive until succession–everything else simply involves working out whatever necessary details one can. I knew a Catholic couple who’d not slept in the same bedroom for at least 17 years; they’d worked out something to keep the family without resorting to divorce, &c.

      The vast difference with adoption, of course, involves the steep power differential. Not ignoring that patriarchal culture almost always makes a mockery of notions of equality between men and women (in an arranged marriage), at least the mutually binding necessity of making it work may give a disadvantaged partner in a marriage some leverage. My white friend, married to a Vietnamese businesswoman, has been told by him, “Go to the whores; stop pestering me for sex.” &c. I don’t think anything of this sort exists to balance out the hierarchical power between the child and the parent in an adoptive situation.

      Whereas two people in an arranged marriage themselves are the imposed-upon children of their parents, and thus have some kind of solidarity with one another, howevermuch they despise the other’s guts, for the adopted child, the arrangement leaves them no allies whatsoever. The ultimate ‘relief valve” in an arranged marriage allows one party to return to their family, once the situation gets to disastrous proportions. (Of course, in matrifocal marriages, patriarchal privilege itself already gets reduced some.) Not so for the adopted child–running away, becoming homeless offer the primary options, unless the adoptive parents recognize a wider extended family of their own and attempt to re-place the child. (This is a poor solution to a bad situation usually.)

      I’m not prepared to denounce arranged marriage as inherently problematic (or creepy), less because of its historically and still-currently widespread practice, but because such a denunciation may veer toward ethnocentric chauvinism on my part, white critique of backward “other” cultures. But I also say this not ignoring the uncountable problems it has generated as a cultural practice.

      I will say that it participates, however, in the same kind of adult license (the disposition of children) as seen in adoption. If an arranged marriage proposes an act of adult imposition on less or more willing children for the sake of instant family, adoption equally leans on this license, but without any solidarity between two children imposed upon. It seems to very much resemble patrifocal marriage, where the woman must leave the broader social network of her own family and its security to become a member of her husband’s family, whether still proximate or not other original network. And, since money typically changes hands in such arrangements, the financial aspect remains a part of this picture as well. in that case, a major new element involves the profit derived by third-parties. I don’t know enough to connect this (persuasively) to those various personages who served previously as marriage brokers, nor do I ignore that such marriage brokering might often be intra-tribal, rather than inter-tribal. Nonetheless, we may still see parents, in the name of convenience and much else, disposing of their children in marriage and using a third-party to help arrange that; someone who gets paid for the trouble.

      Very useful analogy! Thank you for raising it.

  2. I’ve avoided answering here (for years now) because the question seems to come with a judgment call against our adoptive parents no matter what we answer. If we qualify an answer, the damage is done. If we don’t qualify an answer, the damage is done. It’s a lose-lose situation.

    We can also imagine asking this question of biological children. The amount of teenagers that I see tweeting along the lines of “Was I adopted?” or even “How does one get oneself adopted?” clearly points to the (normal) rebellion against one’s parents, whomever they may be.

    When I read blogs of adoptive parents who mediate their children without their permission, or who define what they say before they are able to speak, or who react to criticism by proclaiming that their children won’t be ungrateful, I realize how lucky I was, especially in my adoptive parents’ support (to the extent that they are able) of my return to Lebanon.

    I imagine, if as described above I had “gotten to know” them first, I might have said “yes”, I would want different adoptive parents, but for reasons as much as sparing them disappointment in me as vice versa. Given the reality of my life, and of adoption in general, however, I would say: “No”.

  3. When I look to other cultures where something other than nuclear-family relations prevail, places where “it takes a village” might be more of a doxa than a pious wish, I see at least this much: that children have available a whole bunch of ADULTS from whom they might learn, benefit, &c. At times, this gets explicitly encoded in kinship systems that do not distinguish degrees of kinship beyond “father” and “mother” (for all adults in one’s tribal moiety, one’s “half” of the tribe). For those with large, extended families in the United States who live more or less easily proximate to one another, something like this situation may arise as well, although the formality of the distinction (especially in legal terms) between “father” and “aunt” can’t be entirely ignored.

    Nonetheless, “it takes a village” acknowledges that no one or two (or three) parents provides sufficient range to safely guarantee each child can find what she needs or wants from her cultural world. I appreciate when parents realize they can’t “hack it” and “farm their kid” out to an uncle or whatnot rather than destructively trying to “stick it out”. But that circumstance itself already only arises because “family” has been substituted for “village”; because the unregenerate individualism of capitalism offers the fantasy of the possibility of a retreat from “community’ an thus a severing of all the (communal) resources that children want or need to grow up.

    Obviously, this applies to adopted and nonadopted children, but to the extent that transracial adoption often removes children from communities and cultures that do still very much live and breath in “community,” the teleportation of that into a world where community is a pious (if not disingenuous) wish has an additional, very destructive element.

    As Daniel notes, would nonadopted children “choose” their parents. Part of the question really more means, “Why can’t children choose at some point?” Whereas even in a patriarchal culture, a grown woman can sometimes get out of an oppressive marriage sometimes more, but usually less easily, a child (adopted or not) virtually has to go crazy, before a parent resorts to letting the child “choose” another adult to supervise them–sometimes this even means a prison warden or asylum director.

    The “adult privilege” against children (in the Untied States) is vast. Children don’t even get to choose their own names; emancipation only becomes available after they’re functionally adults, &c. And I can raise a critique against the “village” as well. One reads in the anthropological record that the cultural obligations of children (if they want to become adults) often involve extraordinary measures–so that having “multiple parents” simply serves to more easily get the “buy-in” of the child, because there will be less rebellion. If I rebel against my genetic father, that rebellion gets siphoned off because my father’s brother understand me, etc. Thus, even though I reject assimilation via my genetic father, I get co-opted into the Devil’s Bargain of culture via my uncle instead, with the added benefit that I feel like I chose it. But of course, unless I have an authentic option to leave my village (or family) in the first place, then I really had no choice when I “chose” to assimilate to it.

    At the very least, having a “village” of adults to choose from offers an improvement over the lack of choice in genetic or adoptive families. Even so, rather than being asked if I would choose my adoptive parents or not, I would say that the choice should be, in not having “no choice” in the first place because only one set of parents is available to me as a child, whether that set consists of my adoptive parents, my genetic parents, or even the (singular) village of multiple adults I might or might not have otherwise grew up in.

Adoptees, what do you think? We welcome your replies!

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