Monday, January 22, 2007

Inquiring minds want to know...

I’ve been thinking about the discussions over at Third Mom and ARP last week do parents love adopted children differently? This topic has come up in various forms since I started the adoption process – mostly in the form of adoptive parents commenting that they love their children just as if they had given birth to them, or just as much as if they had given birth to them. Other times it’s been parents of children by both adoption and birth who state that there is no difference in the love they feel for their children. And then there are those who say that giving birth to a child (and parenting a child-by-birth) is no different than adoption and parenting a child-by-adoption. Then there are others who rightly call out the fact that all this comparing is ridiculous and in and of itself, a problem.

So do parents love adopted children differently? It’s an unanswerable question; or should I say, one that is probably never going to be answered to others’ satisfaction. My gut-reaction answer is probably a cop-out: yes, I love my children differently, and I have never heard a realistic parent say that they loved their children the same (way), whether biologically-related, related by adoption or a family mixture of both. Sometimes I think it would be easier to have people tell me what they assume about my love for my children, and then I could confirm or deny those assumptions.


The process of trying to become more aware of the realities of adoption has been invaluable for me and, hopefully, my family. But, I started this little quest for information before I met my son. And if anyone wants to cast judgment on the fact that trying to understand the not-so-happy aspects of adoption has affected the kind of relationship I have with my son….well, just stop reading now, please.

The question is out there, so I’ll answer as I see it – and please don’t try to evaluate these individual characterists of my relationships with each of my children from a ‘good/bad’, ‘positive/negative’ perspective. I’m just trying to give the facts as I see them….the information just is what it is: One of my children has been with me since she came into existence. She was a part of me, my body, my physiological functions; and for a time, was capable of absolutely nothing without me. We have no past that doesn’t include each other. She’ll never call anyone else ‘Mommy’ or consider anyone else her mother, unless something goes horribly wrong in our lives. I don’t worry about her ‘leaving me’ for anything other than to go out and enjoy her own life. I know she’s not ‘mine’ – she’s her own person with her own hopes and dreams and capabilities and her own future to do with as she pleases – but she’s ‘mine’ enough that she doesn’t belong to anyone else. Just me, and herself. I can say things to her such as, “I love you more than anyone could possibly love you!” and not think twice about whether or not someone else out there loves her as much as I do and has connections with her that run deeper than any other.

What is the ‘tie that binds’ with my second child? That is harder to describe. Everything (many things) I have read and come to understand would have me being ‘bound’ to him as a result of things such as greed, money, white privilege, fashionable ‘trends’, racism, classism, patriarchy, benefitting from another’s misfortune, misplaced/false altruism, unethical legalities, and on and on. I’m not saying I don’t acknowlege these things within adoption – I’m just asking how understanding adoption in this more truthful light could not affect the feelings I have for him, or what I can allow my heart to feel for him. In addition….I just don’t know how else to say this except to say, he belongs to another, besides me. Someone else has a natural, lifelong bond to him. He also belongs to a country other than the one I brought him into. I consider myself his ‘Mommy’ – but strive to remember his Korean mother and her bond with him. I consider him ‘mine’, but also know that in addition to belonging to me and to himself, he truly does also belong to his Korean mother, and to his people – both of which are relationsips that I will always remain outside. If I were to say to him, “I love you more than anyone could possibly love you”, my little nagging conscience would remind me that it’s not really fair/nice/right/respectful to say things like that because undoubtedly, he has been loved with a mother’s love by his Korean mother, too. See? I literally can’t fathom what it would be like to love him ‘the same’ as I love my daughter, because every little part of building a good, solid, true bond with him hinges upon my remembering and respecting his other connections, which don't include me. I’m *not* complaining about that – I’m just trying (and probably failing) to convey how respect for his entire being puts a different spin on the adoptive mother-son bond.

I love my son. I mean, I don’t know how I would live without him. He is my world, right along with my husband and my daughter. I would give anything for any of them. I have watched with excitement each milestone that he has attained., though secretly been a little sad to see him growing up so fast. I have enjoyed learning about his Korean culture. I think he is cute as can be. I love his personality…love, love, love it! I have big hopes and dreams for him. I want to give him the world! I have just.loved.everything. about him, right to his core. But things have been taken away from him….and I am only known to him because of that. I am his “Mommy” because things were taken from him. He has chunks out of his life, his being, that I can’t piece back together. Does that not affect the way a mother feels for her child? You bet it does. Arguing that point is just a refusal to understand how life circumstances and emotions entertwine to affect the human psyche. Some would reduce my emotions to mere ‘pity’, or a savior-complex, or whatever related notion. I can’t give any come-back to that except to say that, well, that’s just not how our day-to-day relationship flows. It just is what it is: a relationship of indescribable and yes, unconditional love, that is affected by factors that parents who are biologically-related to their children don’t have to deal with.

Do parents love adopted children differently? To answer 'yes' could be seen as the ‘duh’ answer – all parents love their children differently because all children are different. But as far as the deeper meaning of the question – Yes. What would I be saying if I said that despite the things that have come to light regarding adoption, it is possible for me to love my two children ‘the same’? How can anyone parenting in both scenarios say that they don’t love their adopted children ‘differently’ and still claim to be half-way aware of what it means to be adopted and the effects of adotpion on people’s lives?

My love for my daughter isn't deeper or any more real. My love for my son isn't superficial or contrived, in any way. But to say both emotions are the same, from my personal point of view...I just can't say that - and I don't think it's a negative thing to be able to admit that each relationship has it's own unique context that must be understood and respected by the parent.


At 8:40 PM , Blogger Third Mom said...

Hi, Zoe, thank you for the link, and for really delving into this question. You have the ability to look at it from both perspectives, and have answered it with great clarity.

One of the things that occurred to me when the original post went up at ARP was why some a-parents felt the need to defend their feelings for their children by stressing that there could be no difference because you can't measure love, etc. That entirely missed the point, in my opinion, which had nothing to do with the quantity or quality of our love for our children, which really can't be measured or compared.

Hope you and your family are enjoying a great start to 2007!

At 6:28 AM , Blogger zoe said...

Thanks, know, I think I have missed a lot of points within this topic by a long shot. It's huge topic and I'm not exactly sure what question is even being asked! :) That's why I said it would be so much easier if people would just break it down into one question at a time. There was so much going on there with the wacked out pic of Angelina and everything else - hard to focus on the specifics.

I'm interested in the question you posed about racial differences affecting our relationships and the way in which we love our children. Thinking about that but might never have an answer for ya!

I want to propose a similar scenario - in hopes that this example doesn't offend or hurt anyone, because truly all I am trying to do is make my thoughts come across more clearly (and this is a very, very loose analogy/parallel): Suppose an adoptee who had been in a close open relationship with his/her birthparents was asked this same question (do you love your adoptive and birth parents differently?) The implication within the question is - do you love one more than the other - It's an unanswerable question! But there are factors directly resulting from the adoption itself that will affect the feelings about each set of parents. Race might come into play, as you have suggested, Margie. Losses affect feelings. 'Natural' bonds affect feelings. Personalities affect feelings. It goes on and on.

At 3:00 PM , Blogger Kahlan said...

Amazing post. I need to come back to this when I have more time.


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