Reimagining Adoption

Nov 21 - Adoption vs. Parenting issues

Category: Submission by a parent - Guwahati

The very first time that my son asked me to leave him alone and not talk to him took me by surprise. He must have been about 8 years old. It was not as much as act of shutting me out that concerned me, but his reason for doing so. He acted funny because he felt he was not like me and that he did not need me to counsel him. The first time this happens, it blows the wind out of your sail. Your world comes crashing down. You feel trapped. Neither do you feel comfortable sharing it with other family members, not can you handle it alone. More so when you are a single parent. Your mind wanders, so this is really what adoption is all about. My son could not keep himself off me as he had several needs for which he had to revert to me. But it remained technical for some time. It took a school trip for him to come out of his shell and back to my fold. But my churning had started. Residing in one remote corner of the country, I wondered, was there any help avaiable?

I would have ignored it as a one time incident, had it not reappeared brely 6 months later. This time it was his teachers. Then his friends. His pereference to remain recluse worried me. So it appeared that adoption, or as the world responds to it, was finally taking its toll on my growing up son. With the intervention of a common friend, I managed to find a psychologist. But sending my son to he for an assessment was an ordeal. He would sprint at the mere mention of the psychologist. With great difficulty we managed a meeting. Thankfully, my son was impressed by her and allowed us for few more interactions. After about a month of evaluation, I was in for a rude surprise. My psychologist friend told me - there are no adoption related issues. Only normal growing up teethers. While I was relieved at one end, I was totally confused on the other. Apart from the single parnting, there was n other known issue. It was natural for me to ascribe his strange behaviour to adoption. And most of my friends and colleagues in whom I confided, felt likewise. But the insight shared by the psychologist was difficult to counter.

As per her assessment, my son was completely at peace with the fact of his adoption. He had no residual feelings towards the same. In fact, he appeared to be proud of his adopted status, though he rarely expressed the same. His challenge, according to the psychologist was lack of my backgrond in science and maths. He was struggling in these subjects and the fact that his teachers for these subjects at school were ladies, of my age and profile, he expected me to be at some comparable standard. He questioned, if those ladies could command these subjects, then why not my Mom? Over a period of time, he developed a shell of shame and guilt because of me. He felt uncomfortable belonging to me and sharing his bonds wiht me, in his circle. Any friend, acquaintence or relative who sympathised with me, became his rival. He was questioning the very eligibility of mine to have any relaiton with him.

I have heard of several instances of parents having some expectations out of their children. This was perhaps the first instance, known to me, where the child demanded ceratin skill out of the parent, and was distancing from the parent for lack of same. And here I was, ascribing all his aloofness to adoption and the lack of comfort to discuss the same therein.

There was hardly any room for complaining. A solution was required. I decided to give him his space. I kept a low profile and interacted with him only on a need basis. This strategy worked, at leat in short term, because he did not feel my presence everywhere and all the time. It allowed him his private moments to disassociate hmself from a science and math illiterate mom. Perhaps, science and maths were just a decoy. There were several other traits in me, or several other lacking, that he didn't like me for. As he approached his teens, the roller coaster rde began. The short term dividends of keeping away from him too vanished. There appeared no logic to his behaviour. At times I was his only buddy, at other times, he could agree less on anything I said. This phase continued until his Gr X. It was the sheer necessity to excel at the Boards that brought him some sanity. Studies lent quite a bit of focus to his routine. With studies came along the need of a support system, that only I could provide. Thankfully he came out in flying colours in the exam. What I witnessed post Boards was a completely different boy. He no longer argued with me. He was no longer embarassed with me. The pressure of a science savvy Mom seemd to be off him. It was then I relaized how accurate the psychologist's assessment was. I had nearly started bad mouthing the psychologist for her understating adoption in my son's behaviour. I almost dismissed the enitre tribe of psychologists as I felt that a mom knows her child best. And a single Mom of a son in adoption could only predict better than anyone else. How wrong and stupid I was!

We tend to underestimate our children, many a time. We believe that they would not be at peace with adoption, because no one else is allowing them to be. But the fact is that they devise their own survival mechanism. So it may be not only grossly wrong, but unfair on our part to discredit their endeavours in living happily with an identity of adoption, and relate any disturbance in their behaviour to adoption. Through my experience, I learnt that just as a bird learns to fly, a fish learns to swim, an ape learns to jump around - kids in adoption too learn to live with the fact of their adoption. Some happily, some with struggle. But deep within, they accept it as an inseparable part of their identity. What follows thereafter are pure growth, parenting and sibling issues. One need not jump to conclusion that anything that goes astray must be because of adoption.

Kids today have lot of pressure on them. Some times they just need space to flap their wings and test their capability. Allow them to be them. Bringing in who they are, and who they possibly aren't isn't going to help them. Proper advice, emprical data and help from a professional could however.

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