Reimagining Adoption

Nov 29 - Referring to birth parents in adoption

Category: Submission by a parent, Jaipur

We adopted Vivek (name changed) when he was 3 years old. We would have liked to adopt a much smaller child, but the wait was too long and we were not getting any younger. Plus, when we saw Vivek, his innocence and charm really took us over. There was no other thought. Vivek grew up in the family with mixed responses. We ourselves would have taken a few years for the feeling of adoption to seep into our thoughts, and become natural. One question though kept haunting us - what should we say when Vivek asks us about his real parents. We did not know anything about them. We could only tell how we adopted him, but in absence of any genuine information about his parents, we did not want him to self pity or develop any inferiority complex about himself.

Initial years were not so bad. The conversation started with his story of adoption and how he came from our heart. But as Vivek grew, his questions changed. As he became a teenager, the reference to his birth parents became unavoidable. The anonymity behind his parents seem to bother him. Also bothered him the fact that he actually could not locate them ever, with closed adoption laws in India. It was then that we approached a counsellor. The counsellor told us that his parents may not be physically present befor him, but we can cretae their identity - a positive identity, so that the void could be mitigated. And that helped.

We slowly started referring to his parents, occasionally and contextually. Whenever he excelled in some school activity, we would compliment him for his inheritence. We would say, your father must have been a strog runner. Or that you mom must have been a good cook. Positive attributions of birth parents started having a positive influence on him. He began to relate that his parents must have had some good qualities - too! It helped build his self confidnce, which had gone negative due to not so healthy connotations of adoption in the world around him. At the same time, we continued to refer to the actual event of adoption as a best choice available for his parents. This made the milestone more realistic, as we neither painted his parents as super heroes or weak persons. Vivek would, at times, bring up reference to his parents suo moto. As if he wanted to check our consistency, truthfulness and deep within feelings for them. The million dollar advice of the counsellor always proved useful. She had said, whatever be the situation, follow the core human principles and offer respect to every individual, that he or she naturally deserves.

Over a period of time, reference to his birth parents has reduced, but we believe that our approach for giving them benefit of doubt in regard to his aodption, respecting them for what they would have been and not judging them has gone a long way in defining Vivek's personality. Hopefully, he does not identify himself as a victim of adoption or any event leading to adoption - but as a blessing to (us) who adopted him, found unbound happiness together and striving to live life as a happy family.

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