I was one of those people who stopped giving a shit. I stopped caring that I was adopted, that I had a “home”, that I had a bed to sleep in at night, that I had an “education”. That I had food. I stopped caring. I started cutting. I started smacking myself in the face, I started skipping meals and then sneaking food from the fridge in the middle of the night, only to be caught time and time again and told that I was basically fat. I stopped caring. I stopped caring because caring would mean bowing down to my APs insane rules, regulations and idea of who I was-ungrateful, unthankful…and all the other “uns”. I stopped caring because the white bio kids didn’t have to care-they were not made to feel as though they had to care. So what made me different?
Am I raising this kind of child? After we adoptees grow up, we reflect on our life and how we were raised. We ask many questions with few answers. We go on long searches for our birth parents that can usually span a lifetime. Our search starts in the womb and ends in the tomb. Sometimes we find them, sometimes we don’t. Sometimes when we find them we feel more alive, and sometimes we find them and we want to die all over again.
Am I raising this kind of child? The TRA group is an amazing group on facebook that is constantly challenging adoptive parents, adoptees and first parents to reflect, share and create a space for real unadulterated love where there maybe was not any. We learn special terms, and phrases to use, we also learn words that we need to stay away from. Believe it or not, it was through the TRA group that I really started to learn what my real issue was. My real issues was that I don’t give a shit!
Raising children can be hard in general but throw in the mix, a child who was abandoned not just once, but many times. Throw in the mix a child who does not match your race. Throw in the mix a child with disabilities. This is all a recipe for a huge disaster. At some point in the rearing process, there will be a combustion. Either an internal combustion or an external combustion. Let me explain how I see this.
An internal combustion happens when the outsider (usually the adoptee) hides everything they really feel and then one day, writes a book about how they really feel. And does not just write a book, but writes several books. One book is an “I hate this fucking life and I hate you and all white people book” and then the next book is “How I am so sorry for hating you”. And then by the time book three comes out, the audience can hear a pin drop. Yes, that is me, that is my life. And not only books, but we blog, and we angry blog, and we sex blog, and we whip nae nae blog, and we give advice blog, and we take advice blog and we epiphany blog but rarely do we happy blog.
An external combustion happens when the caregiver’s react to the internal combustion by the adoptee. This looks HORRIBLE let me tell ya. Because you can have many different caregivers/a-parents. Some of them really do love you, and some of them really don’t. Some of them will talk to you about race, and change and assimilation, and love, and joy, and peace, and flowers. But others will talk to you about their race, their change, their assimilation (having to deal with you), their love and what they think it looks like, and their joy (and how you are ruining it), their peace (and how they can’t find it because of you) and their flowers….because their shit apparently smells like flowers.
Am I raising this kind of child? I really do try and be a good mom but it is so hard. I don’t like to make excuses but I do believe that your past follows you forever and ever. And sometimes Church makes it sound so easy. “give it to Jesus….give it up today”. And sometimes people dismiss your feelings “look, its not that bad”, and sometimes the sun tricks you by coming up the next day when it promised it would not shine and you could retreat to your death hole. Sometimes we feel forced to say “tomorrow is new and it will not be repeated”. Then what is a dejavu because let me tell you something, I have a lot of those!
Am I raising this kind of child? Raising kids is like working at the bottom and finally making your way to the top just to find out that it comes with a whole new set of rules and regulations each step of the way. And guess what my friends, no child can be raised the same way….mmhmmm No mam! My 20 year old is so much different than my 12 year old, not because of the 8 year age difference, but because of the way their brains function. My 20 year old would not take no for an answer so we started saying “yes” with the word “when” attached to it. “yes, you can go the party and get smashing drunk” when you are 18 and out of the house. (that one was always my favorite!) But this 12 year old….shiiiiiiiiiiiiieeeeeeeeeeeetttttttttt!!! It don’t seem to matter what we take away or reward her with, she DON’T GIVE A SHIT.
This brings me to the whole point of this post. When it gets to the point of not caring, have I messed it up? I’d say no I have not because there is a fine line between not caring, and being ungrateful. As a child, at the heart of it all, I was so grateful, and thankful for being alive even though i didn’t give a shit that it was with them. It is hard to explain. It is like we love the fact that we exist, but then we don’t care that it was them who supposedly called us into existence.
Are we raising our kids to be soooo grateful that they start to really not care that they are part of our family? I we trying too hard to teach them to NOT be ungrateful that they start to not GAS? I’m very careful (thanks to TRA) of how I approach gratefulness. And when I use it, I make sure it is not tied to adoption, or foster care. I also do my best to not pull the “guilt” trip on my kids but because I am human, I slip and have to be reminded that that was the route my APs took and it drove me straight to a scary place in my heart and mind. But Are we avoiding the word grateful so much that we are actually creating kids who don’t give a shit?
Today I had an incident and I feel I handled it somewhat appropriately. My daughter was really not listening to what I and my partner had told her the night before and repeated the same exact instance again. I explained to her that it feels as though she does not care about what we say because she keeps repeating the same stuff over and over again. I then proceeded to explain that I felt she was so spoiled and had everything that this may be contributing to her “not caring” attitude. I pointed to the pantry and told her to look inside of it. I told her that I knew entire families who lived inside of a room not much bigger than the pantry. I explained to her that both her and I can’t imagine living this way because we have everything we need. I continued to explain that the family did everything in the pantry: cooked, slept, kids did homework, watched tv , used the bathroom. The amount of space and resources were so limited.
As I spoke to her I had an A-Ha! Moment. She has too much. And in her mind, when she loses one thing, she can just get it again either through grandma, the cousins, or her uncles or even us, her parents. She has too much. I decided to simplify her room. I took make-up, jewelry and the mirror out of her room. I removed things from her room that she really didn’t need. Like, she didn’t need 5 pillows….that is a luxury. The more she had, the harder it was for her to concentrate on homework, and keep the room neat.
As parents we are to teach empathy, love, and joy. I don’t believe kids just have it, they see it and they try to make sense of it and apply it to their own lives. If our kids have too much, it is so hard for them to see what living a simple life consists of. When you live a simple life, and enjoy what you have around you, including family and friends, you start to understand what it means to really be thankful and that dreaded word grateful.
APs, it is not about showering your adoptive kids with things they may never have had in the orphanage. I have seen so many families waiting at the airport with gifts and teddy bears and stuff that really the kids don’t need or want. They have gone so long without it, what makes us think they need it now? Things that may comfort the western world may not be the same thing that comforts an adoptee. It is not about giving them their own room, their own bed, their own computer….their own bathroom. It is not about making them feel guilty for not saying thank you. It is about watching them say thank you on their own free will-because they are starting to understand what caring really is about. It is about listening to them say “I love you” not because you gave them shit…but because you gave them another path choice.
Am I raising that kind of child-one who will not give a shit because she has too much shit or one who will care because being grateful is not about guilt. Its about that fine line.