June | 2011 | A portrait of one Korean Adoptee–Kim Yunmi Dot Com

Archive for June, 2011

The funeral v. the Birthday Party.

I am trying to always come up with metaphors analogies for adoption. Especially for those outside of the triad–because I feel those are the people that need to understand it the most. So here is a new one to try to explain the discrepancy I see between the new adoptive parent and adoptees, where some of them call the entirety of the adoptee and their life “negative.”

I think it’s like this. Some adoptees, not all, see their adoption as a funeral–and some ways it is–a person died when they were adopted. This is not putting it lightly. Someone literally died when they adopted, though they share their face and their history, someone still died. That person who died and is in the coffin is themselves. And once that person is buried, the memories that person had are gone. The history they had with those relatives, that past, that language are gone. I admit, that I’m of the opinion that one should treat it like a death and at some point agree with yourself to heal those hurts.

And like adoption is like a funeral, each reason the person is in that coffin is different. Honoring that is difficult, but not impossible. Sometimes that grief will run deeper for that reason. They will need to be consoled in their own way.

However, some adoptive parents see the funeral and ask, “Where is the celebration?” You know, at a birthday party, you have cake wear bright clothes–because a new person is gained in the family. But they fail to realize they are attending a funeral. Thus they tend to make comments like, “Why are you being so negative?” “Aren’t there any positive things you can say?” much like the person who coughs in a funeral because they feel uncomfortable with the silence or bad mouth the dead person in the coffin. I think some adoptees feel that it like salt rubbed into the wound, much like people talking during the eulogy.

To be fair, it is the adoptee that needs to reconcile this death and rebirth, so spending too much time on the death is not healthy, much like it’s not healthy to grieve for years on end like Queen Victoria did. And spending time blaming everything after a death for that death won’t help. Finding that middle is not easy, but it sure is easier when there are people there that love and support you through it, whether it be a stranger, or a close family member.

Like a funeral, celebrate everything that dead child would have been, could have been *for* the individual grieving. But also celebrate life and the happiness that one can have from reflecting on a life well-lived–because that is the common ground between birthdays and funerals, isn’t it? Reflecting on life itself and coming to terms with that.

Part of my story

I think you can say I had a milder form of this:


So I knew what being a mother was from the time I was 2-5. I *still* worry that the 5 year old me did the right thing. I quit physical needs at 5, and resumed emotional care at 7.

Polarizing an adoptee

I know, I know. You think an adoptee automatically has pain issues. That they are angry. That you can categorize them into “good” and “bad”; “positive” and “negative”. And when there is something negative about adoption, you can blame the adoptee for bringing it up when they didn’t do it at all.

I take that crap as an adoptee in an adoptive parent group. It’s because sometimes as John Raible puts it, adult adoptees are the embodiment of fear that adoptive parents have. We are an embodiment of their insecurities. So even if I don’t say anything, then I am the same as, say Jane Jeong Trenka, or what parents call the Boogie man. I take that crap. Lots of it. And try to turn it on itself to show the other person that it’s not acceptable. I don’t believe everything that other adoptees believe. I state for myself and only myself.

I run into this more with PAPs–for some reason they think if an adoptee talks about the facts of adoption, and other POVs, it must be their own. And if they see that I have not adopted, then they feel free to judge that I don’t know what parenting is about. They think that you “heal” when you adopt, which is a load of crap. That if you have a child, then you will magically understand.

I characterize adoption the same way I characterize art education for adoptive parents.
There is stage 1:
You want pure support for your project and anyone who is not “for” your project is the devil. And if enough people talk bad about it, you’ll threaten to quit.

Then there is stage 2:
You feel like reality is setting in, and you think, OMG, what the hell have I done? Can I really write a book… I mean parent a child. I suck at this!! I sooo suck at this. This book isn’t going to sell at all!

Then there is stage 3: Meh, not too bad. Maybe this is good. Maybe this is great. OMG, I rule at this. (background insecurities.)

Then there is stage 4: What the hell am I doing.

Repeat Stage 3 and 4 until that person gets grey hairs.

Stage 5: Is somewhere you start feeling knowledgeable and you are like, been there, done that, and feel like sharing your knowledge with others. And sometimes, I think we lose perspective and think, “What was the big deal and what was I afraid of?” This has the danger of being lectury and self-centered, and in the words of many a famous authors, “This is just how I write.”

Adoption and writing have similarities–there is a bit of masochism involved for all parties. I don’t doubt it. The rude questioning. The personal experience only applies and makes you better at it and seeing someone else’s way of doing it often seems impossible. Aslo as you go through the stages, it’s often hard to remember the feelings of the previous stage.

The only difference is that Writing, while having quite a bit more masochism than Adoption, also has a sadism switch somewhere, where you can take out your frustrations on something without feeling guilty.

As the adoptee… people ask me to take sides in black and white territory. My reply to that: Sorry, I don’t play borderline for you. If you want that, ask my mother. She’s better at it.