How do you tell your child you love them without it falling on deaf ears? How do you show them you are ok with who they are, who they are trying to be without seeming pedantic? How do you let your child go and figure out some of the hard stuff about racism, identity, marginalization, adoption and know you are neither welcome nor helpful in that area? What if your kid is the kind of kid who is wired to think of the glass as half empty or is too embroiled in adolescence to hear your words. Better yet, what if she is the kind of kid who has never gotten past the idea that they were thrown away once and is on the path of proving that she is unworthy time and time again.
I keep reminding myself that the brave, exhausted, confused, angry, wounded parents that come to deliver their child to me for 50 minutes every week is showing that love the best they know how. It is so easy to side with the kid, to get lost in their angry, hurt, abandoned narrative so much that her parents start to look ignorant, clueless, bad. It is really comfortable to judge them to the point of asking, why did you adopt? If you weren’t ready for all of this, then why did you adopt?
There have been times I have been in a room with parents and realized that the match just was not going well. There was no match at all. The abritrariness of adoption is no more blatant than when you feel the wall between a child and her parents and know that that wall was there from the first day they met. I am not talking about those moments. That’s for another time, when I feel more brave myself to admit the truth of the outcome there. Rather, I am talking about the more typical moments of my work – when I see a love that pores out and realize that the language that is being spoken is not comprehensible. The body language is there, the voice inflections are earnest and pleading, the tears are real and the confusion raw.
Those are the moments I rest easier in my chair. I have something to work with now and while I can listen and empathize with the adoptee I know I have a fighting chance to help them come through the other end with some ability to recognize that they are loved and maybe able to speak in audible words.
I think this is the other side of advocating for the child, this finding the language that bridges between an adoptee and her parents. I don’t think it is just in adoption either. But I do believe adoption clouds the already fuzzy landscape of parenting. I think our community of adult adoptees continues to grow and get more eloquent but sometimes at the cost of the drowning out the many parents who are doing the crazy hard work of trying to keep up.
I have met such parents and I think about them tonight as they silently worry, pray, analyze, cry and hope their children will try and connect with them again.
Another day at the office.