Curiouser and curiouser….

I keep thinking my world is small, that the adoption world is small.  We may have numbers in the hundreds of thousands, but in the grand scheme of things, we are not a large group of people.  Within this perception is my belief that the work I do is even smaller.  After all, not every adoptee is in therapy.  Then I speak with a couple of other adoptee therapists and if we combined our total practice caseload, our numbers grow exponentially.  What I am struck by is how universal the themes are and that this is not unique to being in NYC, often perceived as therapy capital of the world.

I just finished watching Adopted, a documentary by Barb Lee and Nancy Kim Parsons.  I had to watch it for a workshop series here in NYC.  This film has been around for a while and I kept avoiding it.  I am not sure when I decided to stop reading memoirs, watching documentaries, attend art installations.  I just stopped.  I was growing weary and began to feel like my work was bleeding into my “off” time and I had to shut off ‘adoption’ when I was not working.  It was all consuming, too consuming.

I loved the film though and think the main protagonist, Jen, was amazing, brave, articulate and brutally honest. I am glad I saw this film and I hope more adoptees get a chance to see it.  But there was something that was said during the film that I think illuminates this week.  When Jen asks her mother if she was ever curious about Jen’s birthmother, the answer was, no…she didn’t want to be curious about her, she wanted Jen all to herself.  Aside from the breathstopping reaction I got from that, I hung more on the question.  Why wasn’t Jen’s mother curious?

More and more, to be curious, feels like a dirty concept.  Curious is an adjective and if I use that word to describe myself, what does that say about me?  Are you born with the desire to be curious like your temperament?  How do I feel about an adopted person being curious about one’s history, the adoption process, where the money goes, where a birthmother is, why one has small eyes or straight hair or dark skin, how one was born into this world?  In watching Adopted I was struck by Jen’s curiosity and the incredible lack of it by her parents.  Is this where the impasse is in the adoption community?  A child needs a home.  Does being curious about why or how he got to this position lend to better practice and due diligence?  Find a home for said child.  How curious are we that this family will understand his unique needs and DNA constellation, all things that will contribute to adapting to his new home?  A child is not fitting in.  How curious are his parents about what is making him so unhappy?  Parents don’t feel connected to the child.   How curious are we to explore their attachment to the child and what they bring to the ‘not so good’ connection?  An adoptee is angry.  Is she curious enough to explore where the venom originates from, is she curious enough to want to find the source of her furor?  And if the answer is no, can someone help someone else be curious and become a seeker?

I keep thinking about these things in the context of my small practice, my individual interactions with adoptees, even when I am talking only to my sister.  I keep thinking on a case by case basis.  No wonder I am so tired.  I need to stop thinking so small.  After seeing the hundreds of hits from one posting of my annoyance of the adoption establishment, our collective voices are getting louder.  Great supportive, “you go girl!” responses.  Thank you.  I am left wondering though, are we as a group curious enough to put our outraged arms down long enough to listen and be curious to make changes?  What is the antidote?

I had an all consuming, all adoption, nothing but heartache kind of week so far.  Holding all of this is dangerous.  I keep reminding myself that none of this is unique to adoption.  There are plenty of people walking around not adopted with the same stuff.  Which is why I need to stop and get off the wheel for a spell and resume writing about my job as a mommy for a while.  All this thinking is making this adoptee very very ornary.

Feeling compelled to end on a lighter note.  My son walked in while I was watching the film at the time Jen brought her dad and uncle to the Korean restaurant.  He stared and stared and asked, “which restaurant is that?” to which my other little guy asked, “are they eating kalbi?”  Time to go to Kalbi House for some good Seoul food.

8 thoughts on “Curiouser and curiouser….

    • By the way here in Australia we believe we have around 250,000 adult adoptees plus the younger ones. In America it is believed to be anywhere between 6 and 10 million!!! Not a small minority group!

  1. I find curious not an adequate word to describe how adoptees feel about their backgrounds, biological parents and their history.There are many others that describe it for many of us…deep longing to know, being inescapeable drawn to discover, compulsion, some call it being drawn by blood and many other things.

    • I think you are right about that, but it looks so different depending on the adopted person. I can honestly say my longing was not for blood. My interests lay in finding a culture or a connection to the face I saw every day. My bicultural identity was what I sought. Meeting my birthmother was not a huge revelation of my temperament or my personality, though it does surprise me when it happens. My life experience bent, curved and altered much of me in deeply profound ways.

  2. I’m so happy that I came across your blog! I’m a Taiwanese American adoptee and just recently reunited with my birth family in Taiwan in January after a 2 year search. I can say that it did help feel in some of the gaps of my mysterious adoption, but it did not necessarily squelch the curiosity that I still have about unanswered questions surrounding my adoption. I am indeed more curious than ever. As both of my biological and birth parents have passed on, there are few if any who can answer my questions. I have not yet watched “Adopted” but am more determined now to see it. I’m really glad to connect with other adult adoptees and to see that I’m not the only one who feels the way I do about adoption.

    • welcome. you have quite the daunting task ahead of you. i found mourning for my birthfather a challenge, and one i don’t think i have really addressed. mourning someone you don’t know and have no memory of but know you are connected to in some way is very very hard. i commend my younger generation of adoptees and their parents for teaching me that this is possible. that there is grace in honoring all of where we come from even if we never know where or whom.

  3. “In watching Adopted I was struck by Jen’s curiosity and the incredible lack of it by her parents. Is this where the impasse is in the adoption community?”

    I think you nailed this. I truly believe that this is where the impasse lies. There are far too many adoptive parents who believe their genetic histories and families can replace those of their children. They use that belief to lay claim to their children’s identities and dismiss adoption as a source of pain.

    ” I keep reminding myself that none of this is unique to adoption. There are plenty of people walking around not adopted with the same stuff.”

    Although I agree that there are plenty of non-adopted people experiencing all kinds of pain, I also believe that there is something about the adoption experience that IS unique. Yes, it’s true that pain is pain, but the sources of pain can be very different and have to be acknowledged.

    As always, you get me thinking. Thank you for writing here.

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