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.