Adoptee Rage and the Cat's Tail
When you put a pot on to boil, if you watch it you get some warning as to when the whole thing is going to roil. When you put an adopted person in the world, there’s not always the same early detection system in place for you or for them.
Adoptee rage is like when I lived in Houston and one minute it would be sunny and the next the streets would be flooding with sideways rain.
It is not fun. It’s like buying a new suit or dress and walking out of the store with it on and suddenly having it burst into flames.
Adoptee rage makes life hard for the adopted person and for the people within harm’s range.
The best thing those around an adopted person can do is to listen to every podcast, read every book, every blog, every magazine article there is produced or written by adoptees so you can be immersed in what it is like to be adopted. Being around an adopted person, if you love that person and want to support him or her, is a job. It’s a job with tons of rewards: adopted people tend to have big hearts.
Here’s the thing. Many people, when they adopt a child or a baby, think they just got something of their very own. You are my child. Mine. And this is both true and not true. Adopting a person and labelling it mine is sort of like getting a cat and holding on to its tail for the rest of its life.
Mine, for many people means, I am your parent now and so you can forget where you came from. You now have us (or if you adopted as a single person, me) and so in order for me to be able to keep the myth of mine alive, I need you to forget you had a past. I need you to forget their was another man and woman involved.
You, Child, are mine: I have the paperwork to prove it, the receipts. And I should be enough for you.
If you betray me, Child, if you say you need more, you need to know your roots, I will suffer mightily. That was not part of the agreement. I paid for you. I signed the papers. I am “mother.” I am “father.” You need to forget the others so I can sleep at night without worrying you will disappear.
I never know what’s going to trigger my rage, but it comes from a core feeling of someone has a hold of my tail and I am not free. Something is very, very wrong. Why won’t they let go? Is there something wrong with me?
Today what triggered my rage was hearing about a mother who was upset that her son, whom she had adopted over twenty-five years ago, wanted to search for his birth parents. I just don’t get it. How can you ask someone to ignore his origin for your comfort? How do you not understand the long-term psychological damage this will do to the adopted person?
Mine. Mine. Mine. Mine.
A mine is a deep hole where one had dug for some kind of treasure.
When you adopt, you do get a treasure.
Raise your child, love him, do what is best.
Let your child go.
See what happens.
Know that I never say my adopted mom, my adopted dad. Know that my biggest regret when my mom died is that she and I never got to hold each other and cry about the fact that I was adopted, cry over our losses, cry over the fact that no matter how much both of us might have wanted it, she was not my only mother.
At the bottom of the boil, rage is not rage. It's a broken heart twisting for understanding and relief.
Maybe if adoptee rage had a sound it would be something like hold me, don't hold me, hold me, don't hold me, and the push pull of the need to be held and the need to be free would, when sung, make it seem like one of two things: 1. nothing is possible 2. anything is possible.
And the best thing we can do, both adopted and non adopted people, is to bear witness, cling to the knowledge that storm clouds pass, and know that a baby thrives when it is held and sung to and made to feel everything will be okay, and to act accordingly.