A cow patty slathered with vanilla frosting still stinks.
What!?! A cow patty stinks? Indeed, no amount of frosting can change a cow patty into dessert.
What does this statement have to do with Intentional Parenting? More than you might think.
Adult adoptees report that people often dismiss, trivialize or ignore their adoption-connected grief and loss. They're told to get over it AND be grateful. After all, they have a "great family now; why mourn the loss of their first family? This cultural expectation is the emotional equivalent of frosting a cow patty. Underneath the pretty exterior, it still stinks.
True, their first family relinquished them, but their adoptive family yearned for them ... so .... things all worked out after all. Strangers--and sometimes friends and family--tell adoptees they should get over it--and be grateful in the process. This is a false equivalence. The substitution of one family for another--regardless of how awesome that replacement family is--this substitution does not erase the emotional and physical pain of the loss involved. (Nor does it eliminate adoptees' interest in learning more about their birth families.)
In the past, professionals advised families to live "as if" lives. As if children had no remaining connection to birth families. As if they had no losses. As if we'd given birth to them. As if they had no scars, memories or grief. As if adoption was the fairy tale solution from which all could walk unscathed into the future.
Intentional, adoption-attuned parents know the truth contradicted the fairy tale. Underneath the happily-ever-after label existed some painful stuff. Prettying it up did not make the pain go away. It merely buried it deeper where it festered. Unresolved.
How does this awareness guide Intentional Parents? When it comes to adoption "stuff" we don't gloss over it, pretty it up, minimize or turn a blind eye.
Several recent posts have focused on the benefits of authentic listening and encouraging kids to share their emotions/thoughts/beliefs regarding adoption. As Adoption-attuned parents, we understand these conversations will be complex, unsettling and painful to hear. We want our children to confide in us because we promised to be the safe harbor they need.
High AQ* families know enough to ask the questions that bring thoughts and feelings to the surface, that validate our children's struggles. This serves as evidence of our permanent commitment to them and reminds our children we don't require them to value only us and dismiss their birth families. We ask questions, listen deeply, validate our children's authentic experience and live with a Both/And paradigm. This is what it means to be an Intentional, Adoption-attuned family.