Did you know that March 29 is National Smoke and Mirrors Day? Smoke and mirrors is a familiar expression to describe the distraction techniques used by magicians as they try to entertain with their illusions. The audience enjoys the deception even while they struggle to discern how the performer could trick them so easily and convincingly.
Occasionally, we fall prey to a more sinister use of smoke and mirrors when politicians use it to distract voters from the important issues and instead focus on attention getting drama.
In both cases, we are, at some level, willing participants to the illusion. We suspend our critical thinking skills and voluntarily buy into the trick because we want to be entertained or distracted in the moment. Or because the truth is too uncomfortable...
Sometimes we even perpetrate a smoke and mirrors approach to issues and events in our own lives. This can have disastrous results because the illusions may make situations seem different or better than they are but reality remains unchanged. Behind the smoke and mirrors, issues and circumstances continue whether or not we allow ourselves to see or admit it.
In the life of an adoptive family smoke and mirrors can come into play in a variety of ways. Parents may stuff their infertility loss and grief issues and live "as if" adoption "cured" these profound factors. Adoptees may struggle to suppress their own loss and grief issues in an effort to numb their pain or in the mistaken notion that denial is the cost of acquiring/keeping their forever family.
Our culture imposes the expectation which demands we acknowledge only the positives of adoption, hide any pain, psychic costs or difficulties that might co-exist for our children and ourselves. Plaster on a happy face and forget about the challenges. Don't spoil the fairy tale.
This kind of smoke and mirrors approach imposes a huge price. When they role-play "Perfect Happy Family," parents and children miss the opportunity to create genuine and honest connection, to walk through the flames of fear, and come together to validate the truth of their both/and bonds. They miss the chance to reveal, heal, and deal with very real vulnerabilities and challenges. The body knows, remembers...even if the consciousness chooses the illusion that smoke and mirrors can provide.
Leave the smoke and mirrors to the entertainment and recreational aspects of life. When it comes to family, sweep away the illusions and come together in courageous truth. Admitting the challenges in adoption in no way diminishes the genuine bonds it creates. Honor and trust the bonds you form as a family. Be brave enough to see the truth, sweep away any "smoke" and help your children to do the same within themselves and with you. Hold those difficult conversations. Your connection as a family will be stronger, more honest and more inclusive. Embrace the both/and reality of adoption and value all of the threads of your family-bio and adoptive.