Interesting Blog post I found by Jeremy at Korean Adoptee Blues
At one family gathering this past summer, Carrie and I were sitting on the dock of the lake, enjoying the sun. We heard kids’ voices rapidly approaching, and soon enough, Carrie’s young niece and nephew, Lily and Ben scampered up next to us. They engaged us in playful ribbing and conversation.
I cannot recall how the conversation led to this, but at one point, Lily whispered something almost apologetically into my wife’s ear. As Lily was whispering, Carrie glanced at me with a knowing look, broke into a smile, then mock-whispered to her niece, “It’s OKAY. You can ask that!”
Her niece was still too shy though, so Carrie said, “She just wants to know where you were born. They’ve always wondered, but were too afraid to ask! I said it was no big deal!”
I laughed. “Yeah, just ask me! It’s alright. I was born in South Korea…in the city of Seoul.”
I was greeted with a blank, if not quizzical look.
I quickly continued, on autopilot, “…but I came here to America, to Cincinnati, when I was five months old. My parents, here [pointing to the ground], adopted me from Korea [pointing to the horizon].” It’s kind of funny how I say stuff like this, almost like a reflex…it’s as if I’m justifying my reason for even being here, and international adoption gets me a free pass.
I then heard Ben speak up from my left. He’d been silent until now. He’s a bit younger than his sister, and he looked truly confused. “What does ‘adopted’ mean?”
Carrie said, “Oh, it means that when he was born, for whatever reasons, his mom could not keep him. Because of this, his parents from here in Ohio were able to bring him over here and raise him in their family.” Not a bad explanation for an eight-year old to understand.
I looked over at Ben. I was not prepared for what I saw or heard.
He said, “That’s…that’s…STUPID!!!” The look in his eyes was one of pure, startled, empathetic hurt, and damned if I didn’t hear indignation in his little voice when he continued. “Why couldn’t your mom keep you?” His look was of one slapped in the face, and his voice had a slight quiver to it when he asked his question.
I looked at him with what I’m certain was a resigned sadness. “I do not know,” is all I quietly said. I was digesting his response…
It was his facial expressions. The hurt look in his eyes. The angry and bewildered undertones of his voice. It was the pure, un-ADULT-erated reaction of a child being told a story of another child being separated from his mother.
In other words, to me, his reaction was priceless. I’ve never encountered a reaction like his in all my life. Usually I get the typical, “You should be grateful…” reaction or something wrong and glib along those lines. But never this…
I had to reflect upon his choice of adjective as well. “Stupid” may have been the only word his child’s mind could come up with, but on many levels, I must agree with his knee-jerk assessment. His gut reaction was completely aimed at the initial tragedy that every single adoption starts with, but is usually and conveniently swept under the rug. His gut reaction had nothing to do with me BEING adopted, but rather, how I BECAME an adoptee.
If more adults had the same empathetic reaction that little Ben did, the notion of adoption would be completely and fundamentally altered. Instead, it has become a worldwide industry, and the voices of adoptive parents have become the most heard, because, well, do we not live in a consumer-driven culture? “The customer is always right” mentality has trickled down into this most sticky of human machinations, drowning out the experiences of the adoptees and the birth families.
I’m here to tell you this. Those cute little adopted babies grow up. Sometimes it’s not pretty, sometimes it is. The spectrum is wide. The point is, if you really think about it, adoption is not natural, and to pretend it is will create uneasy feelings for all parties involved at best, or irreparably broken relationships and a broken self at worse. Hearing out the voices of the ones whose level of influence or power was ZERO at the time of the transaction is only fair, don’t you think?
The time for understanding and dialogue is NOW.
Listen to the children.