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-The Five Spot

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

The Best Policy?

We are all familiar with phrase Honesty is the Best Policy. Yet I think it’s safe to say that we have assessed certain situations and discovered that while honesty is a policy it may not always be the best one at the time. Like if someone’s child looks more like a gremlin than a human baby it’s probably best to “Awwww!” and go on about how precious they are, opposed to exclaiming “Daaaaaaaaamn what the *beep* was that thing?!” Riiiiiight? Right. Or even if your homegirl is dating or marrying a flaming homosexual (knods at Star Jones) maybe it’s better to stay mum, because gaydar is not always accurate. But what policy should we adopt with is comes to adopted children?

Generally speaking I think adoption is a great idea! Be it a road, a grandparent, a puppy or a person. I can’t even convey here how excited I was when my parents were considering adopting a boy a couple years younger than I! As an only child it was a dream come true. But unfortunately it wasn’t a dream that materialized and I occasionally wonder how different life would be for the three of us if my parents had follow through with their plan. I think, if I ever have enough money in my bank to finance it, I’d like to adopt a child, the legal way. But I wonder when is the right time to be honest with the adopted?

It seems that if you don’t tell the child while they are young like pre school age, there really is no right moment. Jack Nicholson found out that his sister was really his mother from a journalist in 1974 after both is mother and grandmother passed on. My mother’s cousin found out after the neighborhood kids informed her through their taunts and teases that her parent’s had picked her up some place. A girl from my high school still doesn’t know the man she calls father isn’t biologically related to her, and her mother is no longer in the picture. And I have heard other stories of kids finding out on their 18th birthdays after their entire families have concealed the truth years.
“Happy Birthday Jimmy! You are an adult now and we aren’t your parents! Now go be a productive member of society.” Say whaaaaaaaaaaaaat?

This weekend I learned of yet another adoption tale to add to my collection. I found out that a girl from my church- for the sake of story we’ll call her Naomi-was adopted. I always assumed that the older lady she rolled with to church activities was her granny, but alas that’s what I get for assuming. Last month by coincidence, luck, destiny or however else you’d like to label God’s divine will, Naomi found out she had a younger sister (who is walking around with Naomi’s face) who also attended the same church. For months people asked them if they were related and their retort was no, besides Naomi was adopted. But then one day the girls started talking and Naomi shared what she knew about her birth parents. Younger sister said the same things about her birth parents. The rub is that Naomi’s sister was not put up for adoption and still lives with their birth mother. Or course birth mother is feeling uncomfortable about the two girls hanging out with each other; which I can kind of sort of understand because it’s hard to face the truth after 17 years. But my heart breaks for Naomi, because I can’t help but wonder what it is like for her to see her sister and other siblings go home to their momma. My heart breaks for their mother who made decision-which I can only assume was difficult-that no one else understands but her. But it’s a lot to deal with for all parties involved, and I wonder if it would have been better for all if we church folks just continued to wonder how it could be possible for two girls to look so similar and not be related. Isn’t God amazing?

And I think for all of us as we get older we start learning the family secrets and it can be jarring. There are several cousins who I later discovered weren’t related to me by blood, but it didn’t change anything for me. Back in the day many a young pregnant woman birthed their child, gave it to big momma to raise and that was the end of it.
But what it was like for my cousins, when the truth was fully revealed? Did they really care about knowing the truth when a loving family formed around them and the lies anyway? Or were they appreciative that honesty was the policy eventually chosen?

See You In Seven


Anonymous said...

I guess I've never understood why adult revelation that you are adopted is such a existential crisis. If I were to find out I were adopted, I would not be angry with my parents or love them or my family any less. I'm not sure I'd have much interested in locating my biological parents.

I suppose I can see it being an issue if you grew up with the feeling (and being treated as if) you were always different from the rest of the family. To the point where it significantly impacts your bonding with parents and other family.

Rum Punch said...

Hmmm... I think it would depend on the what, why and how of the 'big reveal'. I think there might be an initial shock to your system. Things like 'who am I?' 'who are these people who have been lying to me for x amount of year' 'where did I come from' are the questions that come to my mind. I would imagine there would be feelings of betrayal and such. I know a girl who found out when she was grown, by accident (rummaging through her mother's desk) that she was adopted. And she had a wee bit of a breakdown. My cousin learned (by accident and in the most dramatic fashion) that she has older siblings - something everyone knew, but no one had told her. Her parents said they had planned on telling her, but the busyness of life got in the way. I have a cousin who found out he wasn't/isn't a cousin and we haven't seen him since which is a shame. And that's what happens w/ secrecy there seems to be an element of shame. And maybe the person interprets they are the "shame."

Dirty Red said...

This was a very good, thought provoking post. I don't know if I would want to know or not if I was adopted. I mean especially if I was adopted as a baby. But I guess after a while the parents have to man up huh?

Anonymous said...

To me it doesn't matter. My parents are my parents, regardless of how that happened. I expect to lie to my kids, lie about just how bad I was growing up and other things like that.

I can understand it being a bit traumatic to find out as a child that you are adopted. Especially when dealing with issues of living up to your parents expectations and wondering how exactly they got the right to dictate that much of your life.

But I expect at adulthood, people understand your parents (hopefully) were doing what they felt was in your best interests to ensure your continued good health and success and not take withholding of your actual parentage as just another way that they were maintaining some hold on you or that if you were with your real parents, perhaps you could have had that red bike after all.

Anonymous said...

I guess I don't understand the longing for a redo of life with someone who at the time was not ready or capable to handle having you. Perhaps coming from a Nigerian culture, I view a lot of the angst that one sees and reads about when people find out they are adopted as being a significant disrespect to, dishonor towards, and lack of appreciation of one's parents and elders.