Thursday, December 17, 2009

Twenty Things

This is a review of a book that we had to read for our adoption agency.  It is titled Twenty Things Adopted Kids wish their Adopted Parents Knew.  The author is an adoptee.  She was adopted when she was an infant in the 1940's.  The adoption climate was different in that time.  Birthmoms were counseled to just pick up the pieces and move on.  Adoptive parents had little information about birthparents.  There were no open adoptions, where birthparents have the option of maintaining some form of contact with the child they chose to place for adoption.  Open adoptions are now highly encouraged by adoption agencies.

I had mixed feeling about this book.  The first part of it was hard to read through because I felt like it didn't apply to our situation.  She talks about loss and grief a lot.  This is something I could not relate to well because we haven’t been through infertility.  She seems to assume that people who adopt are doing it primarily because they can’t have their own biological kids, and she makes it seem as if she feels adoption as “second best."

The author discusses the importance of embracing differences – some of which is helpful – “your child needs to realize that he came from real people with real personalities and life stories who made decisions that impacted his life forever”  Some not so helpful – she says that she liked ketchup a lot & her adoptive parents didn’t.  That made her feel weird at the dinner table.  “if my parents had been more enlightened about how to validate my pre-adoption reality they might have concluded that this was a tie to my biological history. . .Who in my birth family liked ketchup?”   Not every little difference needs to be linked to adopting.  I like food and activities that neither of my parents like.

Chapter 17 is titled “Respect my privacy regard my adoption, don’t tell other people without my consent.”  When we will be in public with our kids, it will be obvious that I didn’t give birth to them.  They will not look like us.  She says that you don’t want to make the child feel different from the rest of the family or weird.  Our kids will be different, and we will celebrate that.  

In another part of the book, she says to ell your child about their unique characteristics that bring a new dimension to your family.  Celebrate differences.  She says later in the book that making a child feel different may make him feel like he’s not part of the family, so which is it?

The author uses the term "toxic shame." She feels that adoptees may think they were given up by their birth family because they were a bad baby.  This thinking  may lead to two extremes of behavior – being afraid that they will disappoint you & you will give them up too, so they seek to please you in all they do.  The other extreme is deciding to act like they really are a bad kid which may lead to stealing, setting fires, eating disorders, promiscuity, etc.  My issue with that view is that biological kids exhibit the same problems sometimes.  She goes on to say, "Let your child know that you longed for him before he was even born.  Make a life book for your child, and for  the first page write a letter to him affirming his “welcomeness” into the family.  Let your child know that you blow it sometimes & laugh at yourself.  Show him your humanity.  Help him see that people don’t deserve to be rejected just because they are alive." - This latter part is helpful.

This book did give me some good things to think about, but it had an overall negative feel to it.  The author has a new book out called 20 Things Adoptive Parents Need to Succeed. Currently, it has one review at Amazon, and it was written by the author herself.  She gave it five stars, of course!  I think that is a rather vain thing to do! Ha!

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