On Friday, at work, I was snatching a few
hours minutes over lunch to browse the Internet, and figured I’d check out what Figlet was up to these days. (I mean, look what happened to Jenex when I took my eyes off her blog for a few months. Blimey.) The only problem was that it had been so long since I’d checked her blog that I couldn’t remember the precise URL, so I did a bit of googling, and, in the process, found Brooklynmama’s blog, which isn’t one I normally read. (I may have to start. Her child sounds unmissably cute.) In her list of recent posts, I spotted a tirade on the topic of adoption, and, of course, that was far too interesting for me to pass up the chance to read it.
Brooklynmama challenges the attitude of "I considered adoption as a last resort – but I’m so glad I didn’t have to do it, because I just don’t think I could have loved an adopted child as much as one I gave birth to." She feels that expressing this attitude is
a) prejudiced, in a way analogous to saying that you considered adopting a black child as a last resort but you’re so glad you got a white one because you don’t think you could have loved a black one as much, and
b) rude to parents who have adopted.
And if you don’t understand, she says, you probably never will. So she pretty much leaves it at that.
I don’t agree with her. Whether that means I don’t understand or not, I don’t know. I do understand that it must be incredibly galling to have people talk about a life choice of yours that you are, in fact, overjoyed with, as though it were some sort of second-best that you had to settle for. (Come to think of it, I’ve had to deal with that kind of crap about my career choice, because, you see, being a GP isn’t being a Real Career Doctor. It’s… oh, well, never mind, I don’t really want to get sidetracked into an irrelevant rant here.) But what Brooklynmama seems to be assuming is that if someone expresses a view that they don’t feel they could love an adopted child as much as a bio-child, their subtext is that they see adoption as inferior in general.
Of course, sadly, one reason why she feels this way is because this very often is the subtext. I just don’t think that that’s necessarily going to be true in all cases. I think that it is perfectly possible for someone to believe that the world is full of parents who love their adopted children just as much as birth children, yet also believe that they, personally, would not feel that way about an adopted child. If someone feels that way, should they feel obliged to keep it to themselves? Why should expressing a personal preference automatically be seen as a denigration of different preferences?
So, is it fair to compare a personal preference for giving birth to a child rather than adopting one to a personal preference for a child of a particular skin colour? I don’t know. When you adopt a child, that child starts out as being someone else’s and then becomes yours. If someone feels that their heart really can’t make that jump, then to them an adopted child would forever feel like someone else’s – and that’s a much bigger issue than skin colour. Building a family is such a deeply, deeply personal thing that I just don’t think it’s wrong for people to feel uncomfortable with the thought of doing it one way rather than another.
Then again, all of this is easy for me to say. I haven’t had to deal with years of people saying such things when what they really mean is "But you did have to settle for the less-loved version of a child. Poor you, stuck with a child who’s second-best!" So I guess I can understand how it could become impossible to hear such a statement in any other way.
Why is the expression of personal choices such a minefield? Why is it so difficult, sometimes, just to listen to people talk about why they made a particular choice differently from yours and hear it as "How interesting that I now know more about what makes this person tick, not to mention getting another view on the subject", rather than as "This was the RIGHT choice and yours was the WRONG choice, nyah-nyah-nyah-nyah-nyah"?