Karen has been writing about her experiences with society’s widespread belief that adoption is a sort of Child Lending Library whereby you get the child on some sort of extended loan, or maybe extended rental – I’m not clear. The assumption Karen, and other adoptive parents, have to deal with is that a child who arrives in a family via the mother’s uterus is thereby her Own Child, whereas a child who arrives via an incredibly tiresome amount of paperwork isn’t. Plus, the mother in the first scenario is that child’s Real Mother, whereas the mother in the second scenario is – presumably – a cleverly constructed wooden puppet, or something of the sort.
This isn’t coming from people like the vehemently anti-adoption Tricia Smith Vaughan, who is absolutely up front about her conviction that adoptive parenthood is an oxymoron, but about people who are expressing what they genuinely believe to be pro-adoption sentiments – people who don’t even notice the ‘but’ attached because it’s so ingrained in their thinking. The ‘but’ that isn’t spoken, but implied in the protesting-too-much of "You love your child as if…." ‘As if’ she were Your Own. "As if" you were her Real Mother.
The extremely real Karen, who feels no ‘as if’ whatsoever about her love for her daughter, is expected to put up with this, since, after all, she Knows What They Mean. "You know what I mean," a family friend brushed her protests aside, after she’d objected to his use of ‘real’ to describe an adopted man’s first father. Well, that’s all right, then. Thing is, sunshine, Karen knows exactly what you mean. That’s the problem. What you mean is that, at some deep-down level, you think that adoptive parenthood is just that little bit less real than parenthood by birth. Oh, not that Karen isn’t a Real Mother – no, no, no, you’d never think that. All parents are Real. It’s just that some are less Real than others. It’s the fact that you think that – and see no need to apologise for it or rethink – that bothers Karen.
While the main purpose of this post was my irresistible desire to indulge in that particular rant, I do just have to add this, while I’m on the subject: What’s with this whole "own child" thing, anyway?
I don’t just mean the tactlessness of using the phrase to imply that children who entered the family by adoption don’t really belong in it to the extent that birth children do; I mean that it’s a bit of an odd phrase to describe any parent-child relationship. Sure, I – as the saying goes – Know What They Mean. But… my own? As though I had title rights over him? The phrase crumbles into meaninglessness when up against the reality of Jamie. He’s his own, and has been from the start – his very own little person. Is he supposed to be somehow my possession just because some of his DNA matches mine?