Often times, the personal discomfort brought about by reading a discussion on adoption, or something difficult about being adopted, must be addressed first before the message can be heard. Here are some things that I keep in mind when I am reading another person's story and think readers of adoptee stories should keep in mind too.
Adoption is an institution. It is not a person. Adoption impacts the lives of children and vulnerable people everywhere. It also impacts the lives of adoptive parents. We need to discuss its strengths and challenges in order to make it better. We cannot do this if we take everything said about the institution as a personal insult to ourselves. Some things are insulting; those do need to be called out.
Never talk someone out of sharing their grief. Or their joy. There is a time and a place to talk about pain. If a personal blog or story about their experience of being adopted isn't it....where is?
Be aware. Is asking an adoptee to tone it down, telling them that they're not the only people with problems, really about the adoptee? Or is it about making yourself more comfortable with what they have to say?
They are not you; you are not them. Their story is not your story or the story of your loved ones. Their loved ones are not your loved ones. When it is not your story, you cannot direct how it gets told. You can listen, understanding how their narrative isn't yours while still learning from them when their words or experiences do apply or help. It's also not just about what you can learn from them, but about how can you support them in return.
None of us get it right all of the time. Years ago, I was not ready to hear the narratives of other adoptees. I was not ready to really listen or treat their stories with care. Guilty as charged. I needed to investigate what being adopted meant to me so that, in turn, I could both glean and contribute as a part of the overall adoptee community. With gratitude for how others have treated my stories with kindness, I have sought to build empathy with those who live and experience adoption. Adoptees, original parents, adoptive parents, and extended families--we all have our different roles and perceptions in adoption. But first and foremost, we are human beings. A little human kindness goes a long way.