Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Who is Entitled to my Gratitude?

Have you ever seen an adoptee bristle, or felt yourself as an adoptee prickle, when someone mentions that adoptees need to be "grateful?"  Where does this reaction come from, and what's wrong with being "grateful" anyway?  Gratefulness is a wonderful attitude to have for life and blessings in-general. However, there's a distinct and unfortunate stereotype of "gratefulness" that adoptees tend to encounter.

The "gratefulness" seen in family systems causes one generation to look with fondness and care on the previous generation, if they were well cared for by that generation. The adoption-stereotype-gratefulness takes this to an extreme.  It expects adoptees to leave things behind so as not to "upset" some invisible apple cart people imagine adoptive parents to have.  What we may be expected to leave behind are our original families, original identity, a quest for reunion or original documentation, or mentioning any personal feelings of loss in adoption.

This is an unrealistic "gratefulness" is directed at adoptees, and their families, often in an unkind way. In reality, adoptive parents, like all parents, shouldn't want their kids to put aside what may be important to them. It is the job of every parent to nurture the interests, feelings, and ideas of their children. No one, adopted or not, needs to be any more grateful than anyone else is to their parents for doing what parents are supposed to do.

When my adopted identity within my adoptive family exclusively indicates that I need to be grateful, and that gratefulness determines what can and cannot be important to me, I've been made out to be a little less human than everyone else.

I am grateful everyday to be the mother of my biologically-raised sons.  I do not want a different standard held to me and all of my parents because I am adopted.  My sons are entitled to my gratitude for the opportunity to be their mother, but I am not entitled to their gratefulness in return.

Very simply, no child has to be "grateful" when their human rights are met. When children receive love and care, it is not by sheer "luck" or "fortune."  It is justice they are entitled to by nature of being human.