Sunday, July 25, 2010

John Seabrook on Adoption, and Me on Being a TCK

One thing I have discovered upon coming home is the huge pile of magazines to be read - six months is a long time to accumulate magazines, especially The New Yorker, which is weekly. I will never catch up with reading all of these.

There was one article, though, that I really wanted to read, in the May 10th issue, and this morning I finished it. You can read it online here, but for some reason I hadn't. It's an article about a Haitian adoption, expedited by the earthquake.

I had read about this article on adoption blogs, especially this one and this one. At that second link, you can find Seabrook commenting, and getting raked over the coals by adult adoptees.

The more I read about adoption, the more I realize how deeply painful it so often is. It seems that adult adoptees are good people to talk to if you are going to adopt, but there is so much defensiveness on the part of adoptive parents, in many cases. I can understand why. In fact, this is one of those situations where I can see everyone's point of view. Adult adoptees have much wisdom to share about what they went through, and adoptive parents are often invested in seeing their adoption as something which was meant to be, and therefore can't be fraught with pain. Seabrook says about seeing his daughter's picture and hearing her name, "It was fate." (Here are some more thoughts on that.)

But there's another reason that I identify so strongly with these adult adoptees, particularly those who were adopted internationally. As I read their stories, I recognize many elements of what it's like to be a TCK, to feel you fit in nowhere, as though both of your cultures exclude you. Talking about how painful that can sometimes be can be seen as being "angry" among TCKs just as it is among adult adoptees.

For a TCK as well as for an adult adoptee, you can feel pain and even anger about your childhood, while not negating the joy of it. Often adult adoptees fear hurting their adoptive parents if they talk about the loss of their first parents, or if they look for their first parents. Often TCKs have the same kind of fear, that if they talk about boarding school or frequent moves or cultural confusion, and how difficult it all sometimes was, their parents will be hurt.

The older I get, the more I am able to accept that both things are true about me.

Yes, I love being a TCK and wouldn't change it. Yes, I enjoyed boarding school and have many happy memories. Yes, I like being a person with two cultures (and the others I've added since).

But also, boarding school was hard and homesickness is terrible and I missed years with my parents. And also, it is not easy to be between cultures and feel like an outsider in both.

John Seabrook's daughter will have some similar feelings, perhaps. I imagine she will be happy to be part of a wonderful family. But I imagine she will also know pain: the loss of her first family; the departure from Haiti in frightening, traumatic circumstances, whether she fully remembers them or not; having dark skin in a white family. I hope she grows up knowing that it's OK to feel both, to accept that life is made up of the good and the bad, the easy and the difficult.

More reading: Tara has great thoughts on this.


Janet said...

Good words. All of us feel excluded from what's supposed to be home or family in at least some ways. You're right: life is made up of the good and the bad.

Tricia said...

Your last sentence is a good reminder to all of us!