There are many adoptees, myself included, that feel the need to be the perfect adopted child who made the most of their “second chance”. The pregnant, often scared, mother has high expectations for you to have a perfect life. The adoptive parents, often oblivious, have high expectations for you to make them into a perfect family. And sadly, our expectations (the most simple expectation of going to our mother’s arms) are not met, certainly not immediately and oftentimes, never. We adapt, we learn, and some of us even find happiness in our new family. But we never outgrow that unstated expectation of perfection.
If you’re lucky, you were told of your adoption early on in your life…. but then told about how you were chosen and special. Being special means that you’re different and maybe even a little better than all the other children who were born naturally into their families. I don’t feel special, but my parents are telling me I am, so I have to make sure I’m being “special”. Some kids take that to meant that have to live up to something they don’t even understand. All children are special, please stop telling your adopted children that they’re special because they were adopted. Tell your adopted child how special they are because they were born and they will find out what specifically makes them special as they grow. Make it about their own attributes; don’t make it about being adopted. All children are special.
Adopted kids are also sometimes told how their adoption made the family complete and perfect. “We have the perfect family now that you’re here!” Message received: Wow, I’m here to make your family perfect. Outcome of message: The adopted child spends the rest of their lives trying to maintain that family perfection. When we don’t exactly feel like a piece of the family puzzle but are told we complete the puzzle, we start to get lost and lose ourselves in the process. I’m sure it is an unintended outcome but it is the outcome, nonetheless. Educate yourself; read the hundreds of adult adoptee blogs on the internet and come out of oblivion in to the light. Talk about how no family is perfect but you can’t imagine having your family any other way. Please stop telling your adopted child that their adoption into your family makes it perfect.
And then there’s the scared and alone mother whose sole reason for letting you go was to give you the perfect life; a life you could never have had if you had stayed with her. She is told and even imagines for herself a magical life for you. She tells herself this because she hopes it will ease her mind and help the pain. She is traumatized and the only hope, no matter how small, is that you will have untold opportunities and all your dreams will come true. She imagines you in a big and loving family, happy as you could ever be because they have the resources and the hearts to give you what she can’t. We are told, of course, all of that. The weight just got heavier. We must fulfill our mother’s wishes and be the happiest we could ever be and fulfill all of our dreams and have the perfect life… for her, we have to. Please stop telling your child that your mother wanted this perfect life for you. Just let them know how much she loves you no matter who you become. And on top of that, let them know YOU will love them no matter who they become.
The problem is we have no idea what we’re doing anymore than anyone else who isn’t adopted. We happen to be normal kids that make the usual mistakes, but we beat ourselves up more about it because we might not be living up to the expectations that were placed on us when we’re adopted. It really comes down to love. Just let us know how much we are loved even through our flaws because trust me we have flaws. We just need to know our mothers loved us even though they may have had issues they couldn’t overcome. We don’t need the candy coating on our adoption. We need to just be loved because the only perfection in this world, is love.