Wednesday, May 28, 2008

The Secret, Revealed

I don’t know which emotion is stronger:

Amusement or fury.

Because I feel them both, at the same time, whenever it is alluded to.

You know, IT

Adoptees know what IT is. IT’s the holy grail of knowledge, the forbidden secret, the answer to the great mystery:

What horrible, dreadful mistake did our adoptive parents make, to make us feel the way we do.

Why aren’t I so happy to be adopted, the way their brother-in-law’s cousin’s adopted housekeeper is? Why am I so angry, so much not like that adopted co-worker who is jumping cartwheels with glee over not knowing her genealogy?

I gotta think about it. How was my adoptive mom different than the adoptive moms of today?

Hmmm. Well, I remember a discussion I read once between some adoptive moms about a young adoptee who had drawn on the walls of her house. There was a big thread going over what an appropriate consequence would have been.

And that’s when it hit me. What my adoptive mom did wrong.

Because I as well, at a very young age, drew on the walls of my house. In a very bad place too. You see, my adoptive mom was rather ahead of her time design-wise, and had a very stunning trompe d'oeil painted on the living room wall. I wanted to add a bit to it. So I drew on it. A very fine cat, if I remember correctly.

And what was my consequence? In the thread, I seem to remember various ideas from cleaning it up to taking the adoptee to see a priest.

That’s where my adoptive mom went wrong.

She took me instead, to a closet. The toy closet, to be exact.

And here’s what she did to me in that closet. Gather close, here’s where the big, deep, dark secret comes in.




She said to me,






brace yourself now,




“Here’s a better place to draw on the walls.”



I know, it’s shocking. I’ll give you a minute to compose yourself. Because it gets worse.

She let me draw, all over the walls of that closet. And she let me have friends come and draw on the walls too. When every single inch of that wall was covered with drawing and graffiti, you know what she did then?

Please, give me a moment, this is very difficult to get this out.

She had the closet walls painted white, so we could start over.

God, oh god, it feels so good to finally get that out. I feel so relieved. Years of therapy, and I’ve never told this story. There’s more to tell. This abuse continued.

When I was a little older, I went to visit the new home of one of my aunts. And my aunt had something on her bedroom wall that I had never seen before: a collage.

A collage

Whoa.

While the grown-ups downstairs sat at the coffee table for hours talking and gossiping, I didn’t leave the bedroom. I was fascinated. I wanted to look at every single picture, every single square inch. I couldn’t believe someone had spent this much time to make something so beautiful.

On the drive home, I asked if I could have a collage on my wall.

And I know this is hard to read, but she said yes.

It took me about six months, but from floor to ceiling, glued, yes, GLUED to the wall, were pictures cut out of magazines.

As I’ve written about before, a few years later we moved. And moved again. And moved again. Every time my adoptive dad got a promotion, we’d move. The houses got substantially bigger each time. My bedrooms got substantially bigger each time. The walls to collage got substantially bigger each time. Yep, in every house, until I moved out at 18, I had a collage.

It’s shocking, but I saw nothing wrong with it. When you’re abused like that, it becomes normal. You think everyone lives like you do.

There was one house that we knew would be temporary. That we’d only be there for about 9 months to a year before moving again. In this house, I was not allowed to glue magazine pictures to my bedroom wall. She made me do something else instead.

She got huge sheets of butcher paper, and had them thumb tacked to the wall. I had to glue my pictures on the butcher paper instead. And when it was time to move, she had the movers carefully take the collage down, and pack it up inside stiff cardboard so it would be safe inside the truck, so that it could be put on the wall of the next house.

Please take this to heart. The key to having a happy adoptee is never, ever, ever allow them to draw on walls unconsequenced. Otherwise, when they grow up, they’ll be just like me.

In truth, my adoptive parents did make mistakes. Just like their parents made mistakes. And their grandparents made mistakes. Just like I made mistakes, and just like my kids will make mistakes, and my grandkids will make mistakes. Blood related or not, the one thing that draws us all together, has been and will be that look, eye to eye alone with the mirror, with only ourselves and our conscious to know. When we feel that rip of guilt in our hearts as we remember something we said or did as parents and think: “My god, how could I?”

Because we’re human and frail and faulty and we make mistakes.

None of which have any impact whatsoever on my feelings about adoption.

So please don’t write me nice emails nicely insulting my adoptive parents, asking what they did wrong. I just delete them and add your address to my blocked senders list. Instead I’ll answer it here once and for all

Here it is, no snark, no snide, no joke

The #1 thing my adoptive parents did wrong:










They thought they could love the adoption away.

10 complaints from ingrates:

mia,  May 29, 2008 at 6:35 AM  

When J was four he drew on the wall in the hallway. I went out and bought a picture frame big enough to encompass the entire drawing and stuck it on the wall like it was the finest Picasso. But I'm abusive like that. Never considered the priest! I really should read the boards more to learn proper parenting skills.

The picture of you and your dad made me smile big.

Anonymous,  May 29, 2008 at 8:28 AM  

Thanks ULB - it is strange the things that trigger our memories.

I remember the picture I drew was a horse - I love horses.

I would sell lemonade, look for money back deposit bottles in garbage cans, do loads of odd jobs such as shovelling snow and cutting grass - just to have a half-hour ride on a horse. It would take months to save up the money. I would take a series of buses out of the city to the one stable I could afford. That half hour on that horse - Banner was his name - helped to keep my sanity and made me realise that not all of the world is a terrible place.

My daughter has inherited my love of horses. She has just completed her qualification for Horse Management. She will be graduating next month - I am so proud of her.

I have never hit any of my children and they are good people.
It shows it can be done.

Ungrateful Little Bastard May 29, 2008 at 9:59 AM  

Yeah I wasn't a hitter either. It just pisses me off when people think my feelings about adoption are because of something horrible my adoptive parents did. When people write me asking what mistakes my a-parents made so that they don't repeat them, it makes me want to ask them what mistakes THEIR parents did that made them unable to think.

Erin May 29, 2008 at 10:58 AM  

Theresa,
I honestly love your posts like this :)

It is so so so important for us as adoptive parents to realize that no matter how much we love our children, we can't love the adoption away as you put it.

We need to realize that adoption is an issue in our kids lives, and they need to direct us as to how they need to deal with it. We just have to be prepared TO deal with it at some point in time. We can't ignore that issue.

drfantastic,  May 29, 2008 at 4:40 PM  

Still learning so much from your blog.

I know I've written that before, but thank you. I've posted as anon before... but I didn't want to get confused with the person who already told their powerful story above.

phil May 29, 2008 at 6:50 PM  

Theresa,

This may be my favorite blog post of all time. Seriously. Thank you. You put this all so well.

Heather.PNR May 30, 2008 at 2:37 AM  

What a sobering and powerful reminder. Your closing sentence about not being able to love the adoption away is going to stick with me. How I wish I could sometimes.

Sunny June 1, 2008 at 2:09 PM  

I've said it before--but you are such a good writer!

Linda June 29, 2010 at 10:28 PM  

Aahhhh...This is most excellent!!

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