Saturday, October 17, 2009
Come in close, and I'll share a point of view about love that you may not have read anywhere else...
Life is short, and not everyone can make a lifetime commitment of taking responsibility for another person with special needs.
It was only the other day that I read about a married white woman with five natural children who gave up her adopted South American toddler after 18 months. It's unfortunate that race was a factor, and that she came across as selfish and narcissistic. She may very well be, but she may have made the same decision if that kid had been as white as she is.
The thing is, in addition to not developing normally, i.e., developmental delays, I wonder if the child is retarded. He had a condition where he'd eat his own excrement, which was an issue for the adoptive mother. She claimed in response, I think on one adoption blog, that "Baby D" is in a good home that can.
If she had been Latino, I doubt that the story would have the same kind of impact it did. Disrupted adoptions are less common than "disrupted natural parent-child relationships", i.e., abandonment, but they do happen. From what I've seen and read, many are special needs children, often from another country.
My son, at around age 10, went to an adoption therapy group for about six weeks. He was one of the few black kids. Great group with two wonderful art therapists. They did a lot of art therapy, and he loved it. One reason is that he learned there are other children just like him.
"Mommy!", he said, "they're all adopted like me! And they're normal!"
"Of course they are, honey! People are just people, no matter what their family!"
I really believe that. He does too, and his multi-ethnic friends reflect this. His 21st birthday bash was amazing, attended by blacks, whites, Latinos, Arabs, Christians, Jews, Muslims and agnostics, getting along great, even the drunk ones. I am not kidding... and stop frowning, oh ye party poopers, you only get one 21st birthday, and he ended it sober enough to walk a straight line.
Anyway, one of the kids in the adoption group was from the Soviet Union. He was very quiet and of normal intelligence. His adoptive parents complained "he wasn't connecting" with them.
I learned later when he stopped showing up for group that they decided to un-adopt him, aka terminate their parental rights and send him back into the adoption system, this time in the U.S.
My thoughts then was that the kid had been through hell at his orphanage, had to learn a new language, and adjust to a stunningly different lifestyle and new family, and maybe still grieving over his old family lost forever. That's a lot shit for a kid. I think they gave up too soon, and should've respected the kid's space and let him be.
Expecting too much too soon from any relationship usually kills it.
Y'all remember that.
And to my knowledge, that sad story never made the papers.
I'm also reminded of a family I worked with when doing Child Protective Services, when I was newbie social worker. A young woman of 19 (didn't I tell y'all that's a bad age?) who lived with her mother gave birth to a Downs Syndrome baby, a really pretty little girl, but obviously with Downs. It's rare for this happen to women under 35, but it can.
She already had one child, a boy around 2. To top it off, they were poor. Her mother worked full time - but at minimum wage, they lived in poverty. Neither her nor her mom wanted this retarded baby, about 8 months old. She'd tried but just decided she just didn't want to keep her.
Translation: She had no love for a kid like that, even her own.
My take: She might have been young, but figured out her limitations, learned the hard way. Whether or not she later became diligent with birth control is unknown. Hope springs eternal...
My observations: Most people think they would die if they had a retarded child. Single fathers in particular disappear faster than a $20 bill left on the sidewalk. Most mothers would too if they had that luxury, but social conditioning and expectations generally prevent this.
She signed the papers and sadly said goodbye. Yes, her sadness was genuine, and filled with whisperings of If only you hadn't had Downs, I'm so sorry, maybe someone else will love you. I can't. Loving you will be too hard for me...
I understood all this on the emotional level of her decision. Too much pressure, having her friends and neighbors stare at her baby with the protruding tongue, and feeling pity - or revulsion, or rejection - for such a young girl with that burden. With two kids, one retarded, finding a husband was out of the question. A potential partner might wonder if she could have another child like 'that' one.
Even finding a new boyfriend, a real one, not a casual one, would be a challenge. People might think that's his retarded baby, and that's tough on a young guy's ego. Plus she was poor. A man would be thought insane by his own family to take on all that responsibility.
I'm just telling you how people think, and real things that happen. When you scratch the surface and try to put yourself in someone elses shoes - their age, gender, culture, and socioeconomic status to name a few - you find out how complicated and miserable this shit is.
The case was transferred to Adoptions.
Now, there was a single woman in her late 30s who wanted a baby and had been waiting for a kid - any kind of kid with any kind of problem. Baby Girl was placed shortly afterwards. When I heard about it, I wondered, could she handle it?
I spotted them in the building about a year later and recognized the baby immediately. You could see the mutual love and happiness. The child looked like she was "a high-functioning Downs", so that was a gift to that woman. Downs Syndrome kids generally range in IQ from fairly low IQ to borderline retarded (trainable for certain jobs), but most of them have one saving grace: unusually pleasant temperaments.
I didn't mention that everyone in this story was black. Our stories of this nature rarely make the papers either. Few of them, regardless of race, do.
The story of the white woman and her disrupted adoption of South American baby did, and if I'm correct, she's promoting a book. What pisses off a lot of people, including myself, is that she comes across as having no empathy for that child. This is different from no love. You don't have to love someone to have empathy for them.
The media loves drama, and certain elements within it like fueling a potential race war. They prefer this to exploring the complexities of human relationships. But forget about her; she's an aberration and a distraction from the common stories that are tragedies of failed attempts to create, expand, or sustain a family.
I thought of blogging about this - for about 4 seconds - and dismissed the idea. But then I thought about it again on this cold, rainy night, and decided, why not remove the race equation in all these cases, adoption or natural births, and share another point of view?
That loving you is just too hard...
Posted by Kit (Keep It Trill) at 3:30 AM