The Decision to Give Up an Adopted Child: An Adoptee's Take
Like many other people, I was mildly horrified at the thought of a woman who would take the responsibility of taking care of a child, and then when times got tough, abandon the child. But unlike many others, the first thought that didn't come to mind was "monster."
Anita Tedaldi's husband was perfectly rational in his reluctance to have his wife tell their story to a high-profile television network and to have it posted on the Today website. He knew that while the family might have made the right decision for them, many who have not either faced the same situation would judge. And oh boy, we did.
We judge because we are under the delusion that love conquers all, that if we love hard enough, it will quell all the harsh and difficult realities we face: What happens if we have a hard time bonding with a child? What happens when the child, who does not have the same ethno-cultural background as us, comes to us with questions we do not know how to answer?
While I'm still not that comfortable with Tedaldi's decision, in the long run, she did that child a huge favor. As an adoptee, a black woman who was raised by a white family, I have been on the receiving end of bonding difficulties, of cultural confusion and the harsh reality that even though you might be legally bound to your family members, the fact that you are not their 'blood' makes a huge difference.
First, I have to say that I love my parents. My parents, despite their confusion with my penchant for metal music culture, tattoos and my lack of desire to get married, love me. I have always been very opinionated and very fervent in my political beliefs and even though every time my dad and I get together we can talk about politics for hours and hours, there is a distance.
I love spending time with my mom, and even though I am going to be 40 this year, I am still in awe about how much I love spending time getting to know her - not as "Mommy," which I still call her - but as a woman. A woman who adopted two black children before she was 30. A woman whom I believe, made a big mistake.
They always went out of their way to make me and my older sister, who is biracial and was adopted a couple of years before me, their daughters. Despite having two boys of their own, and when I was ten, a little sister, they made us feel like we were their 'own.' But the distance was always there.
I do not have a relationship with my extended family on either side. They never made me or my older sister feel like we were part of the family. When I was about eleven, my grandfather, my dad's father, called us 'savages.' When I was thirteen, an uncle told my parents that they should have never adopted me and that I was never to step into his house again. I never spoke to either of them again. My grandpa died about 15 years ago and I couldn't even cry at his funeral. I have another uncle whom I realized a couple of months ago, I had never even had a conversation with. He has never directly spoken to me.
My parents never defended me. They never spoke up for me or my sister. They never considered the environment in which we grew up in, which was in a rural environment in Eastern Ontario, Canada with neighbors who hated us - partly because my parents had more money than they did, partly because my parents were not riddled with alcohol problems and were together, but also because they had two black kids.
They never encouraged us to question or to fight back when we were called racial epithets, or school 'friends' who told us that their parents did not want me in their house, or when we couldn't be friends anymore, had things thrown at us / beaten up at school, racist teachers that dismissed me as 'slow' and encouraged my parents to put me in a Special Education class. I wasn't slow, but it took until I was in my twenties, applied and got accepted into University to prove them - and myself - otherwise. I also learned at a very early age - five, I believe - that my parents were incapable of helping me. That I had to learn how to defend myself.
So no, love is not enough.
You can love a child and bring a child into your home, but you have to realize your weaknesses. I believe that the Tedaldi's family thought that love was enough - they could get past the emotional incapability the child had by being abandoned on the side of the road, but they couldn't. They thought that there would be no resentment from their children from bringing a child into their home, a child from another culture, but it didn't happen. Again, I'm a grown-ass woman and I wonder if my older brothers, both whom I have had a good relationship with, resent me and my sister.
Because I write about Race & Ethnicity for BlogHer, I'm going to riff on the race factor. I had a conversation with a lovely woman last weekend who is also a Trans-racial adoptee, and I admitted that while I genuinely love my parents, I did not think that white people should adopt non-white children. Because......
Love is not enough.
We live in a society where as much as we would like to be deluded that it doesn't, race is a factor in our everyday interactions with people. I've had people on BlogHer try to tear me a 'new one,' try to tell me that I am racist because I will not hesitate in pointing this fact out to them. Besides, having somewhat supportive, eccentric and funny as hell parents, I have learned that while they love me......
They do not know me.
Unless you have walked in a person's shoes, you cannot understand what happens to them when they walk out of your house every morning. Love is not going to ease the pain that your child feels because their parents do not look like them, and cannot understand them. Love, while yes, provides a good home, food on the table and an opportunity to discover things in life that had they not been adopted, most likely they would have never experienced, is not enough.
My childhood is a contradiction. I remember playing with my eldest brother, who went out of his way to create games and stories to keep me and my other siblings occupied while my mom needed some time to herself. I remember the cross-country car trips across Canada we used to take as a family. I remember my grandmother teaching me how to bake bread and when she babysat us, and every afternoon we would have an English 'tea' like she used to have as a child growing up in London. I cherish those times, and I am lucky to have them.
But the pain from my childhood is what I remember the most. Not because I want to, but because it has impacted the most vulnerable, emotional parts of my adult life. I feel alone, even though I have tons of cousins, nieces and nephews. My nieces and nephews look at me with their big blue and green eyes and their blond hair, treat me as though.... even though on paper I am supposed to be related to them, they know, and I know, that we are not.
I do not trust people, I do not really love anyone. I cannot commit to even buying a carpet, for goodness sake, thinking that it will suddenly be taken away from me. Or even worse, it will abandon me.
That, despite my guilt for writing this - why I cry while writing this - is why I think that even though we might judge the Tedaldi's decision, perhaps it was the right one for them. Life is not fair, especially for the sweet boy D, but also for his parents. And perhaps they learned that despite what society tells us, love isn't enough.