A while ago our family went to a party where each family had adopted at least one of their children. It wasn't a huge group, but there were families with quite a variety of adoption experiences (international, domestic, foster to adopt, older child, special needs, transracial, open, closed, semi-open...).
Someone had made a huge pot of doro wat (like 10 gallons, I think) and tons of injera. After everyone ate, things quieted down. Some of the older Ethiopian girls were braiding the hair of some younger girls. The toddlers were outside running around the yard with some of the dads.
Four other moms and I were talking inside. And you know, there is nothing like a real conversation with other adoptive moms. It was amazing. I am used to feeling a little on the outside among groups of moms. Part of that is probably because I'm socially cautious (shy-ish), but it's also partly because I'm not a bio mom.
There is an intimacy about talking in person to other adoptive parents that isn't there among other groups of moms or even kindred blogging spirits.
One mom spoke about her son, who was adopted as a toddler. Shortly after he came home, she noticed some odd behavior. He was only three (I think) but he made some suggestive sexual gestures that kind of freaked her out at first. She talked about how she and her husband discussed it, realized that the behavior was partly an attachment-related thing, decided to deal with it (basically by refusing to be weirded out or emotionally push him away when he did these things), and how the behavior resolved after a while.
You know what would happen if she talked about this experience in a group of bio-only parents? Or even some adoptive parents? Many people would be horrified. They would suggest that he had been abused, that he was dangerous. They would quietly conclude that his parents were crazy, and maybe look at them funny when their son arrived on the playground.
As it was, the other moms listened. A few nodded and affirmed her experience and how she had handled it. A few shared their perspective on some attachment-related issues.
And then the conversation moved on.
There was no shock. There was no silent judgement (of the parents, the child, of toddler adoption or adoption in general).
I wanted to hug them all.
Sometimes I hesitate to talk about certain aspects of parenting my boys. Sparkle in particular tends to have more anxiety with changes and needs a lot of reassurance to feel secure. Both Beloved and I know that it's partly just his personality, but we also believe that it's partly because of adoption-related loss.
But I don't talk about it. I'm afraid people will think that all adopted kids are damaged goods with problems hiding around every corner. I'm afraid that people will think I'm blaming adoption for what really comes down to poor parenting, and if we were better at this parenting thing our kid wouldn't have to ask twelve hundred million times who is picking him up on Thursday. I'm afraid that just by talking about it, I might confirm the prejudices people have about adoption, Africans, or Black boys. (Because, after all, he was destined to have issues anyway, being African and Black and male and all, you know).
And then, after all that... I feel guilty for not letting him just be who he is, adoption-related control issues and all... Why should he have to represent all South Africans, all Black boys, all adopted kids? Why should he have to prove to the world that adoptive families are all fine, darn it, just fine!
So anyway, my point is... It was just unbelievably refreshing to be part of a group of real live people whom I knew would understand. I actually didn't talk a whole lot during that conversation, or bare my adoptive-mommy soul.
But I could have.
(And... time for disclaimers! (You knew they were coming, right?) I know that potential problems with sexual acting out should not be ignored. In this case, it was very clear that the child had no history of abuse. The gestures were benign. The behavior resolved quickly and did not recur. I am 100% confident that his parents handled it appropriately and did not fail to address any important issues with their child.)