In celebration of National Adoption Day 2013, we revisit L.M. Tabora’s article about the perception of adoption and luck.
Photo by: Suradej Chuephanich
By: L.M. Tabora
“Gosh, ‘L’ is so lucky. He could have had such a different life without you guys. You two are so wonderful for adopting him,” gushes yet another well-intentioned person. I offer a glazed smile and respond with my usual, “Well, we count ourselves as the lucky ones. He really improved our lives,” the expected response from all adoptive parents. What I really want to say is, “Are you kidding me? This kid was removed from his birth mom at two days old and spent his first 16 months in a foster home. He endured emotional manipulation from his birth mother, who popped in and out of his life for sporadic visitations, until her rights were finally terminated and we were allowed to adopt him at three. He struggled with forming ‘normal’ and healthy attachments with us because, at 2 weeks, he was put into daycare full time with little one-on-one bonding with a full-time guardian. He struggles daily with developmental delays and neurological disabilities due to his birth mom’s drug and alcohol abuse during her pregnancy. What about all that is lucky, huh?”
Now, I’m sure they mean that he is lucky now that he’s found a stable environment and is healthy, loved and safe. And please don’t misunderstand – I absolutely appreciate the intention. But, I can’t help but cringe a little every time I get this reaction. It feels like an epic ‘glossing-over’ of my son’s origins and his current struggles due to the poor choices of his birth parents. I think it is difficult to see your child as ‘lucky’ when you watch them battle every day to achieve what ‘neuro-typical’ children can do with ease. And it’s especially uncomfortable to be treated as a child’s personal savior when you are just doing what – in my opinion – any good parent would do.
I left full-time work shortly after his adoption when we realized he would need more on-on-one care and attachment work. My husband or I attend every therapy session, averaging about 6-7 hours a week in therapy appointments. We do many hours of one-on-one behavioral, speech and OT work at home and I recently attended a four month long, weekly parenting seminar geared towards parents with special needs children. Currently, I’m sitting here watching my son ‘work’ with his speech therapist at our dining room table. Today has been a particularly rough day. About every two minutes she needs to stop and redirect or correct his behavior (he rocks in his chair, grabs things out of her hand, speaks out of turn, constantly asks for water/bathroom/fan/etc., or throws tantrums). At this moment, she is standing behind his chair, bracing it against his rocking and restraining his hands to keep him from hitting her. She knows that these out-of-control behaviors don’t stem from being ‘naughty’ or hateful. Instead, she realizes that he is acting out because he suffers from sensory processing disorder (SPD) and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Simple tasks, like asking him to look at a picture and then respond to a direct question about that picture, are incredibly difficult for him and he would rather escape through whatever means necessary.
It’s hard to look at that child and think ‘lucky’. What I can say is; I know he ended up in the right place, with two loving and attentive parents who are committed to giving him whatever he needs to reach his full potential. None of this came from luck, however. It came about because of tireless case workers and a devoted guardian ad litem who chose us and placed him in our home; knowledgeable and compassionate therapists who have guided us through all his diagnoses; a loving Dad who reads every book on his son’s disabilities and does everything he can to provide a stable home; a tireless Mom who refuses to give up or take ‘no’ for an answer (that’s me!); and finally a little boy who works really hard every day to reach the same level as his peers. I don’t see ‘L’ as lucky to receive these interventions or this family, I see him as entitled to receive them. It is his right, as my child, to receive my absolute best effort. And it is my job, as his mother, to give it to him.