The main subject of this blog has been covered a number of times before, usually in blog posts entitled something along the lines of “things you shouldn’t say to an adoptive parent”.
“They are so lucky to have you as parents.”
It is a phrase which we hear quite often, it is usually meant with the best of intentions; as a compliment to us letting us know that we are being successful as parents.
The phrase will rarely be met with anything better than a polite but forced smile. Sometimes it might even be an eye-roll or a derisive or sarcastic “Haha, if you say so”.
Even with the best of intentions, it is unfortunately an ignorant statement. It can never be anything but, because we keep our children’s full story confidential. It is their story to tell, not ours, but we know it and it is always in our minds when we hear things like that.
The thing is, the people who say this and think this only know our children from the time we adopted them. They see how they have progressed, how we have nurtured them and how they have developed, and if you take a snapshot of the children’s lives from that point, the statement might be correct.
What goes through my mind when I hear this is: “No, they’re not. The things that they had to go through in order for them to get to the point where we are needed I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy. How does that make them lucky?”. The actual response I give will probably be the polite smile and “mmmm, maybe”.
In modern adoption in the UK children aren’t relinquished, or voluntarily given up, at least not very often. They have to have suffered severe neglect, physical, emotional or sexual abuse. They have to have suffered it long enough for someone to notice, for someone to build a case to get them removed from their families. They then have to stay in care for an indeterminant amount of time while a decision is made as to whether they can be sent back to their family, or adopted. All the while potentially seeing their abusers on a regular basis.
Those experiences will affect them for the rest of their lives. They will dictate their mental health, shape the kind of adults they become, affect the kind of job they might be able to have.
If you aren’t an adopter ask yourself this:
If your child suffered something which will have lifelong negative consequences, would you do anything to wipe that experience away?
I imagine the answer to that would be overwhelmingly “yes”.
Now, let me add the adopter’s perspective into the question:
If your child suffered something which will have lifelong negative consequences, would you do anything to wipe that experience away, even if it meant you would never have met your child in the first place?
That one isn’t so easy to answer, is it? Adoption is a double-edged sword. We have gained children who we come to love unconditionally, but in order to adopt those children they have to have suffered something often unimaginable to a responsible parent. There is no way we can nullify that experience, but without it we never would have met them.
So, no our children are not lucky to have us. They are unlucky to have needed us. We are the best of a bad situation.
One thing is sure for me though: In the grand scheme of things they may not be lucky to have us, but we are, without doubt, lucky to have them*.
*I reserve the right to withdraw that statement when they become teenagers.