Happy Fourth of July
It’s the fourth of July. Whilst many will be celebrating, I will be wondering, as I do each year, how I should feel as I was adopted on American Independence Day thirty odd years ago. For a long time, the fourth of July was called my second birthday, my parents wishing to celebrate the day they acquired me rather than it being a day I wished to commemorate myself.
A second birthday struck me as odd as I grew up. You can’t be born twice unless you have undergone some sort of religious conversion, just like you only have one birth certificate, the second is an adoption certificate. My parents viewed the day, each year, as a personal gain for them, and were unaware, whether through ignorance or purposeful avoidance, of the ingrained loss the day represented for me.
It always felt a confusing time. On the one hand, I understood the significance for my parents and the need to mark the day appropriately. My mother had been unable to have children so my brother and I created the perfect family she desperately wanted but once thought impossible. The fourth of July for her represented a new beginning; old dreams discarded now fashioned into something positive and full of hope.
My adopted brother never seemed to mind his second birthday but then he dealt with being adopted by stubbornly pretending he wasn’t, and trying desperately to see himself reflected back in our parents. When this failed to offer up rewards, he simply modelled himself upon them. It does make sense – wherever a vacuum exists, there is an almost unstoppable urge to fill it, especially when it is the result of pain. My brother’s greatest fear was abandonment – much like many adoptees – so I think he thought this anxiety could be circumvented by becoming a clone of those who posed the threat. They can’t reject you if they see themselves reflected back.
I never managed to do the same, primarily I think, because I didn’t much like my parents, and they didn’t much like me. I am aware this is a controversial thing to say but it’s important to be honest especially around all those knotty ‘not acceptable’ type of things society tries to school us into never admitting. It’s perfectly okay to say you don’t like members of your extended family or want to kill your in-laws or find one of your friends tiresome but it’s not appropriate to openly confess to disliking your parents. I get tired of the quasi – religious underpinnings that exit around family; how we are supposed to love and dote on our parents, sacrifice ourselves at their alter, even when they clearly have not loved and doted on us for whatever reason.
As I have mentioned before, we were a bad fit; I didn’t assimilate in a way that served them, and I valued a separate sense of self outside of the assumptions they clumsily threw down. It’s a strange phenomenon when one is adopted and yet finds themselves punished for being different. Our lives feel like we are constantly jumping through hoops to appease others at the expense of ourselves.
So on days such as this, the fourth of July, I don’t know how to feel. For me and my adopted parents, it was a beginning and an ending combined. They let go of their dreams of having a biological family and walked the thorny path of adoption. I lost my mum forever and then began a new life with people who never really found me.
I say forever, because even if we reunite with our birth families later in life, as I have done, we can’t recapture the past or make up for lost years. Adoption removes this possibility. It changes everything. Adoption isn’t just about putting children with new families and hoping they will have a great life – it’s also about severing connections for so long, when child and parent finally meet again, if they meet again, the opportunity to be mother and child often feels lost.
Maybe today I will just feel sad then, but also bittersweet, because although my mum and I can’t undo the past and it’s painful for both of us, I do know we have managed to forge something out of pain, and I think that’s worth celebrating.
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, . (2017). Happy Fourth of July. Psych Central. Retrieved on July 27, 2017, from https://blogs.psychcentral.com/adoption/2017/07/happy-fourth-of-july/