Adoptees Who Adopt

Editor’s Note: This article previously appeared in a different format as part of The Atlantic’s Notes section, retired in 2021.

Below are two readers who fit that bill:

Sometimes I tell people that I would prefer to adopt because I was adopted, and they become defensive or threatened, like they think I am judging them for not wanting to adopt. A lot of people seem to think that an appropriate response is to say “oh, good for you, but I would worry that my kid wouldn’t be like me” or “that’s nice but I always worry that parents can never love their adopted children as much as they love their biological children.”

These kinds of statements are meant to make the speaker feel better about themselves for not wanting to adopt. But, not only are they based on faulty logic (just because you have a your own child, there’s no guarantee they’ll “be like you”), when people say these things, they don’t realize that these statements work because they make adoption, and by extension, adopted children, seem like a lesser option—the last resort if you can’t have children any other way.

It upsets me that people get so defensive, because I have no problem with other people not wanting to adopt; I just want to adopt for myself. If someone tells me, that adoption isn’t for them, I respect that. What I don’t respect is people feeling like they need to put someone else’s decisions down just so they can feel better about their own decisions.

The other reader:

I want to comment as an adoptee and an adoptive mother.  I was adopted as an infant, and I adopted a newborn, who is 4 1/2 years old.  I can only tell you what I see in her as a pre-schooler who learned to talk quite early and is already identifying some sight words. How she will be a kindergarten, I cannot say, but I can say she is extremely curious, smart, interesting, funny, and has one of the wildest imaginations. Never would I see a gap in her potential achievement because she’s “adopted.”  

I also don’t feel any gap of achievement from my adoption. What is much more complex is how old the children were when they were adopted. And were they adopted internationally, and what is the adoptive family like?  Dysfunction affects all families, regardless of economic resources.  

Many families, adoptive or not, are raising children who do not have secure attachments because the parents did not have a secure attachment, and unless the parents realize it and do a whole heck of a lot of interpersonal work, they “pass” on that insecurity to their children, in how they raise them.  I honestly don’t understand that this isn’t a greater point for everyone to question.  But, I believe it has to do with our culture, a culture that rewards insecure attachment and helps us remain capitalistic.  I know, at this point, you will probably delete this part of my comment.  But at least you will read it.  Or I hope so.

It reminds me about the gaps in education on adoption, and how it’s much more preferable to blame a gene on a child than to ever question if there was some dysfunction in the parenting of the adoptive parents. And I am an adoptive mother saying this. I do not deny trauma with adoption. I understand it more than most because I’ve experienced it at depths most don’t, with myself, and with my daughter.  

I am writing this because I hope you will print some of it.  Because it shames us as adoptees and then really hurts us as adoptive parents to know our children will be shamed and suspected of being “worse” because of their “adoption.” People who are or aren’t connected to adoption really need to get this. So, thank you for attempting to create dialogue.

Are there other adoptees out there who have also adopted? Email me your story or opinion and I’ll update this note, or post a followup. Please try to be concise, so I can post as many responses as I can while keeping the conversation tight.