family geometry

Thinking about papercraneprayers’s comment about being uncomfortable in family photos got me to thinking about my own family photos…

One time, in an art class, the instructor was talking about composition and how people groups almost always form a “circle of love” and she demonstrated how you could overlay a circle connecting them – how hands held, arms entwined, heads positioned towards each other, etc. completed these circles physically drawing out the circle of their relationships.

Thinking about this and papercraneprayer’s comment, I realized then that there is NOT ONE photo of me and my parents in anything resembling a circle of love or even close enough for anything resembling affection.  There aren’t even any photos of me being held.  And people wonder why I have intimacy issues…I mean, come on – look at the lack of circle in this photo!  In every photo I have.  In every photo of my siblings with my parents as well.

And of course the adoptive parents are okay with the skin color difference:  they’re not the odd man out.  But ask the dark little girl in the photo above how she feels about it.  Her answer will be affirmative because her parents are within earshot and she feels fear and obligation, but every cell in her body will be squirming in discomfort.

I wonder if adoption agencies bother to look at people’s family albums?  I bet they don’t.  Would you send a child to a family that has NOT ONE candid photo of fun or affection?  No of course not.  But adoption agencies only look at income, criminal background checks, health records, letters of recommendation, and inadequate social worker home studies.  All of which any psychopath with any skills at all or socially inept and maladjusted person could pass with flying colors.

People have said to me in the past that this fate of mine had nothing to do with adoption – that these things happen in non-adopted families too, that some children are born into bad families and also don’t have any choice, that it is the luck of the draw.

To this I vociferously disagree:  adoption is an opportunity to do better than chance.  A half dozen entities, coordinated by my adoption agency, all were guilty of negligence in their duties.  Adoptive parents are too often just processed and not really screened – and they complain about the hoops they have to jump through.  Well, there aren’t enough hoops.  There isn’t a magnifying glass big enough.  And nobody’s really looking through one anyway.  Not in any meaningful way.

Apart from being sent to a dysfunctional family, just being displaced and forced to assimilate to a totally foreign life took its toll.  “Young Sook is a bright, happy child and makes friend easily.”  (paraphrase from orphanage report)  Note there is no post adoption report.  It would have said, “Leanne is a very shy child that behaves well.”

The real me was crushed.  Something terrible happened.

And it was called international adoption.

8 thoughts on “family geometry

  1. love this post! once again, thanks for letting me (someone with no connection to adoption whatsoever, who wouldn’t have given it much thought had i not met you) understand. really.

    especially the part, “adoption is an opportunity to do better than chance”… i couldn’t agree more!

  2. mmmm…yes…

    There are so many euphemisms for adoption that the world buys into. like being “chosen,” like being “as good as,” like being in a “forever family,” that ring hollow for the adoptee.

    The support boards are full of adoptees, many parents themselves, saying, I’m all grown up and realizing what complete bullshit that is.

    Total displacement and assimilation is such a radical step. Is this really all about what’s best for the child? Was it ever really about that? Who’s interests are really being served?

    The marketing of adoption to the world has been one of the longest-running feel good campaigns in history. And the world would rather listen to rhetoric and feel good than listen to adult adoptees and former adoption poster children reveal the truth behind adoption.

    I’m delighted you’re reading and appreciating, Kelly! If even one more person on the planet can look at adoption critically and rationally, then there is a chance to reform this broken machine and improve the lives of unfortunate children holistically. So that it becomes what it should be: finding families for children instead of finding children for families.

  3. “The real me was crushed. Something terrible happened.

    And it was called international adoption.”

    You know, I blogged a brief post, mentioning something about contact/potential reunion that went along the lines of my “rebirth.” It said something like this:

    “When I was adopted at eight months, my original self died before it had a chance to form. Whoever I would have become was buried in those adoption papers. Mei-Ling died at eight months; any connection was sought to be erased through the finalization of papers. Now I am reclaiming it back and figuring out who Mei-Ling might have been: my rebirth.”

    I thought I was being metamorphical. I thought, “You know, this is a bit crazy. I haven’t -really- died, I’m still alive, I’m still living.” But interestingly enough, in the Language of Blood, Jane herself writes:

    “Kyong died at eight months and became Jane. Mi-Ja died at four and a half years and became Carol.”

  4. More writing that just conveys so well. I can’t even pin down what it is. But please keep doing it. :)

    Anyway, as well as being an AP, I also have two bio/birth/whatisthetermanyway siblings that were adopted to other families. I met one of them at her age 19. We are fairly close some 14 years hence.

    She is an artist and art professor at a university in the Pacific NW. For many years, I did not understand her art. I couldn’t get a handle on it.

    But over the process of becoming an AP and knowing her better, I realized that all of it is about identity. This became possible because of the efforts of adoptees whose work I have read over the last seven years or so.

    The point of all this being that my lack of understanding my sister wasn’t deliberate or denial or even really ignorance. It is just a perspective that is difficult to grasp if you haven’t experienced it.

    I would have imagined myself sensitive to such things. Hell, I was taken from my mother by force at age 10. I lived in foster homes, ended up in a very screwed up family, but I STILL COULD NOT FIGURE IT OUT ON MY OWN.

    The final point being, we need this writing of yours and your contemporaries. You have a destiny, I think, that involves all of us. Not just adoptees, various parents, Korean culture, etc. But literally humanity itself.

  5. Mei Ling,

    Yes, I have often thought of this return as picking up where I left off at 3…and every time I can’t read anything or say anything, I am reminded that I am 3 years old.

    Have you seen this post of mine from when I first started this blogging craziness?

    ha ha ha – I have not tattoo’d myself due to being a teacher. But I still think it would be a fun thing to do.

  6. Wow, Ed, I hope I can live up to your estimation of my destiny! but I’ll try. I’m trying.

    You know – this blog here is just expository stream-of-consciousness stuff. This is a process, far from perfect, and I’m just documenting. I think my words and writing are better at so do check that one out, as I am happy with the message of many of the posts there.

    I really didn’t want adoption to take so much space in this Korea blog! (but of course it wants to take over) If I feel something is well-formed or informative to either the adoption community or the Holt connected community, then I post over there.

    Anyway, thank you for your fine estimation – it sounds like you’ve been affected deeply by adoption from all angles. I don’t know how you found this obscure little blog but I’m glad it speaks to you. :)

  7. I found your blog through Mei Ling’s blog. I noticed hers from a comment on a NY Times article, which I noticed on Jae Ran’s blog.

    The stream of thought thing works well for me. I write the same way, though I don’t write anything in public. But I don’t really know why I understand your writing on this more than I usually do.

    This past mother’s day my seven year old’s thoughts turned to his mother, and he said to me “I am so far from where I was adopted.” No matter what I might try to do for him, the only real hope I have comes from understanding.

  8. You sound like a good parent, Ed. Your seven year old is lucky to have you.

    I wish I could say that about most other adoptive parents, but instead I typically encounter parents who only look at self-validating rhetoric, the kind of rhetoric that places a wedge between themselves and their child. But I have met two or three like yourself who truly try to understand this experience from their child’s perspective. I think the difference is empathy. Thanks for checking in, and if there’s anything I can ever do for you, just let me know…

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