Apr 14, 2010

Honest self-appraisals

Silver Linings:
1. Curried cauliflower pie for dinner (tastes much better than it sounds).
2. Watching 'Castaway' in bed.
3. Sleeping in until 7:30 AM.

Lessons Learnt:
Honest self-appraisals, regardless of repurcussions.
The media has recently rallied around a 7 yr old adopted boy who was returned to his native Russia because of severe behavioral problems that they were previously unaware of. Discussing the responsibilities of parenthood with co-workers led me to articulate for the first time how important self-appraisals can be.

The popular opinion is that when you opt to parent (as adoptive parents do even more consciously than accidental, biological ones), you should be prepared for all the attendant challenges. Even the unexpected ones. My thought is that entry into parenthood should start with an honest self-appraisal of capabilities. Not everyone has the mental or physical resources to undertake challenges and pretending otherwise is by far more unfair to the child. These adoptive parents did not opt to parent a disturbed child: that they recognized their limits is a good thing in my book. That they reneged so completely on their promise for a better future for the child is however, a crime. In these times of media power, I find it hard to believe that there was no possibility of finding to find alternate custody for this child and spare him the trauma of rejection and the return to the dismal conditions he'd just left. I fault the parents in this piece of news for returning their child to Russia where prospects are limited....they should have looked harder for other options to deliver the better life they promised the child. But I do not fault them for balking at the prospect of parenting a difficult child.

I do not agree that the overriding problem with adoption or even with our collective societal outlook is that we’re too quick to quit. It's that we choose to live in denial and blunder about doing damage to everyone in the process. Isn’t it more important to actually do the right thing than just appear to be doing the right thing?


  1. As potential adoptive parents, I am on multiple forums that have been discussing this issue. I think with all the preparation that we have to do with the adoption, we 'know' (cognitively) that the kid we get may have difficulties - with many things, including attachment. But, there is the difference between knowing something cognitively and emotionally dealing with it as it happens. I think the expectation that parenting will be a bed of roses and perfect in every way needs to be reduced - not that we need to start complaining, but be more realistic. Also, more services for difficulties with attachmment/personality *after* the adoption may help with these situations. But, an honest self-appraisal is good for every major life decision (changing career, moving etc) including and especially child-bearing/rearing.

  2. Thanks for your input on this Anu, you should know. I'm not aware of the current status but agree about the necessity for post-adoption processes.
    I also agree that the 'bed of roses' expectation from parenting is unreal and sets you up for diappointment but worry that the opposite is also true...that the emotional processes involved in adoption get oversimplifed sometimes. Its easy for outsiders to think that adoptive parents opt into their parenthood and thus should be able to roll with every punch WITHOUT making allowances for abilities. I've heard it argued that if your biological child had issues, you woud'nt abandon it and it's the same thing with an adopted child. It's this kind of thinking that I think is facile. The logic of it is undeniable and certainly, if you opted to adopt a behaviourally challneged child, you are olbigated to do so irrespective of how hard it might seem. My point is about people who have decided that they are NOT up to the task and specifically chosen not to adopt a disturbed child. I don't think anyone should judge them for balking at landing the exact challenge they decided they could not face. Again, I find it hard to condone that these people returned the child to Russia (I still think they might have arranged something else) but I don't think they're selfish, unfeeling people for feeling unable to parent the child. I'm saddedned that so many people like to stick to normative 'it should be this way' thinking and bungle up lives in their irghteousness instead of admitting to their fallibity and knowing when to seek help. Of course in the end it's the kid who's suffered and deserves any sympathy so thats the saddest part of all.