Sunday, August 19, 2012

Despite Pat Robertson's warning, I am hoping my children "grow up weird"

The other day I read the most recent “stupid adoption statement” to hit the media. This time is was Pat Robertson sharing his convoluted views of international adoption.  This is the  same man who once told a lonely husband whose wife was suffering from Alzheimer’s Disease to divorce her, because “it was better than adultery”. My entire grown up career has been spent in the world of senior health care and so I have seen many a lonely spouse, grieving the loss of their beloved partner long before a death occurs. My own grandfather was one of those lonely spouses. I have seen friendships blossom in the halls of memory care assisted living communities as lonely spouses turn to each other during visiting hours. I have seen divorce and adultery over this horrible disease.  I wouldn’t dare pass judgement on these husbands and wives, and, unlike Pat Robertson, I wouldn’t dare speak so casually of what is always a very difficult and painful situation.

This is also the same man who has shown agreement with the Chinese "one child" policy. This policy has been at the heart of abandonment and murder of babies for years. I would like for Robertson to meet my son and explain to him his thoughts on this policy. While I am sure Robertson does not condone murder, (well, I am pretty sure), any intelligent person can see the link between this policy and the fact that many many many babies born in China do not live to see day two of their young lives. I am thankful, every day, for the brave birth parents who possibly disregarded their safety to assure their newborn son was cared for, even if it did mean abandonment.

 And now he has done it again.

Those of you in the inner adoption circles have most likely already heard about the thoughtless remarks Robertson recently made on his television show regarding international adoption.  Basically, a women wrote in asking for advice about her boyfriend not wanting to marry her because she was the mother  to internationally adopted children.  Had they been her “own” children, (meaning biological), according to the woman, he would have married her.  That this ludicrous topic even made it on to a television show is absurd enough. Say it with me people, “Adopted children are our ‘own’ children.” 

But Robertson’s response is what has most of the adoption community pulling out their collective hair.  He said that he understands that this man “didn’t want to take on a United Nations”, and that you never knew about adopted children- they’re history might have led to brain damage, causing them to, wait for it, “grow up weird.” Wow.

First let me address the “you never know” comment. He is absolutely right. You do never know what you are getting with an adopted child. But not because they are adopted. Because they are a child. And every pregnancy, every birth, every adoption, every blended family brought together by second marriages leads to many unknowns where the children are concerned. I have friends with biological children born with Down’s Syndrome. I have friends with adopted children with heart defects. I have friends with biological children born with cleft palates. I have an adopted child of MY OWN born with a cleft palate. I have friends with biological children with autism. I have friends with adopted children with behavior issues, and I might possibly have one of those on my hands as well. But I also have friends, and relatives, with biological children with behavior problems. So, yes, you do never know what you are going to get.

Now on to the more offensive part of his statement. Thanks, Pat Robertson, for helping to further the stereotype that internationally adopted children are “damaged”.  This horrible stereotype, most often found attached to children adopted out of Eastern European countries, serves no purpose except to frighten prospective adoptive parents and label our children. If the adoptive family is using a trustworthy adoption agency then these potential issues have already been raised, privately, to the individual family. Families do not decide to adopt a child without much thought, prayer, and education. We were not surprised by the behaviors we saw in the orphanage my youngest son called home. We are not surprised by the behaviors we see in him. We were educated, by ourselves and by our adoption agency, and we walked out of that gray building fully knowing that problems may arise.  I am not saying that it was easy. It has been far from easy. I’m not saying that I didn’t lay awake in my bed in that hotel room in Russia, my sweet husband already back in the states, thinking about how my new son was going to fit into our family and how this transition was going to be, for everyone.  But even at those moments, just days after finalizing the adoption, I thought of him as “my son”. I had to sleep backwards in the bed with my hand stuck through the rails of his crib because he would scream if he couldn’t touch me. I had to hold my bathroom needs until I was sure he was asleep, and even then I had to sneak off the creaky mattress and pee in the dark with the bathroom light out so as not to wake him up, because if I wasn’t in that bed, with my hand in his crib when he opened his eyes he would scream with such terror that I was sure the police had been called. I had to shower with my arm stuck outside the curtain, so that his tiny hand could wrap around my finger. Eventually I coaxed him in with me, so he could play in the water and I could stop my contortionist act. I don’t do those things anymore, but I still do a million other things every day to help my son gain his footing in his strange new world.

I know that adoption isn’t for everyone. And thank God for that. Not everyone should take on parenting an adopted child. Not everyone should take on parenting their biological children, and I have often thought that if new biological parents had to jump through the same hoops and survive the same scrutiny as adoptive parents that fewer babies would be coming home from the hospital with their blood relatives.  I am also not saying that the boyfriend that started it all didn’t have a right to feel the way he did about taking on someone else’s kids. I do, however, have to question the judgement of the mom who turned to the 700 Club for advice- couldn’t she figure out on her own that she did not share the same value system as her boyfriend? Did she really need to turn to someone else for advice on this one?

I know that this is not what Robertson meant in his heartless statement, but I have to say that, yes, my children are “weird”. And so am I. They come from a long tradition of “weird”. Maybe it was because he spent all those years teaching middle school band, but my father was the King of Weird. He would talk to his little plastic ant friend, Sam, who sat on his desk at school. He would suggest  to kids still waiting for late parents to pick them up after a concert that perhaps they were busy “changing the locks”. He would make musical instruments out of household items. His mother was also a tad strange, as evidenced by her nickname, “Iguana”.  Lord knows that I am weird.  And my sweet husband? Don’t even get me started.  I am proud of my boys and their individual little personalities, and I will celebrate them and support their weirdness to the day I die.

My minister posted the following comment to my facebook page, as I was writing this blog post.  He had come across another blog post about the absurdity of Pat Robertson’s statement, and he forwarded that article on to me, with the following note:

Beth, when I read this article it got my blood boiling. It will you too. But it also made me think of the wonderful thing your family is doing. You and Brad are being Jesus to your boys. Thanks for the love you have shown to all of God's children.

I am thankful for his thoughtfulness and agree that, yes, I was quite upset when I had heard Robertson’s remarks.  Because, after all, whether it be a toddler in a dark and dreary orphanage, starving for both food and attention, a baby in a sterile orphanage sleeping on a wooden board, also starving,  a biological child with a disability, or a  baby still in his mother’s womb, all children are God’s children, and all children are perfect, just the way they are.

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