what I wish i could say to the 1 star reviewer

What I Want to Say to the 1 ⭐ Reviewer

I discovered a 1 star review of Adoption: The Long View on a popular podcast platform. It was left the same day as Dominic’s funeral (a date which has nothing to do with this and yet everything to do with everything).

what I wish i could say to the 1 star reviewer

Doesn’t click
I don’t know what it is, but this podcast does not click for me. As someone hoping to become a parent through adoption, I find the tone of this podcast to be…honestly, depressing and discouraging. Somehow the podcasts make me feel like I’m a bad person for wanting to adopt. Adoptive parents are selfish, they cause trauma. I am eager to grow my family through adoption, and I’m eager to learn how to do it the right way, but it’s hard being made to feel like a villain for everything I’m going through to try to give a loving home to a child who needs one.

My First Concerns

Getting a 1 star review was, at first, a bit of a gut punch. My go-to reaction is to start with an internal examination of my own fears, triggers, and motivations.

My work is me! Somebody thinks I’m a 1 star person!

OK, a next-breath look shows this to be untrue for obvious reasons. I am not my work, and one review is not definitive. This review is not a pronouncement on me as a person. And even if it were, no one besides me is my judge and jury.

What if this rating means fewer adoptive parents will find Adoption: The Long View?

I really want to do a decent job covering the complexity of adoption because the stakes are so high. Reviews signal platform algorithms to either promote a podcast (5 stars) or keep it in obscurity (1 star, or worse — listeners not leaving ratings at all).

Is there truth in what the reviewer says?

DO I see adoptive parents as selfish, as villains? Do I subconsciously consider those who want to adopt bad people? I don’t think I do. I haven’t done a search for those words in all 27 transcripts, but if “selfish” and “villain” are there, I bet it’s in a different context than what the reviewer interpreted.

Am I following my own advice?

Do I feel approachable, nonjudgmental, and safe to those who want to know more about the long view of adoptive parenting?

A recurring theme on the podcast is for parents to work on their own stuff so they feel approachable, nonjudgmental, and safe to their child. I have not always done this well as a parent or as an educator in this space, perhaps because I am still learning how to be more gentle with myself. The reviewer has a valid point in this regard. I’m not yet sure how to make the tone more inviting while delivering truths adoptees and others have shared, but I have set an intention to keep working on it and figure it out.

My Response to the 1 Star Reviewer

Now that I’ve looked within, here is what I would say to the reviewer if I had the chance.

What You Expressed is Not Unusual

You are not alone in thinking this podcast is discouraging. I’ve already heard from several other experienced adoptive parents that they recognize themselves in your words from early in their adoption journey — as do I! The win/win/win narrative we start with feels so good and noble.

We come to adoption with simple thinking: we will love a child and give them a good life, love is all you need, everything will be happy-ever-after after when a judge pronounces us a family.

We are very clear what adoption is for adoptive parents.

What we don’t know at the start is what adoption is to others, to the voices of the lesser-heard. When first listening to adoptees and birth/first parents, it can be painful to deconstruct the win-win-win narrative and realize that there is wounding and trauma in adoption. Being able to embrace the “good” and the “bad” takes time and doesn’t come easily. There is a lot of unlearning that needs to happen in order to make way for new information.

At the early stages, we don’t know what we don’t know. That’s why I encourage you to sit in the discomfort you’re feeling and to continue to expand your perspective and learn from others, especially adult adoptees. This will serve your future child. As an adoptive parent said in Ep 202, “do the best you can until you know better. When you know better, do better” (quoting Maya Angelou).

Triggers

Are you up to exploring your language and the beliefs that may lie behind the words you used? You stated these experiences when listening to Adoption: The Long View.

  • it makes you feel like a bad person
  • adoptive parents are selfish, they cause trauma
  • you’re made to feel like a villain
  • you want to “do it the right way.”

There are some “good” and “bad” polarities here. I’m guessing this may have to do with messages you received in your own childhood and adulthood. I get that and don’t judge you. But I do suggest that your future adoptee will need you to take a look at how this Either/Or thinking affects adoptees (any child, for that matter). Either/Or is simplistic; BothAnd enables you to enter into the complexity that is adoption, that is parenting.

If you were to “do your own work, people!” (Ep 108) with an attachment or adoption-competent therapist, you may discover why you heard these things that were neither stated nor implied.

This is the work I have been doing, and it’s so hard but so worth it. I wish I’d started sooner; it would have been a gift to my children as well as to me. Doing this work is helping me better understand my own attachment style and recognize my own sore spots so I am less likely to cause others to suffer from my wounds.

“If you’re unwilling to dig through the truths, losses, and complexities, it’s your child who will be left holding the shovel.”

~~ Suzie Williams, Executive Director ~~
Open Adoption & Family Services
I See Your Courage

You didn’t have to explain your rating, but you did. You thought about it and figured out what bothered you. Then you put your thoughts into words. Examining and articulating your thoughts took time and courage and a willingness to look within. This is an important step in shifting from the simple narrative you inherited from society to crafting your own on what adoption may mean for you and your future child.

Doing that work will take you from simplicity into complexity. It is not easy. It’s a hero’s journey, to begin thinking about your thinking, to question what you have not yet questioned. To be open to hearing others’ truths and listen with curiosity and a desire to understand.

If you pursue adoption, I implore you to keep tuning in. You have already taken several hard steps by listening to some episodes and by examining and expressing your thoughts. Keep going. Listen to adoptees and first parents. Keep a journal of what triggers you. See what needs to be attended to within you to make you feel whole.

This is the work. This is one of the best gifts adoptive parents can give to their adoptees, to not expect the adoptee to make them whole… because the parent has taken responsibility for that themselves.

Keep listening. For you — and for the three people who may one day turn you into a parent.

guide to living in open adoption

Lori Holden, mom of a teen son and a young adult daughter, writes from Denver. Her book, The Open-Hearted Way to Open Adoption: Helping Your Child Grow Up Whole, is available through your favorite online bookseller and makes a thoughtful anytime gift for the adoptive families in your life. Catch episodes of Adoption: The Long View wherever you get your podcasts.

Lori was honored as an Angel in Adoption® in 2018 by the Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute.

5 thoughts on “What I Want to Say to the 1 ⭐ Reviewer”

  1. Lori, thank you for having the courage to write about something so difficult. Your self-examination and courage is inspiring to many of us.

    I can imagine for some people that listening to your podcast would be like hearing a lecture on how to deal with difficult teenagers while in your Lamaze childbirth class. Entering into parenthood, including adoptive parenthood, is already exciting and terrifying enough but hearing about all that could go wrong can be overwhelming. I think all of us long for that wise grandmother to walk with us and say “you got this, kiddo” while also giving us their wisdom, warnings and corrections.

    I think in many ways you seek that tone in your podcast and in your writing. But because the stakes are high with adoptive parenting and they have been damagingly minimized over the years, you speak and teach and share and elevate the unheard voices. And you do that with so much grace for all members of the addition triad.

    I empathize with your reader who struggles with advice that provokes guilt. I’m someone like that. But, as you said, it’s an opportunity for working on your stuff! We can walk away and say “stop making me feel guilty,” we can keep listening and work through those difficult feelings, or we can find the right “grandmother” who speaks what is needed to be heard in a voice we can learn from and grow from. Yours won’t be that voice for everyone, but your voice is a profoundly necessary one and also a bridge building one. And your voice influences voices like mine that may help me be that voice, or better, that companion to someone else.

    You’re going to be a fantastic grandmother one day, Lori! You already are to many of us.

  2. This is a stellar response. I really hope she finds this and takes it to heart. Not only for her adopted kid(s) but for herself. You share your profound insights so generously. It has to hurt to be so misunderstood and maligned. I think the world of you!

  3. I hope this person reads your response and sees just how empathetic and self-reflective you are. I’m glad you wrote it for yourself, too.

    I think back on when I was first looking into adoption, and at the very beginning, I’m not so sure I would have felt so differently from this person. I remember going to the first agency we looked into where they were very matter of fact and realistic, where it seemed so discouraging and unnecessarily negative. It’s interesting now, looking back, that their approach aligned now with our actual experience. I think there’s a lot of places that will tell you what you want to hear and give you nothing but positives and win-win-win, and it can be hard to listen to reality when those other voices are so hopeful and appealing.

    However, I think your podcast and writings and interviewers are so important to looking at the whole picture and the hard truths. It was you that introduced me to adoptee voices through Flip the Script publications and sent me on a dive to understand different perspectives of adoption. It was hard. But it was necessary and I believe had adoption worked out for us, it would have made us better parents and partners with the triad/constellation. It certainly made me examine how adoption is portrayed in the media and the resistance/blinders to the full picture by society at large.

    This is a really long comment, but I’m sending you love and encouragement, and hoping that One Star revisits their impression and opens their mind to a both/and, non-binary mindset towards the adoption process and parenting.

    1. Such an insightful reply. Your ability to listen and meet people where they are is awe inspiring. Never doubt that you are actively changing lives with your work.

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