I wasn’t going to write about the travesties revealed by the film Three Identical Strangers, which my husband and I watched recently when it was on CNN.
I wasn’t going to until I read a defense of the practices of the researcher, Dr. Peter Neubauer, who conspired with Louise Wise Services to separate twins/triplets and research their development without the knowledge or permission of their parents. And until I got an impassioned email from my friend, an adoptee activist who will remain anonymous here.
Did you tune in to NBC’s This Is Us last week? Randall brings up the Adoption Split.
And with this meme I reiterate a remedy I often talk about: openness. It’s with openness (not necessarily contact) that the grownups in an adoption can help their child integrate and heal.
Randall Pearson, a transracial adoptee on the show, says, “My whole childhood I felt split. There were these people I lived with and then there were my birth parents who I never met. But I thought about them all the time…like a ringing in my ears. It quiets down sometimes…but then there are sometimes where it’s so loud.”
How to Help Heal the Adoption Split
The premise of my book is this: “Adoption creates a split between a person’s biology and their biography. Openness is a way to heal that split.”
Now. Who’s going to send a copy to Rebecca? (Randall’s fictional adoptive mom.)
My daughter told us the other night of a time in middle school when she shared with two teachers her complex feelings about being adopted. Yes, I really love my family, she reported as they nodded sympathetically. But also, she continued, being adopted sometimes sucks.
The sympathetic nodding ended.
Oh, you don’t mean that! one teacher told her. The other tag-teamed: Look where you ended up. Your parents are awesome! (why thank you).
My daughter was mad at the time about her feelings being invalidated, about being told she should feel differently than she feels. She was angry that someone who doesn’t know adoption first hand corrected her about her actual experience.
As far as I can tell, neither of those teachers — one in her 30s and one in her 50s — has a direct connection to adoption. So how are they qualified to speak so authoritatively on it?
You Don’t Have to Be in Adoption to Know Adoption. Duh.
Everyone knows about adoption, right? We see it in the movies and we see it on TV and we see stories about the movies and TV shows in People magazine while we wait at the hair salon or dentist.
You know, if the movies and TV shows got adoption right, people would have a better idea what it’s like to actually live in adoption. Historically, though, the media have not gotten it right. The media have gotten adoption flat out wrong by showing incomplete slices of it, by perpetuating stereotypes, and by reducing multidimensional complexities to 2D simplicities.