13 March 2015
I am incensed this week about a case in the national news, the one about adoptive parents “rehoming” little girls whom, against all professional advice, they had insisted on adopting. To me, the details don’t matter to today’s essay. Rather, it’s the principle of the thing. What incenses me more than the lying and politicking, more than the hubris of people who claim to know better but secretly plan to use witchcraft tactics on innocent children, what incenses me more is the idea that children are treated like discards in that hideous game called Cards Against Humanity. Fling one down and see what kind of immoral entertainment you can concoct. Fling two down, or three. After all, they’re only caricatures, not sentient beings. You don’t really mean to harm anyone; you just grew tired of working so hard at this parenting gig.
Well I have a message for those who would trifle with innocent lives: you are weak, and you make a mockery of those of us who struggle every day to raise normal kids, let alone kids with disabilities of any stripe. We, the vast majority of parents, understand the most important tenet of child-rearing:
You can’t give them back. Whether you birthed them or promised to raise a child as your own, you can’t give them back. I’m sorry you didn’t get the charming, well-behaved, intelligent, and gorgeous human offspring you always dreamed of, but guess what? Neither did I. That’s life.
You can’t give them back.
Your own genetic combinations are a crap shoot. Sure, you have a pretty good idea of what they might look like, and chances are they’ll inherit similar smarts, but stuff happens in fetal development that no one can control. A couple of years later, you may just end up crying yourself to sleep every night in utter exhaustion. Another decade down the road, you’ll find yourself fantasizing about life before this nightmare happened to you, and then damning yourself for having such thoughts. If we parents are forced to admit it: we’ve all had such thoughts, but then we get up the next morning and we do it all over again.
Because we have to, and because it’s the right thing to do.
Because despite it all, those kids are helpless, and damn it, we love them.
Adoption works pretty much the same way. Sure, there are the promising kids whose parents simply got pregnant too young, but for every one of those is a sea of neglected, drug-affected or abused tots, all of whom deserve love and a real chance to grow up relatively happy. Adoption is usually a rigorous process wherein prospective parents and an agency exchange information for months, if not years before anything gets settled. This process exists to cull out the people who haven’t the morals or backbone to raise more than a couple of goldfish. You can’t flush failed children.
You can’t give them back.
See, that’s the thing. Regardless of whether it’s an emotional, physical, or chemical problem plaguing that kid, the bottom line is they never asked to be born. They never asked those two people to copulate and make them, never asked for the drugs that torture their nerves, never drank, never smoked, never did anything to acquire diseases, never invited the abuse that mangled their bodies and psyches. If that kid has problems, he needs help, not despair. He needs love, not abandonment. He needs respect, patience, and the arms of a grownup to nurture him through his pain.
You didn’t sign on for that? Tough shit. You either made him or you decided you had the capacity to save a lost child. You want to blame the system for your failure? The system is not perfect, and it fails many of us out there, but you don’t see us showing up in the news. We doubled down and did the right thing. We loved, we endured, we straightened our spines. And no matter how much we thought in our weakest, beat-down moments that we wished we could give our children back, we stopped to remember our humanity and the spark of delight we felt the first time we laid eyes on them, cradled their wee bodies, smelled their fine hair, and watched them sleep in our arms.
We found the will to go on, and we never gave them back.
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Excellent letter, Colleen!
Thank you, Colleen, for this.