Yesterday, as I sat in my son’s initial appointment with his new therapist, my emotions welled up. As adoptive parents, especially one through the foster care system, I should be used to this. The constant reminder of their before. Bringing up the past is a necessary evil when talking to professionals. When it comes to emotional therapy, it becomes even more important.
Sitting in the little office, I give the most basic details. I try to focus on his behaviors now and what we need help with in this moment. But as any good foster or adoptive parent knows, the history matters. It will never stop mattering.
So, there I am, explaining some of what this little Monkey went through and the face looking back at me kept falling further and further down. Finally, as I took a breath, I hear, “Wow. This must make you very angry.”
“Oh, well, I understand. Things happen and now we are coping with it all! There’s a lot of stuff that contributed to this.”
My response is well practiced. It’s exactly what I am supposed to say as the new age adoptive mother. I ooze first family love; I try my hardest to be birth family positive. The love for my children’s first mother is honest. Reading all the books about birth families and how to keep that alive in our parenting is something Josh and I strive to do. I know adoptive parents who are sososo angry about what happened in the before and we are not that family.
I answer with mostly honesty. Acknowledging the explanations of some of their past is important. It does not help anyone to vilify the first family. Then, though, I am hit with a hard truth, one that has been denied to me before now.
“You’re allowed to be angry about what happened.”
This one time appointment isn’t the first time I had this said to me. My therapist insisted it for years, my husband says it often. He accuses me of being far too soft over the hardships our children have dealt with. My husband has no problem with feeling anger. I, on the other hand, try to squash that emotion as though it is a little bug in my bathroom. I have such a hard time with anger, I don’t even usually squash that little bug.
Yesterday morning it hit me though. Maybe it’s time we start telling adoptive parents that first family respect matters-but adoptive parents, you are also allowed to be angry. Maybe we can begin to encourage foster and adoptive parents to feel righteous anger over the hand their children have been dealt.
I have experienced a lot through my families, both the family of origin and my family we created now. There are stories I still cannot retell without tears. I have heard things that make grown adults cry. And I am not alone; families who have done this for decades know all these stories as well.
We encourage adoptive parents to shut off their feelings, encourage them to ignore very understandable anger.
Adoptive mamas and daddies and grandparents and siblings- this is me telling you:
Let yourself be angry.
Do not stay in the angry place, because the anger will destroy you.
But do not pent that anger up and try to ignore it. That will destroy you as well.
You are allowed to be angry that your child has suffered. I think asking us as their parents to feel anything but anger at their trauma, neglect, and abuse. If you adopted from foster care, there’s a very high likelihood your child has experienced something of the like. You are allowed to be angry that was their beginning in life.
If you find yourself struggling with anger about this, I encourage you to find someone to talk to about it. Do not listen to the voices in the adoption community that demand you accept the before and love the birth family. You can love someone, you can respect someone, you can even accept them into your life without accepting the bad choices they made before.
You are allowed to be angry with their choices and the harm they allowed to come to your child, while being thankful for the fact they gave you the child you love. Feeling upset with the mistakes and choices they made does not mean you do not recognize the things they did right-even if the only thing it feels like they did right some days was procreate and make your baby.
I’m sure someone is not going to be happy with this statement, but the truth is, I’m sick of being told how to feel as an adoptive mom. I can love the first family; I can show the first family honor with my children. And I can be really really really angry that the beginning of my kids life will forever shape and challenge them.
You are allowed to be angry.