It's an interesting thing, being an adoptive parent in the internet age.
I'm so grateful for the internet. Lately, I have been working on putting together an 'Adoption 101' - a collection of some of my favourite blog posts from all around the adopt-o-sphere. I'm hoping to put a whole bunch of links together - the kind of thing that I would like to send back in time to the Me that was thinking about maybe possibly adopting, way back when. A semester at the college of collective knowledge, if you like - otherwise known as 'I spent lots of time on the internet neglecting my housework so you don't have to™'. I'll let you know when it's done.
I hope it will be useful. But then there is a part of me that thinks - is this such a good idea? I wonder, sometimes, about the effect that all of my adoption-related reading has had on me. I'm an overthinker by nature - if I was living in a cave and my only source of information was campfire stories, I'd be the one left at the end of the evening asking the storyteller 'why did you say the mammoth reared its head? Why not raised its head? Do you think you are expressing your own feelings about the way the mammoth was nurtured?' You get the point. I'm not ever going to be the person who just chills out and says 'I'm going to let love guide me', and I'm not sorry about that. But the internet is a black hole, a vortex, a maelstrom of information. There's too much there. Even on this one topic (adoption) it's never really possible to keep up, to be on top of the latest article, to know the latest thinking, to have read the most recent personal outpouring so that I can know exactly what is the right thing to do so my kids won't be messed up because of my culpably bad adoption parenting.
And here's the thing: People have always thought that they were doing the right thing. They thought they were doing the right thing when they told adoptive parents to take their babies home, deny all differences and and seal their birth certificates. [Oh, hang on, OBCs are still mostly sealed in the US. That's insane, by the way. See, I wouldn't know about that if it wasn't for the internet!] We think we're doing the right thing now by acknowledging loss and reading I'm Chocolate, You're Vanilla and by golly I hope we are, but what if we're not? We've got to do the best we can with the knowledge we've got, I suppose, although I am in no doubt that the next generation of adult adoptees will let us know what it was that we collectively messed up.
Here's the other thing. As an adoptive parent, I write for the free therapy. I read widely so that I can learn, (and hopefully parent my kids better). I comment so that I can connect. (and I've stunk at this lately - I'm sorry). All of this makes sense to me. It feels worthwhile - probably not as worthwhile as cleaning my kitchen - but overall I think being here (and by 'here', I mean the internet, rather than 'here' typing in my hallway, slowly being covered in falling dust from our attic renovation) is a worthwhile thing. But sometimes I'm not so sure because of how much self-doubt it sows. I've been reading a really wide range of stuff recently (see above) and I feel like some bloggers mainly blog so that they can point out what other people are doing wrong. And by other people, I guess I mean adoptive parents.
What motivates some of the nastiness that goes on? I understand that adoption is not all about unicorns and rainbows. And believe me, I do not want an award for adopting my kids. Do you want to know what I wanted when I adopted my kids? My kids. That's all. I don't want or need anybody to tell me that I did a great thing - I didn't. I don't think most of us want that. But I don't want to spend my entire life looking over my shoulder, either, trying to pretend to be someone that I'm not in order to satisfy every other member of every adoption triad since the beginning of time, trying to satisfy the self-appointed adoption thought police. I'm sorry if this all sounds vague and paranoid. It's just that I'm rapidly losing patience with a few people I have interacted with recently; people who are bothering online friends (no, sisters) of mine, people who do a lot of criticism and not a lot of anything else.
I guess there's a good reason for that. Criticising other people is fun. It makes us the writer feel superior, and who doesn't like feeling superior? I suppose that is the true motivation for some of the nasties - self-congratulation by comparison. So, I think that my new internet rule is: Nobody should be allowed to saying critical things about a person (or a group of people) without saying two critical things about themselves, too. From now on, I refuse to take adoptive-parent critics seriously unless they can show a similar level of self-criticism. Not on their own blogs, not in comments, not anywhere. And, since that statement implies (critically) that a lot of people do not do that, here's me practising what I preach: firstly: right now I am questioning my own motivations for writing. Am I really writing through an issue that I think is important, or am I just feeding my own need for drama? And number two: we ordered pizza tonight because I was too lazy to cook.
Back to looking over my shoulder. I don't want to be emotionally dependent on what the adoption thought police think of me. Periodically (eg, now) I make these resolutions where I say to myself "I am NOT going to let other people's bile get to me any more!" and I stick to it for a while, and then I slide back into caring again. And of course, I am not beyond the occasional bout of Internet Rage myself - sometimes I read things that make me so angry I can barely see. I want to write really, really mean things in reply. I don't do it. Then I wonder - the people whose mean writing upsets me - are they feeling that same feeling of Internet Rage when they read the lovely words my friend writes? Is that what makes them spill vitriol from their keyboard? Or are they just so used to being critical that their fingers are set to 'auto-nasty?'
I don't really understand it. And I find it really difficult to hold some of these internet things in tension. The information, the knowledge, the scrutiny, the paranoia, the occasional outbreaks of unexpected nastiness. You need to be tough in the head to get through it all unscathed. I'm not sure that I am that tough. And I don't really have any answers about this. I think what I'm trying to say is: Sometimes I find this really hard.