Growing up, “A” was for attitude. And as I grew older, into the edgy years of puberty, “A” became “AA”—for attitude adjustment. My father liked to say, “You need an attitude adjustment.” Frequently spot-on, his comment was met with a snarl and affirming nod from reluctant me.
As I raise my own kids, the “A” word carries a different meaning. “A” stands for abandoned—an emotionally-loaded, negatively-charged word currently tied to adoption.
Abandoned means being forsaken, deserted without any moral or emotional attachment. Discarded.
Upon hearing the word “abandoned,” often attached to their adoption story, the adopted child’s perception is they weren’t wanted, not loved, undeserving of being with their birth parent(s). What wonderful baggage to have hanging over and in the head of an adoptee as they work through issues of loss and identity. Talk about stacking the deck against someone…
It’s no wonder that adoptees struggle with self-esteem and control. By believing they were abandoned, adoptees still see themselves as of little worth. They begin their life story with an enormous deficit.
I recently listened to Aubry as she inserted “abandoned” within a conversation we were having about her adoption. Her voice grew shrill, horrified. I struggled to keep any emotion from my face as I heard the pain in her voice and saw it in her expression. I went on to explain that she wasn’t abandoned—but that she was left, most likely by her deeply loving birth mother who was faced with an insurmountable situation, to be found.
My perspective contradicts the majority of the adoption community. But truly, I believe this is so because many birth parents have the other options available and one of those is not to bring a child into this world. The birth parents chose life for my daughters and son.
Adoption experts tell adoptive parents not to shy away from the word “abandoned,” but to use it in order to normalize it and empower their children—as they will be questioned about their adoptee status and past by others. I disagree. “Abandoned” is a minefield. “Abandoned” rarely is the true or entire story. I don’t use it. I don’t want my kids using it or others using it around them—they assume too much and they often assume wrong. This discussion will continue and so will the education of my kids and of others.