A couple of times a week I have some uninterrupted time with my son as we drive to soccer practice. Some days we talk about school or plans for the weekend or dinner plans. Other times we delve into deeper topics like adoption or racism. There is something about being in the car that facilitates these discussions better than just about any other environment. And so I take advantage of these moments as they come.
This week was another heavy conversation that left us both feeling like we tackled something big. I have always approached these conversations with listening first and filling the gaps of our children’s stories as I know them. The topic of survivor’s guilt came up as we pondered how one can live well while having a sense of responsibility for those left in poverty or other difficult circumstances. How can an adoptee thrive in the here and now when there is a realization that people they know could be starving, deprived or education and health care or in the midst of a violent circumstance? And how do those feelings change as a child gets older?
Our plan currently is to return to Ghana (and China if Josie should choose) when each child is ready. Reading blogs like Molly’s as she lives in China have given me new perspective and desire to keep my children connected to their birth culture. She wrote about Survivor’s Guilt and I was glad to remember her advice as this topic came up this week.
As an adoptive parent, I can’t control (nor should I) how my child feels about their story and their background. They might have a view of their past that is exaggerated or even a fairy tale when we might know the truth. Some adoptive parents can also feel jealous or insecure because a birth family is elevated to a status they might feel is not warranted. That is not something I struggle with but I know many do. It’s best to acknowledge those feelings for both your child and your sake. As the adult in the situation who made the choice to adopt, I would gently suggest that our feelings are the lowest priority when it comes to unpacking these situations. Our children need to be able to say how they feel without shame or judgment.
My son has spoken about his experiences in front of a nearby middle school student body. This isn’t something every child wants to do but for him, it was important. He shared about poverty as well as the beauty of his culture. He shared humorous stories of hunting for food and he explained why clean water can be the difference of life and death. He shared about having malaria. He is finding a way to be a voice for those he feels he left behind. That is one avenue that helps him process his story as well as feel like there is a greater purpose to being the one who was adopted out of sad circumstances.
To read more about the topic of survivor guilt, I recommend these blog posts:
Now on to the Adoption Talk Linkup! Each month I will link up with these wonderful ladies and chat about adoption.
New to linking up? We’d love to have you join us, here’s how.