Friday, January 8, 2010

Fickle Weather and Loyal Children

It's snowing and I'm snuggled up in one of my favorite cafes with my laptop after a good workout at the gym across the street, and I'm enjoying having some free time: my son is back in school and I don't start teaching for another 10 days. The holidays are over, the Christmas tree is going to be recycled into mulch this weekend, and our house is relatively clean. I have fed my need to do house projects--some sanding, painting, refinishing, etc., and now I finally have some time to think. And write. And surf around the net.

Over at the awesome open adoption blog "This Woman's Work," I found an excellent post about the author's dealings with her adopted daughter's loyalty issues. The weather outside, contrasted with my recent visit to California, where I'm "FROM," reminds me of this adoptee issue of divided loyalties, feelings of betrayal, wondering where you belong; as I look at the snow speeding by outside, I discredit it, thinking "this isn't where I really live, so I don't really care that it's snowing. I'm from California." But I have lived here in Philadelphia going on five years, and no big move back to the west is on the horizon, the economy being what it is, so really, I DO live here. But I have loyalty confusion. I'm always thinking about how much better California is, how I understand the people, the culture, the weather better there. but, like I said, I really do live here. And there are things I like about Philadelphia.

At Christmas, when my brother was finishing his visit with our family to go visit his wife's family, I told him that my son and I were flying to San Diego to visit my sister. My half-sister, that is; my birth mother's other daughter, whom I met about nine years ago. It felt really awkward telling my brother I was going to visit her. It felt like a betrayal, even though intellectually, I knew I wasn't doing anything wrong. I saw what I interpreted as a slight hesitation in his response to my announcement. What was he thinking? That it was totally weird for me to be leaving our parents' house to go visit this stranger, this woman he's never met, whom I call my sister? Maybe he was just wondering what it's like to be me, wondering why I do all this work trying to keep up with all these people in my various families. Who knows, but I always worry about the people in my family getting upset when they hear of or see evidence of my contact with my birth family. Probably, this is all in my head. Is it an adoptee's issue and no one else's?

Anyone out there in the adoption constellation want to weigh in on this?

11 comments:

JBH said...

Well, I haven't had any reunions with my birth family yet - so I can't completely relate to your dilemma. But there are a lot of things that happen to me during the holidays that I feel worried about or just end up rubbing me the wrong way. I think it's because of all the extended time around family (adopted, that is). And I often wonder, "Is it all in my head?" - similar to your question in your post.

Sometimes it is challenging as adult adoptees to live our lives in the present, especially when our adoptive families hold on to the past. I try to see things from their perspective: they are the ones who watched me grow up, and now that I'm an adult, these "strangers" are a part of my life.

My hope is that my (adoptive) family could continue to accept me for who I am and who I am becoming, as my identity as an adoptee continues to take shape.

Happy New Year, my friend.

Andrea said...

Happy New Year to you, too, JBH! I'm so glad to hear that you wonder whether it's all in your head, too; it gives me a lot of comfort to know that!
thanks,ar

daisy said...

It's interesting - I am a relatively newly reunited adoptee (with my first/birth mother), and also a stepmother (I haven't children myself). I don't know if divided loyalties are exclusive to adoptees. Growing up, I think my stepson felt cautious about revealing too much about time spent with his mother to me because he sensed some jealousy on my part...

Andrea said...

Daisy, Thanks for commenting. I agree that divided loyalties can come in many guises--the way you describe your stepson's caution sounds very much like how I feel about trying to not to hurt the feelings of people in my families.

How is your reunion going? Very curious....

coruscate said...

Neither adopted nor having family of adopted relatives, I can only suspect that your brother's hesitation may first be that he simply doesn't know how he feels and is reacting that way for more banal reasons. I suspect it may be the way he deals with the world as a product of gender or being introverted. I suspect your brother loves you, he may have unconscious expectations to be protective of his sister and supportive of your journey that he can not resolve, and may not know enough to articulate well considered feelings on the situation. I would listen with those possibilities in mind in addition to what you have proposed or perceived. At the very least you are being mindful and considerate of your actions to brothers and sisters when many people take their siblings love or support for granted simply because they have beliefs that it is obliged.

Happy New Year to you and all you call family!

daisy said...

Andrea,

If you are unaware of this conference - it might interest you.

http://web.me.com/shaslang/ASAC_2010_Conference/Welcome.html

Andrea said...

Hey, Daisy:
I think I once saw a call for papers for this conference, but I hadn't seen the details of the conference. It looks excellent! Thanks for cluing me in. Are you going? Are you presenting at it?

daisy said...

Andrea,

I'll be attending, not presenting. What about you?

I first ran across info about it online while I was digging around hoping to unearth some writing about adoption that was more...artful? than the memoirs I'd been reading.

They don't seem to do much promotion for it that I can find - though I'm not an academic, so I'm likely not their target audience.

Andrea said...

Daisy, that conference looks so awesome, I have decided to (try to) go. Thanks for the tip. And I'd love to meet up with you there. Where do you hail from?

daisy said...

I'm in Brooklyn. We moved here 3 months ago after 14 years in Chicago. I currently refer to myself as a Midwestern New Yorker :)

Have you read Meredith Hall's "Without a Map"?

Andrea said...

Daisy:
I haven't read Without a Map, but I just looked it up online and it looks really interesting. Definitely going to track down a copy. You?