Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Musings, from Meth to Matthew

Remember my post about Crystal Meth? I recently found out that Meth addicts will sell their urine and their scabs to other Meth addicts, so that the urine can be evaporated or the scabs pulverized and the remaining matter smoked. Really, is there anything more dehumanizing than an addiction that will make you smoke other peoples' pee? Ee-yeuch.
I have been coming across a repeated problem at work that I don't know how to address. I would guess it would arise in other contexts, except that when I'm at work I never have Matthew with me, whereas most other times we are together, or I am with people who know me well enough to know Matthew. Why is it, and I know all of you whities have experienced this as well, that other white people you encounter sometimes assume that because you also are white, it is okay to make racist comments to you? Those of you who are NOT white will have experienced the more personal, direct racism I can't experience, but in this situation I'm always left rather speechlessly angry, with nothing to say in response. Why? Generally one of two reasons: either the racist commenter is a co-worker, thus necessitating a civil working relationship, or the racist commenter is a patient, thus necessitiating professional and civil interactions with me. HOW does one respond civilly yet appropriately to racism? As a parent, I FEEL what my child feels, or would feel, if he were present and old enough to understand the weight of what is said...I also feel a fierce, dragon-like protectiveness of my child bordering on the irrational, which I treasure and think entirely appropriate...I also abhor racism and think silence perpetuates it...but WHAT does one say??
I talked about this with a coworker recently, who is white but whose girlfriend is Chinese-Canadian, and he feels similarly at a loss, and similarly angry.
I feel a great sense of responsibility for compensating, somehow, for the grief Matthew has had to experience already in his short, unusual life, and as a result feel a maddening drive to create a 'fixed,' redeemed, painless world for him to grow and develop in. The weight of responisibility I feel is so heavy that it morphs into guilt sometimes, which has a scary tendancy to morph into anger sometimes, which spills onto him, and creates the opposite of the fixed, redeemed, painless world I really, truly want for him. Some say we humans are rational creatures. I disagree, and point to this in myself. If anyone I knew were to approach the idea of international adoption and were to ask my advice regarding it, and how to successfully weather its difficulties, I would say: the waiting part is hard, but the parenting part is harder. Infinately rewarding and always worth it, but hard. My greatest piece of advice to these hypothetical parents would be, to not try to make up for what your child has already experienced. You can't. Nobody ever could. Simply create for them a new history, starting at day one with you, and make it as joyful as you can for them, for you, for your spouse and your other children. Embrace the history your adopted child has had previous to you, celebrate it, but don't expect yourself to make up for its painful chapters. Do what you do with realistic expectations. Some days you are going to dislike your adopted child. Some days you will be sick of looking at them, or hearing their voice, or getting up with them in the night, or battling the terrible twos with them. Don't we also feel this way about our biological children? Why would we expect to feel differently about our adopted children, simply because they were short changed by life before they came to us? Some days you will treat them differently than you expected to, or than you treated your older children, and you will wonder if it is because you love them less?? In your grounded moments you know you don't, but a voice will whisper in your head, 'what if I do?' and it will make you lose your mind. Don't listen to it. True love has very little to do with feelings, and everything to do with the fact that you DID adopt them, that you DO love them, that you continue to look at them and talk to them and listen to them when you are sick of them, that you continue to get up in the night with them, and bathe them, and feed them, and kiss their owies, and listen to their woes, and etc. day after day. Stop expecting yourself to make up for what they lost, and simply offer yourself, imperfect and wonderful just the way you are.
This is the most important, and most painful, thing I have learned as an adoptive parent.


Dawn and Dale said...

Wow!! Thank you for this post!!!

First of all, that meth situation.....ewww!!!! I'm lacking hugely in the education part of that! Wow! Unbelievable!

Second...we don't even have Annaliese home yet and I'm finding myself cringing already when the "chinese jokes" come up or people imitate chinese talking around us. I know they are not thinking of it as "racist" but for some reason, I already feel it DEEP within my bones! I'm still trying to figure out what I'm going to say to people when I'm in situations like that!

Thank you also for sharing the pains and joys of biological and adopted feelings. It also is something I wonder/worry about at times. I'm sure it's not easy!

Roboseyo said...

On one hand, living in Korea means that I have experienced racism directed toward me. Every country has ignorant people, and ignorant people rude enough to let fly and puke their ignorance all around for everyone to hear. On the other hand, I don't understand a lot of Korean, so I have no idea, a lot of the time, whether someone's saying "hey, look at that well-mannered Canadian" or "man, I wish those Canadian creeps would all go back to their country and leave Korea to the Koreans".

Today I talked with my student about how prejudice is a two-way-street, how if I judge you, it becomes easier for you to judge me. It was a good class.