Tuesday, July 11, 2006

On Being Grateful

In my world, there were only two choices for an adopted "child." You were either grateful or you were a bad seed.

In my own household, gratitude and adoption went together. If you didn’t show enough gratitude, then guilt set in. And I mean major, long-term guilt!

"How could you do this to us after we took you in." Or, "You should be thankful to us for giving you a good home." "You don’t come to see us often enough. That’s the thanks we get for taking you in." Guilt, guilt, guilt. And the guilt made you try harder to do whatever it is your parents wanted in order to prove your gratitude to them.

The bad seeds, on the other hand, are the testers. They act out as much as possible in an attempt to discover, "Do my adoptive parents REALLY love me enough to help me out of this jam or will they give me away too?" They want to see if their adoptive parents will stick by them, "even if they are very bad seeds."

Adopted people were all given away once. No matter what the situations surrounding our births, one thing was for certain. Our mothers gave us away.

Did we want to be given away again? Not a chance. So we tried and we try and we try some more. We grateful ones want to do whatever our adoptive parents tell us to do because we don’t want to get thrown out again. Grateful adoptees take the safe route through life. They buy safety, paying for it with guilt. They buy safety by saying, "Look how good I am. Don’t ever throw me out."

The Bad seeds go down another road, possible more risky physically but emotionally just as harrowing. They buy safety by saying, "Look how bad I am. Show me you really love me with all my badness. Show me that won’t throw me out."

Grateful adoptees are always trying to prove something about themselves. Bad seed adoptees are trying to prove something about their adoptive parents.


Marie Jarrell said...

do whatever it is your parents wanted in order to prove your gratitude to them.

and what's really, really awful is that that fear of rejection carries over into all other relationships. i'm always so afraid that significant others, friends, family, even my own children will reject me if i say or do something that displeases them. that fear just never goes away. i feel so imprisoned by that fear.

Anonymous said...

Well, I was the grateful adoptee and my older sibling who was adopted from a different family (so we weren't genetically related) was the bad seed. My older sib was much smarter than me, much quicker to grasp the reality about the toxic situation imposed upon us by our secret adoption. After my sib died an early death, our adoptive father said to me that my sib was born unlucky. Talk about discrimination from one's own family!