Charmed Life?

by Luanne

One day, when Marisha was a young teen, I overheard a teacher say to her, “You lead a charmed life.”  At the time I felt a little fist pound my stomach, but I wasn’t sure why.  I had to schlep her to an activity and didn’t take the time to really think through the comment. Certainly, compared with so many people in this world, Marisha lived a relatively happy life with plenty of good food, education, doctor appointments, pretty clothes, and opportunities to pursue her goals.

It was only later, when I’d had time to process what she’d said, that I began to belatedly understand why I was upset and where I had gone wrong.

I’ve been a mom like most mothers I know—one who has kept putting one foot in front of the other in order to get done everything on the daily to-do list.  If I stopped or slowed down, we would never get it all accomplished, so I just kept trudging.  Most of the time, I’m pretty mild-mannered.  But mess with my kid, and I turn into Mama Bear.  If you’re a mom, you probably have been a Mama Bear yourself.  If you’re not a mom, you’ve no doubt been embarrassed by a Mama Bear once or twice.

There have been a couple of times where I morphed into that big blustering Mama Bear (think Grizzly) when I felt my kids were treated unfairly in a way that was harmful to their psyches as adoptees.  I expect other adults to act like villagers and look out for children who are adopted.

Some people have been absolutely sensitive and thoughtful.  When I started graduate school in California, Marisha began attending preschool at the campus daycare.  It was her first time in a school setting, but she seemed to be fine when I left her each morning.  What I found out later, was that she cried pitifully without stopping as soon as I left the building.  I was, in effect, her third mother, after her birth mother and foster mother (who took care of her the first 3.5 months of her life), and I was leaving her to go to class.

Her wonderful teacher, Mrs. Abey (Elaine Abeyguneratne), gave her special care, having Marisha sit at her side each morning, creating school as a warm and special place where Marisha could learn to be away from me.  Elaine never told me what went on until much later.  She was afraid that I would drop out of school, and she was looking out for the welfare of an adoptee.

Something happened a few years after that, when Marisha was in first grade, that turned me into a Mama Bear, but it’s only years later that I finally understand what I wish I had realized all along.

Marisha had a new religious school teacher and she bonded with her very quickly and very thoroughly.  Within a couple of months, though, the teacher suddenly decided to leave because she had a disagreement with the director of the school.  I went to her after class and begged her to stay.  I explained to her that leaving so quickly, without warning, was traumatic to an adoptee like Marisha.  She couldn’t be persuaded to stay, but another parent overheard what I said.

This parent exploded, railing at me for using the word “traumatic.”  She said that Marisha didn’t know what trauma was and that I shouldn’t use the word so lightly.  That her stepchildren knew trauma as their mother had died a couple years before from cancer.  She was definitely correct that her stepchildren had undergone a trauma which no child should ever have to go through and which many, unfortunately, do go through.  Losing their mother to illness will have a bearing on the rest of their lives.  My initial feeling was compassion for the children and embarrassment at being taken to task.

But this woman’s manner and assumptions were outrageous.  I told myself I was miffed because she was yelling at me unfairly and I was embarrassed because I didn’t even know she was in the room when I was talking to the teacher.

What I didn’t put together until much later was how absolutely clueless so many people are about adoption.  Until I realized this I just assumed that adults would understand what adoption is and how it might affect adoptees to be adopted.  That, in fact, being adopted means that a person has gone through at least one huge and initial trauma in their lives.  This happens to them long before most people experience their first trauma.

When I look back at the years of raising my children, I do regret making the assumption that the adults in their lives understand that adoption doesn’t just mean that my kids and their parents don’t look alike.  I see now that the understanding many people have of adoption is literally skin deep (or as superficial as different noses and body types).  If only I had figured this out before and tried to educate, instead of assuming.

Adoption is a complex relationship which needs to be understood as such and not filed away as a minor and odd fact about someone, as if it is left-handedness or athletic ability.  To understand that relationship is a responsibility and obligation of society, not just those of us in adoptive families.


  1. …and so I think putting a blog like this out here really makes us understand the various facets of adoption and hey, we’re learning from you, one post at a time! =>

  2. Thanks for sharing your insights again, Luanne. I love your honesty. Educating adults about adoption is challenging. When my 13 year old daughter was tasked with another version of the “life story” assignment in school in which she advised her classmates that she was adopted she faced a barrage of questions from her peers that included the oft heard “Do you know who your real parents are?” and “Are your sisters your real sisters?” I asked her how these questions made her feel and she said “Oh I’m used to it but it is kind of annoying.” I have to agree with her but like you, I find the most annoying thing is when this kind of stuff comes from “educated” adults, such as teachers who ask “Do you know who your real parents are?” Good grief. I have spoken up, most memorably on one occasion when I offered to go into my daughter’s grade four class to read a story about adoption written by a Canadian social worker and then answer questions. The children’s questions and comments were brutal and direct BUT my daughter and I answered them equally directly and it opened up all kinds of channels for talks at home and amongst her friends.

    • You did a great service going into the classroom and speaking about adoption. That classroom of kids is growing up to understand so much more about adoption and will be better members of society for it, IMO. Good for you!

  3. So true! Thank you so much for sharing!

  4. Lisa DeNike Ercolano says:

    I am so glad you wrote this. Thank you.


  1. […] imagination and so am empathetic.  However, what I didn’t get (and I’ve written on here about that, too) was that the rest of society doesn’t necessarily have the understanding that […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: