Saturday, October 14, 2006

"Third World Orphans"

I'm a bit ambivalent about the recent news of Madonna's intended adoption of a boy from Malawi. Mostly because whenever I'm out with the Bambina, people want to talk to me about it, as if I must know what Madonna is feeling.

The truth is, I don't.

I adopted my daughter because I wanted to be a mother. Because I wanted a family. End of story. Nothing more complex than that.

I didn't adopt her because I wanted to make her life "better" or because I'm Mother freakin' Teresa. Or even, for that matter, Madonna "Madge" Ritchie. I didn't feel so bad for "those girls" in China and resolve to fix the situation one girl at a time. I didn't think about where my adoption of a child would do the most good. I didn't see grinding poverty and then decide that international adoption was the way to alleviate some suffering.

I don't want to say that these are not valid reasons for other people adopting internationally. I don't. But they just don't happen to be MY reasons, or those of other adoptive parents with whom I'm close. The single, solitary factor in all of our decisions to adopt internationally is that we wanted to be somebody's mom, and we didn't care if our skin was a different color than our child's.

People want adoption to be so much more than that, forgetting that when they get pregnant and have a family, there is nothing more than "wanting to be parents" in their decision too. Why is adoption perceived so differently? Why is it assumed that I adopted a child because I'm a really nice person or that I am doing something really nice for the world or that I need random public validation of my kindness in doing it? I understand why people think that, but my goal in life, if nothing else beyond being a good mom, is to work people out of that very reductive worldview regarding adoption.

So, no, I don't think it's great what Madonna is doing, Ms. Cashier at the Store. Or, more accurately, I have no opinion on it. Whatever she wants to do is her business. But for me, the very moment I feel pity for a child is the moment I will not adopt her, because that's not my motivation and it's not the relationship I want to have with her.

As a dear friend and fellow adoptive mother and I decided would be our stock answer to any suggestions that we "saved" our kids from something terrible: "Oh goodness, no. SHE saved ME."

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