Friday, February 09, 2007

Should Small-Minded Jerks Be Allowed to Reproduce?

This month's issue of Parenting magazine posits the following question and responses in its "Mom Debate" section:

"Should single people be allowed to adopt?"

On the one hand, I should feel heartened that 81% of self-selected respondents said Yes, while only 19% said No. But here is what absolutely sent me through the roof-- (besides the unbelievable stupidity of the question itself, as if they'd ever have as a real question, "Should single people be allowed to have their babies? Should married people who hate each other be allowed to have babies? Should children living with one biological parent (say, as a result of a divorce) be considered less-than?"--was the answer of one Ms. Jill Mitchell of Simi Valley, California:

"No. Why would you want to start a child out with one less person caring for him? An adopted child already feels subconsciously cheated and rejected--why add to that?"

Well, Ms. Jill Mitchell of Simi Valley, CA. I suppose if that adopted child were raised by a closed-minded parent like you, I guess she or he might have no choice but to feel the weight of your judgment, and therefore feel cheated and rejected. Or, alternatively, I suppose if those feelings exist in some children who were adopted, they sure aren't helped by nice people like yourself who assume that any person who was adopted must by definition feel "cheated and rejected" because they didn't have the great good fortune to spring from the loins of one Ms. Jill Mitchell of Simi Valley, CA.

I wish I could meet Ms. Jill Mitchell of Simi Valley, CA and get some sense of what life in the Mitchell household is like. All well-adjusted tow-headed kids riding bikes and eating lollipops in the manicured front yard, basking in their biologically-guaranteed feelings of love and acceptance?

Hmm...something tells me perhaps not. But regardless of her response personally--and my very personal reaction to it--the fact that this question was posed at all in a PARENTING-oriented magazine, just shows the distance we still have to go to normalize in people's minds something that is older than time itself. You'll recall a story named Exodus, wherein a young woman named Yocheved took a basket, placed her son in it, and sent the baby down the river in the basket in the hopes that he'd survive the pharaoh's decree to kill sons. You'll recall that Miriam, Pharaoh’s daughter, spotted the basket and retrieved the child. He was eventually adopted into the royal family. His name was Moses.

You'll also recall a young woman named Esther who was adopted by her cousin Mordecai after her parents' death. She didn't turn out so badly, as queens who save their people go.

My goal is not to do the List of Famous Adopted Celebrities, but to make two points:

1. Why are we still talking about this as if it's a bizarre and unprecedented state of affairs? Why can't a child be adopted by a single parent if that parent is found competent to be a parent? Believe me, the process for adoption is akin to a full body cavity search. I can count two completely bio, two-parent families in my neighborhood who wouldn't make it past the first round.

2. Why do some people still assume that to have been adopted is synonymous with being messed up (or "cheated and rejected")? Every study ever done on the outcomes of adopted children (under a certain age) found NO difference between biological and adopted children based on that status. Every study found that the almost sole indicator for a troubled future was the family in which the children lived; ie, that bio and adopted kids in troubled families were troubled at the same rates. Bio and adopted kids in well-adjusted families were well-adjusted or troubled at the same rates. Which is not to say that children who were adopted do not have issues they will need to process as they get older; but to imply that they ought to, de facto, feel less-than is the worst kind of nonsense: it is cruel nonsense.

Ed's note: if this post sounds like I'm mad as hell (at a magazine I got for free, no less) that's because I am. :)

So. Now that I've gotten that off my chest, who wants to tackle the venerable Parenting Magazine's next Mom Debate: "Should kids wear uniforms to school?"

I'm so glad there is no shortage of moms with the time, apparently, to answer the Great Questions of our Age.


Anonymous said...

The question is valid. Her answer is valid. Yours is too. I like provocative questions, and maybe Ms. Mitchell's point lacked a counterpoint.

To keep Parents mag 'fair and balanced' :), why don't you write a rational rebuttal to the magazine? If you care enough to help educate your fellow wo/man, use your energy for good, not evil.

E said...

How is her answer valid, anonymous? How is it valid to say that all adopted children feel "cheated and rejected"? That's a pretty reductive way to look at it, don't you think? If she'd left it at, "Kids need two parents for the best upbringing" that would be a provocative and debatable statement. What if she'd said, "All kids born into African-American families feel X" or "Muslim kids feel Y, so therefore Z"? It's a stupid generalization that has nothing to do with why kids need two parents, in her opinion. There were other responses from people who said just that--and you'll notice I didn't ding them for their valid answers. Her response is an opinion--and a sadly misinformed one at that.

Was that a good/not evil enough response for your tastes?

And believe me, the cheeky letter to Parenting Magazine has been drafted and is being edited for "family friendliness" by a local clergymember. ;)

Raine said...

Hey E, I guess they've smoked all of the chicken out of debates like "Is spanking children okay?" so they have to resort to silly questions like this.

The "subconscious" feelings of being cheated and rejected... how would she know what adopted kids are feeling? Is she telepathic? Or is she just going out on a limb and saying what would be reasonable if she, by some magic means, became five years old and put up for adoption?

I would think the exact opposite. By circumstance or choice, if I was a child waiting to be adopted, I'd be thankful to have someone, out of the blue, (more or less) come and rescue me from a life in a foster home.

I don't exactly see a lot of resentment or feelings of being cheated there.

Anonymous said...

Different anon here; maybe anon#1 meant that Ms Mitchell's answer is valid in that it expresses a common, if ignorant and wrong, opinion and thus brings out the counterpoint you are hopefully forcefully AND cheekily making in your letter.

Totally get your outrage - ignorant people should keep their mouths shut and pens capped! (unless asking for guidance from us smart folk!)

Urbanpink said...

I get that magazine and read that comment and just thought, "nut job." Is she speaking for herself? I am adopted and didn't feel the least bit offended because no one else can possibly sum up my feelings about it. I did not bond with my mom until I was older, and that does affect me everyday, but I rarely feel rejected and the bonding thing is the result of me being cared for by crazy women other than my adopted mom when I was an infant!! I have absolute awe and appreciation that my birth mother was capable of giving her baby a new home!!! What's also ridiculous about the huge assumption that Ms. Mitchell made is that it undermines a positive attitude toward adoptions in general, thereby encouraging single mom's to keep their babies!! It seems that Parenting Magazine is trying to stir up controversy like Fox News, "Let's divide and conquer our readers by letting people make outrageous comments about each other--they'll be so busy taking pot shots at each other they won't notice that we exist to advertise tons of crap for kids and moms." In other words, I take what I can use and leave the rest. I totally support you writing a letter about the adoption issue, go E!