It's a gift adoptive parents can’t give, birth parents can’t give, or adoption professionals can’t give. Only other adoptees can give it to one another.
I’ll never forget sitting next to an adoptive mom at an adoption carnival where I was speaking. At the end of the day the time came for the children and teens to come on stage and show the parents an adoption art project they had been working on.
When all the kids were in place one of the therapists yelled, “Who’s adopted here?”
Everyone’s hands flew up and squeals of delight burst forth from the little ones.
“Me!” they yelled in unison.
The mom leaned over and said, “I’ve never seen that expression on my daughter’s face. Look at her! When she said ‘me,’ her face absolutely glowed!”
Something unique happened to her daughter that day. What was it? Was it the excitement of being with kids the same age? Was it a sense of pride about her artwork or love of the spotlight?
I don’t believe so. I believe it was because she had been given a gift that was brand new to her—the gift of fellow adoptee friendships!
The psychological drive that makes this gift so special is that it involves our basic need for connection. Drs. Brodzinsky and Schechter, adoption specialists with 30 years of combined experience, say that connection to an adoptee is like food to a starving man.
But connection to what or whom?
As an adoptee, I would guess it involves something to do with our lost heritage. For those adopted at infancy or a young age, any connection to our heritage helps satisfy that need. Original birth certificates. A name or photo of our parents. An adoption story that included our birth parents. A reunion with our birth parents.
If we were foster kids and adopted at an older age because of troubled parents, that need for connection may manifest in an unexplainable loyalty based on vestiges of fantasy of what life might have been like had we had nurturing parents and remained in their home.
Many times this connection with our birth families is not an option. International adoptions often make it impossible. Sealed records keep vital information irretrievable. Nonetheless, our friendships with one another are downright amazing!
The Amazing Gift
By being in the presence of fellow adoptees, we discover:
- We Are Like Family. Linda says that knowing adoptees has created a wonderful bond because there is a kind of “sisterhood” and “brotherhood” amongst us that has filled some of the void of not knowing her heritage.
- We Are Drawn to One Another. Gary said that his young daughter seemed to gravitate to other adoptees in her preschool class. Of course she didn’t know they were adoptees, but there was that pull.
- We Have a Unique Emotional Language. Sherry says that adoptees can “read” each other from just a few words or their body language, which she says makes adoptees feel like they belong to each other.
- We are like Triple-Chocolate Cake. I never had an adoptee friend until I was forty-five. Her name is Jody Moreen. We spent hours in our favorite little tea room sipping spiced tea and “talking adoption.” Life doesn’t get much better than that!
Looking back, I can say that not having a fellow adoptee for a friend was like going through life and having missed triple-chocolate cake!
If your adopted child doesn’t have fellow adoptee friends, start searching!
Sherrie Eldridge, 2007. Based on Sherrie's second book, Twenty Life-Transforming Choices Adoptees Need to Make (Pinon Press, 2003)