Apologies, this will be something of a rant.
Perhaps you’ve already heard about Artyom Saveliev, the Russian boy whose American adoptive mother decided that, because of her personal, non-medically-sought-out diagnosis that he had extensive psychological issues, the appropriate thing to do would be to shove the kid on a plane with a note pinned to his sweater or whatever and thus wash her hands of him. And then United Airlines somehow managed to let her do this.
I mean, really.
It’s funny because while my disdain for this is, I assume, evident, I’m half-afraid of the backlash from adoptive parents. Case in point: I was once talking to this other young economically-privileged white woman I know, and we got to talking about kids and stuff, and when I made the sort of standard, “Well, you could always adopt,” comment, I got a look of horror. Apparently a lot of the people she knows who have adopted have just this complaint about the children they cared for, that the kids are disturbed and they didnt know what they were getting into and now they’re stuck with it. (Because this exchange occured in Canada, some years ago, the main problem, she told me, is that only First Nations children tend to be available at the relevant ages. Which was a fucked up remark to make in and of itself.)
Caveat emptor: I am sure not all or even most adoptive parents are like this. And yet, go to any database full of potential adoptees either in the West or abroad and you will fnd their ranks filled with allegedly “imperfect” children of this kind. I know I am supposed to say that I understand that people can’t take on everything, that people shouldn’t be forced to care for children they don’t want. I certainly don’t want to shove any of these kids into a resentful household.
But sometimes the way people treat other people, even those to whom they have no family or other personal relationship, makes me sick.
My question, you see is this: what is our culture teaching people if they are consistently displaying the signs of believing that child rearing and child care is some kind of consumer lifestyle in which they will metaphorically purchase happiness by “selflessly” devoting themselves to a child? That the care of children is not viewed as a collective responsibility but rather an optional joy, and when it turns out that the experience isn’t joyful, that it’s too hard, you just, you know, go back to the store. Complain about the service you received. Call it a day. What happens or doesn’t happen to these kids when they are basically unwanted, no one talks about. That’s somebody else’s problem.
This manifests in more ways than clueless Tennessee women putting foreign children unaccompanied on planes. It manifests in the fact that foster care systems are often a disgrace, that school systems are a low funding priority, and that this country, for example, doesn’t have a functioning health care system to support people who do parent children of the non-Wheatabix-cereal-box-beauty commercial variety. These attitudes, I’m saying, have consequences. Generation after generation of these kids suffer both emotionally and materially from our habit of demanding certain habits from them, and no one really gives a shit. When was the last time you heard a politician get on his high horse about seriously reforming child services, and I mean, not in a “those social workers must be fired” kind of way, but in a “let’s have a conversation about whether this is the kind of society we want to be” way?
I spend a lot of time trying to direct my feminism from a place of understanding, because understanding and connection are, I’ve decided, what’s important to me. But that being said, I find it nigh impossible to understand this attitude we have about children, and the acceptable/unacceptable kinds, in this culture. And I find it really, really hard to sympathize with adoptive parents in these sorts of scenarios, as a result.