Could adoptive parents put a little more pressure on themselves regarding the development and upbringing of their child? Do they have to prove they are good parents?
The pressure comes first from us
All parents will tell you: we want the best for our children and that's not surprising. Sometimes, however, we feel “that” deep inside us. Having myself experienced this kind of pressure that we tend to put on our shoulders, I felt the need to discuss it with some adoptive parents: "Do you feel that you are putting yourself a little more pressure than average when it comes to your child's development and upbringing? I saw parents smiling at me with a candid shrug. Well, it could be… I'm not alone on my planet called Prove-you-are-a-good-parent!
Could it be that unconsciously (or not), adoptive parents put a little more pressure on themselves regarding the development and education of their child? In pre-adoption training, we are often told that these little ones from the end of the world are at risk of having developmental delays that are all easily made up for bystimulation and a quality presence with the child. What a great door open to pressure for people who want their child not to suffer the repercussions of the difficulties experienced in his not so distant past! After all, we were evaluated on our parenting skills. A psychologist judged us suitable to be entrusted with a child who was going to have special needs. We are still not going to miss our shot!
My little Marie-Félix was in good he alth when she arrived in the country. A few small "bobos" all that is most common in the circumstances: we had given her three treatments for scabies, because she was covered from head to toe. She had an ear infection, eczema and her pediatrician told us that her skin, which is more fragile than average, needed special attention. No problem, Doctor! Armed with the collection of all these creams for sensitive skin, prescribed ointments and an unwavering will, I told myself that I would make this irritated skin, a peach skin. Not bad what happened. The advantage in America is that just about anywhere you have access to what it takes to cure just about anything.
Then Marie-Félix grew up, routine medical appointments arrived, comments from other parents too: “Is she turning on herself? (Imagine here a questioning look behind glasses anda white lab coat). “Uh… well… not yet, but I feel it’s coming…”. Nobody can blame you, of course. But we decode the non-verbal. She is almost 6 months old and hasn't started turning from back to belly! Of course, she doesn't sit alone either.
A month later, the questions keep coming “Worse, does she sit alone now? Mine, at 6 months, was fixed. But you know, all children have their own rhythm, don't worry too much about it. (Thanks for the doubt!). And then VLAN! We add: “Do you know if there are any he alth problems at this level with his biological parents? You know, suddenly there is a genetic problem and that…. that….. Well… she looks he althy, don’t worry too much about that…” Forget it! I began to imagine that her father might have hereditary he alth problems. I imagined him at 2 years old, struggling to walk. Her pediatrician told me that it was not "still too worrying" and that if in 2 months she still could not sit up, he would send us to see a specialist.
Once I got home, you can guess that I jumped on the phone book to contact all the chiropractors, occupational therapists and physiotherapists in my area! My goal was very laudable: I simply wanted to make sure that "everything was in place" for my daughter's development to continue, even if it was delayed. Good news, it was all there, it was only a matter of time.
Let go while doing your best
One day, driving my car, my daughter in the back in her little car seat, while our eyes met in the rearview mirror, I found myself a bit of a "nanny". I realized at that moment that I put a lot on my shoulders. What did I want to prove and to whom? Today, Marie-Félix is almost 14 months old. She is constantly standing at home, making more and more attempts to walk, falling and getting up smiling. She climbs the stairs on all fours and moves very quickly the same way. It could have been harder for her, but it's not.
My daughter is he althy and I'm grateful for that. This will not be the case for all adopted children, but somewhere, other than doing our best, what else can we impose on ourselves? Nothing. Like all the other parents on this planet, we want the best for our children. There is a part that belongs to us and there is a part that we must learn to accept if fate wills it so.
Expectations and Reality
I know that, in the normal order of things, full-time daycare will be part of everyday life and that one day it will be school's turn to enter my daughter's life. I am much more relaxed today. I obviously don't want my daughter to miss anything, I want her to have access to the best services, to a good education with good teachers, but does that implynecessarily to send my daughter to a private, ultra-specialized school that promises to make her a little genius? No way. My daughter has her own colors and interests that I will always encourage.
But since my giggles at my reaction to his slight developmental delay, I chose to dose. There is something that a trainer once said during an international adoption training that stuck in my mind. It was about this myth that Asian children have above average intelligence. And let me tell you that this myth is very widespread, because many people around me told me that Marie-Félix was going to find it easy at school, because Asian children are very intelligent. She could do anything in life. Each time, I talk to them about the theory mentioned in training and it slightly deflates the "balloune": Asian children in Quebec are, for the most part, adopted children, we agree on that…
What has been shown is that this popular belief is so entrenched that some parents sometimes get caught in the trap, put a lot of pressure on themselves and despite themselves and to give them access to the best, place their child in a context of intense learning: ballet, piano, karate, swimming lessons, then enrollment in a school where they can simultaneously learn several languages while having a very present artistic, sporting and cultural component. It happens then that the pressure iscreates, settles and the child sometimes decodes that it is in his interest not to disappoint his parents who believe in him, for fear of being "rejected" again. The base is distorted and everyone is left with incredibly indigestible pressure.
Far be it from me to blame anyone. I sincerely believe that parents know their child better than anyone. The important thing, I think, is to keep in mind the possible impact of your choices on an adopted child.
Chantal Massicotte, adoptive motherIn addition to being the mother of a little girl of Vietnamese origin, I am a specialized social work technician in employability and social reintegration. I am also a "godmother" in international adoption, a function by which I am led to help, support and advise the future parents who are recommended to me in all stages of their project for the Bas-Saint-Laurent region. You can also follow my journey on my blog.