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Let’s Dance!

In my younger days, I was a dancer. I spent hours of my time practicing moves and learning routines. One of my worst fears was to show up to a performance and forget the steps. Even today, I sometimes dream that I’m at a performance and realize right before stepping on stage that I don’t know the routine and then I spend the rest of the dream desperately trying to catch on and fake like I know what I am doing. I’m glad to wake up and realize it was just a dream.


Lately, this is how I’m seeing a lot of adoptees. People thrown into a dance, music already playing; they have no idea of which way to move, but they are trying desperately to fake like they know the steps. I want to know why I am encountering so many people who don’t know the dance. I keep hearing from adoptive parents and social workers that adoption has changed; it isn’t the same as it used to be, but I keep seeing the same old routines performed over and over again. Everyone sticks to their same song and dance.

Agencies “save” kids and find their “forever families” and do not accept responsibility for anything beyond that, adoptive parents, many of whom are smart, educated people, lose all ability to think logically or critically about the adoption experience and don’t develop adoption-experience processing skills in themselves or their children, adoptees grow up in isolation from one another and are forced to try to learn an unfamiliar dance over and over again.

Just to list a few of the things I’ve seen that adoptees are often unprepared for:

  • Grief and loss. That it’s okay (and normal) if you feel these emotions.
  • The fact that birth parents are actual people; not just abstract, saintly, baby vessels. You weren’t simply unwanted – It was far more complicated and human.
  • Adoptees may have a relationship (probably complicated) with their birth family. Whatever someone may tell you – it is not impossible to find birthparents. The world is full of amazing reunion stories, mostly because those people actually tried, but no one will ever tell you that it is easy or without risk.
  • Racism. It exists and when you live with white people who want to be colorblind, you will not be able to successfully navigate racist experiences. Sometimes, you never develop the ability to recognize racism and may end-up blaming yourself for people’s poor treatment of you.
  • Other people go through similar adoption experiences. We need to start normalizing theses experience so that they can become a frame of reference so adoptees stop believing that they are the only ones who ever felt or discovered something about adoption.
  • The adoption experience is multi-faceted and filled with duality. What you experience and what your parents experience is completed different. You can love more than one mom, dad, brother or sister; you can be glad to be adopted and hate it at the same time; you can miss someone you don’t know and fully love those around you.

Sadly, this list could go on. It’s time to stop the music and demand that a new routine be created and taught to everyone from the beginning. No one will be able to jump into the dance if they have not been taught the basic steps at the very least and no one will be able to lead the dance if they are not willing to bring the other alongs with them. I’m willing to be patient and teach everyone the steps, if each person will be responsible for showing up and really learning.

Who wants to learn a new dance . . .

8 Comments on Let’s Dance!

  1. Mary A. Coyle // March 13, 2012 at 7:23 am // Reply

    Keum Mee: As an adoptive parent I, too, have seen these same issues repeated in the adoption community. And, I’m very frustrated that the agencies are backing away from more post-adoption education, often times citing lack of funds for this decision.

    It took our family many years to finally understand many of these points. In our quest to become more knowledgeable in these areas, we kept listening to adult adoptees speak of their experiences, found social workers willing to teach us, and read many books on these same topics. I think that we can overcome many of these issues if we have people like you willing to step up and teach us — parents, adoptees and birth families. We are listening.

    On racism, I think this will be a long haul issue. Look at all the conversations in the media about Obama, race and the Republicans. There are still so many people out there that think race does not matter — in any conversation. This is where I, as a parent and a citizen, am very confused as to how to begin teaching my kids and my community on this topic. I think we all still need more conversations on this issue.

    Keep teaching us, Keum Mee!
    Mary Coyle, adoptive parent

  2. I’m a dancer too, and love the way you have framed this post. As a birth mom with an open adoption that took place almost 11 years ago, I DO think that things are changing. Not all at once, and not all the time, but they really are changing. -kate

    • Kate, I’m glad to hear that people are seeing some change. I see it, too, but I’m impatient and don’t think it’s enough – especially in this day and age, but I’m gonna try to get in sync with the music or find a beat of my own!

  3. I enjoyed your “dancing” metaphor.

  4. This post is brilliant! My anxiety along with my anger rises when I see how little has changed. I feel like small changes have been made but they benefit no one but those making money off of adoptions. The rest of us are fumbling through our post adoption experience with little idea of what “normal” is.

  5. I concur with Danielle. Not much to dance about…Korea has been selling children for decades and America has the largest market share of this commodity: cute round faced children of Korea. It is no surprise for the agency to provide pre and post adoption services that will provide a better match and home for the adopted child. I feel for your pain and suffering- as we are torn between two worlds and not finding a foothold in either one. Be strong and continue to share your story.

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