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Terminating an Adoption
September 9, 2009 10:43 PM   Subscribe

Anita Tedaldi shares her experience terminating an adoption at the NYTimes blog Motherlode. Her response to the support and criticism in comments is here; in a subsequent Motherlode post Lisa Belkin muses on the ethics of blogging about children.
posted by lalex (59 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite

 
I'm not sure if this thread is going to discuss the adoption, the blogging, or both, or neither. All I can say about the adoption is: very sad. But if you're going to fail, better to fail early.
posted by Ritchie at 12:18 AM on September 10, 2009


Deeply moving.

I can't imagine criticizing the adoptive mother for terminating the relationship when it wasn't a good fit. Isn't adoption supposed to be about what's best for the child? I think if more people were realistic about their ability (or lack thereof*) to parent according to their child's needs, there would be a lot more healthy families out there. Good luck and best wishes to all of them.

*hi, mom :|
posted by Space Kitty at 1:29 AM on September 10, 2009 [2 favorites]


I always thought there were more people seeking kids to adopt than there were kids. So I'm quite puzzled that a family with 4 birth-kids would be chosen as adoptive parents in the first place. Especially when the child in question is expected to have attachment problems.

I appreciate how this woman felt. The guilt must have been rather thick! But ultimately, she seemed too ready to embrace failure, so the "termination" of the adoption was probably the best thing for little "D". Clever writing that told how 'D' asked his new mommy for juice at the end, as if 'D' knew which side of his bread was buttered. Good for him, better now, than latter. I speak as an adoptee, rejected latter, except the 'rejection' was neither clean nor official.
posted by Goofyy at 1:39 AM on September 10, 2009


I once had a number of step-kids. Through a series of events, they became no longer mine. I still feel guilt every day, because I wonder if maybe I couldn't have handled their situations better.

I still get to interact with a couple of them, as they now live with their father, who is also the father of my two biological children. These are the two youngest of the brood and the ones who I had to work hardest with when I lived with them. One of them was 3 at the time and all she wanted was her mommy, after mommy had moved 3 states away, for reasons that were reasonable. I'd promised to be her mommy, and then she was taken away from me a few years later. The other child, now a teenager like her sister, didn't have language at the age of 2. She growled a lot and made noises, but no words. Her sisters had raised her. And then I did. And then she found language.

Weekend before last, these two of my ex-steps were here with a friend of theirs with dad to pick up my two kids. That was all cool. My daughter gave all the girls a grand tour of "Mom's latest paintings" and they all said very nice things.

They call me by my first name now instead of Mom, and that's ok. It's very hard to be neutral at a time like that. Those kids used to be MY kids. I love them and will always love them. We talked about art in general and some of my paintings in particular. I'm their siblings' mom and maybe their friend now. I don't know where we all fall on each others' radars.

After the pick-up, I found a dried up flower in the bathroom on the floor near the toilet. The only person who'd been in there was one of my ex-steps. The younger of the two. The flower was a lily. I can't believe it had been stuck randomly to someone's shoe. And I can't believe it was an accident.

I miss my kids that I didn't grow in my belly. I hope they are clever enough to find this comment someday. I hope they understand that I HAD to give them back to their biological parents and that I just wasn't able to keep them with me. I hope they understand that it isn't hubris that makes me think that I may have been able to take better care of them in the long run. I'm a human being and I just couldn't do it. I sure did try.
posted by lilywing13 at 2:37 AM on September 10, 2009 [19 favorites]


I'm not so inclined to judge. Mothers who give birth sometimes just don't bond to the child either, even if they've successfully bonded to previous (or later) children. Pushing a kid out your womb is no guarantee of a love match. To be frank, at least her adopted son got another shot with a mother who DID love him--there is no such option for birth children, minus horrific abuse or a special family arrangement.
posted by availablelight at 5:04 AM on September 10, 2009 [1 favorite]


We don't really know these people. We may feel we do but we construct a story in our heads based on that small subset of the facts Anita has selected to tell us. As goofyy points out, she would like us to see it as for the best, thus her detail with the juice from his mother-to-be.

I have my own take, in which Anita is the kind of person who is uncomfortable with nuance and ambiguity. She lives in a world in which there always is a best, even if it includes sadness and failure. No one bothers criticizing the mother who left her son by the side of the road. Some ignorant primitive foreign person, of whom we expect no less. So is our problem with Anita that she tried something that most people wouldn't attempt? That she should have known better? That she told us about it in a way that tried to manipulate our conclusions? That sheer will would have made the adoption "work" yet she neglected to exercise it?
posted by Obscure Reference at 5:27 AM on September 10, 2009 [1 favorite]


Well, that hit home. I've never quite understood or come to grips with what happened to my brother. After adopting him as a young baby, my parents put him in a group home at the age of 8. He then bounced around various groups homes and foster care for the next 10 years. I mean there were some severe incidents, but it's your fuckin' child. Like somehow if you still have the receipt, there's a return policy on 'broken' humans??

My brother is 5 years older than me, and as a child, I idolized him. The first incident occurred when I was two and a half. Apparently, he figured out that the coffee table in the living room was at the precise height of my mouth. He stood there with the table behind him and from the other side of the room asked me for a hug. As I quickly approached, he moved out of the way and my front teeth magically disappeared (and remained that way until I was 8). That same year, he put me up in our tree house and from the ground told me to jump and he'd catch me. Not so much - I ended up with a broken hip. The final straw (as my parents tell me) was when they came home and he was attempting to drown me in our pool from outside of it.

When my brother turned 18, my father (freshly divorced and neither of the two 'remaining' children speaking to him), went out and found my brother. He brought him to Toronto, and he's been back in my life for the past 20 years. These days, we both live & work together. The only time this part of his past come up, is in jest. I just have to wonder - if the situation were reversed and I, as the only biological child, had been the 'culprit', would they have given me up?
posted by gman at 5:31 AM on September 10, 2009 [8 favorites]


Ugh, harsh. Reading the articles makes it pretty clear - to me - that the major failure was on the part of the adoption agency and people who facilitated the adoption. It's hard for prospective parents to be truly prepared for the unique challenges of adoption, especially when it comes to developmentally disabled children. Adoption is a wonderful thing, and no parent (especially not a parent who is already raising children they gave birth to) wants to admit that they might not be able to give what an adopted kid needs. Obviously, they SHOULD ask themselves these hard questions before adopting, but ultimately, they - and the children - depend on the individuals within the adoption system to prepare them, to be able to judge if they are adequately prepared or not, and to act as a filter for children and families so that situations like the one in these articles are avoided, for the sake of everyone involved.
posted by ellehumour at 6:12 AM on September 10, 2009


gman, thanks for sharing that story, especially the resolution.
posted by hellboundforcheddar at 6:36 AM on September 10, 2009


At one time I tended kids in a group home. At first you think that love will cure these kids, and for about 70% it's true. The other 30% are just broken beyond repair.

People have the best of intentions, but at the end of the day you have to truthfully evaluate the situation and do what's best for everyone.

I'm shocked that the author adopted the child before fostering him. Although in the grand scheme of things, that's about what happened.

You'd like to think that children shouldn't be taken for a test drive, but all the love in the world won't fix what's wrong with the essential relationship, and sometimes it's not apparent that the problems won't rectify with time and attention.

In human relationships there are no guarantees. If an option exists for the child to be placed with a family where he might thrive, then he should be given that chance.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 6:39 AM on September 10, 2009


For all its apparent confessional candor, the article is weirdly opaque. Which I find frustrating - despite my huge sympathy for the situation.

The writer tells us: I also knew that I had issues bonding with him. I was attentive, and I provided D. with a good home, but I wasn’t connecting with him on the visceral level I experienced with my biological daughters.

She talks elsewhere, easily and frequently, of her love for the boy - as if its a given. But I began to wonder if what she can't actually say - is that she was unable to like him?

She dances around this, talking of "visceral" feelings and being unable to "parent him" as she should, and the problem "issues" that arose and uses other, similar, jargon.

I can understand that admitting you genuinely didn't like the vulnerable, abandoned child you took into your home can seem more "monstrous" to those outside than almost any other reason for giving him up.

But I wish - since she took the decision to write the article - she had fully faced what was missing from her side of the relationship. (Or at least been able to express this.)

I know adoption is complicated. We have an unusual number in our family - going both ways. (And the comments here are very moving).
posted by Jody Tresidder at 6:41 AM on September 10, 2009 [1 favorite]




No matter who shares in failing this boy D so utterly, I can't even begin to comprehend why Tedaldi hasn't enforced her own disappearance. It's not even that I think people should wallow forever in shame over regrets and mistakes, but I think Tedaldi, with her self-reporting blog, is drift-netting for attention, negative or sympathetic, and charity which makes me viscerally doubt her capacity to feel much of anything really genuine, other than dramatic self-pity. After this level of fuck-up, anything less than a self-imposed exile into anonymity is just totally gross.
posted by hellboundforcheddar at 6:55 AM on September 10, 2009 [3 favorites]


For all its apparent confessional candor, the article is weirdly opaque.

My thoughts exactly. I read the whole thing trying to figure out just what exactly had gone wrong, and I never saw it. She really, really loves her little man who doesn't seem to be a screaming terror or a threat to his siblings or the sort of child who makes their life a frazzled mess. I don't get what prompted the epiphany that she needed to give him up. I guess I don't understand how you can deeply love a little boy and not be attached to him. I'm not saying I doubt her, I just don't get. The other stories I know of terminated adoptions are pretty intense. This one had a feel of "oh, well, this isn't working out."

At least she knows it's her lack of attachment that's the issue, and not some failing in D. If it's true that he can't get enough of his new dad and brother's attention (after being left on the side of the road by his bio parents, kept in an orphanage, adopted to a strange country and then given up to a new family 18 months later) then it sounds like D is actually remarkably good at attaching, all things considered.

It seems that things are better for D than they would have been, and that's good, but her own account makes it look like she was awfully willing to give him up when there was no huge need to do so. Ultimately, I guess I agree that this was a failure of the adoption agencies, although I don't know how they would determine that "here is someone who won't easily bond with a new kid."
posted by Pater Aletheias at 6:59 AM on September 10, 2009 [2 favorites]


I am disturbed that this boy was placed in a home with, effectively, just one caregiver, as the husband was frequently deployed, where there were already four other children being cared for, all girls. When I see families that have three or more children, in many cases it is because they are "trying for" a child of the opposite sex. I feel, and of course I only have this account to base this on, that this mother felt she wanted a boy, and adopted D. more because of his sex than his individual needs.

Wanting a son to complete some perfect picture you have of what a family should be is not a good reason to adopt a child with special needs, sight unseen. She may not have been prepared for the myriad ways in which raising a son differs from raising a daughter, either.

I also agree that fostering would have been a better way to go, and that the adoption agency should have provided more oversight.

What also bothered me in her account was when her girls were watching Spongebob as D. left, and the Mom makes a point of how nonchalant they were. They didn't even get up from the couch. I think we are supposed to see this as "proof" that the kids didn't get along they way they should.

Now, they're kids; of course they don't understand the long-term consequences of what is happening. But she's an adult, and she's their Mom--why didn't she get them up out of their seats, engaging with D.? My sons frequently have friends over for sleepovers and the like, and would love to just sit there and keep playing video games when their friends leave rather than pause the game or risk losing. But it is just basic courtesy to walk those friends to the door, and as their Mom I make sure they do it. That's just what parents do.

It may seem like I'm making a big deal about this, but if the adoptive Mom who gave D. up didn't make a small effort to engage her girls when D. left, I wonder how much of an effort she made while D. was there to get the girls to accept and include him in all of their lives?

Anyway, if D. is in a home now where he can thrive, I'm glad for the outcome.
posted by misha at 7:10 AM on September 10, 2009 [3 favorites]


Adoption involves so much, levels more than having your own children, or even having step-kids. From the beginning, you're never sure of the whole story of your new child, from the genetics of the family to what the parents did while the child was in the womb, and even if you do know some of that, how those things might manifest. If you have other kids, will the new one be accepted? Will you ever embrace your adopted child as your own? Will you give this new child too much to compensate for the past life, or treat them too harshly to avoid favoritism? Will things change when the new child starts to question why her or his own blood relatives for not taking them in? You can see all the videos, read all the documentation and literature you can, visit the child and spend time with them wherever they are, but you cannot find out without living with them. Just as a child of your own blood can disown you in fits of teen angst, so can an adopted child, but it will hurt more and be more trying (especially if none of your own flesh and blood said "you're not the boss of me").

Given the incomplete (and emotional) re-telling of the "demon-mother" of the adopted child D., it's impossible to place blame on any one person for the failure for the adoption to work out. Sure, a few months seems like a short period of time to accept the adoption as a failure, but with a child that small, you're living with them all the time (or at least it sounded like that from the re-telling). The adoption service could have seen her and her husband as a comparable match for D., and the feelings Anita had for D. most likely didn't show when she first went through the screening for adoption, and those feelings changed (or became clear) over time. Hopes for a more active (or complete) family, the excitement of having a new little person in your home, and the thoughts of how the family will grow with and around the new person can push those thoughts to the back of your mind.

Ruthless Bunny - I am the older brother of an adopted sister (and not directly involved in the adoption vs. foster decision), and I never knew fostering before adoption was a possibility. Is this a limited option (perhaps for adoptions of children already within the US)? My parents chose to adopt my sister from a country where she would look like us, to limit some potential awkwardness in social situations (or something like that), though that set the stage for an amusing conversation in an airport, returning from a trip over seas. The lady checking our passports commented on me and my brother "Oh, you look like your mother, and you look like your father." When she got to my sister, she paused, noticing no actual resemblance to the of the family beyond being a white girl with blond-ish hair. "Oh, you ... look like your mother." We all had a good laugh later.
posted by filthy light thief at 7:15 AM on September 10, 2009


Goofyy, there are more children needing families than families wanting to adopt them. Many people who consider adopting a child do not because of many reasons including the financial cost, the fear of not getting approved, the fear of biological family returning for the child, or the fear of loosing the child for other reasons. Domestic infant adoption in the US can easily cost $30,000. An international adoption costs as much in agency fees but ultimately comes to more when you factor in travel expenses. We looked into adopting from Hungary because DH's family is from there. We had to rule it out when we learned we'd have to live in Hungary for 8 consecutive weeks during the process. Neither of us could take that time from work.

Next, factor in the criteria families are looking for the children to meet, and you've reduced the potential number of families to be considered for a child. For example, DH and I are foster parents who hope to eventually adopt one of the children we foster. This can be done in both the US and Canada, possibly other countries. We have stated that we would not be a good family for a child who is medically fragile or has disabilities which would prevent the child from living independently as an adult. By doing this, we've just ruled out tons of needy children. We have also stated we will not take in a child older than our own child. As a result, we've ruled out anyone over 7 years of age. There are families who state they will not take children of a different ethnic or religious background. They want the children to look and act like they always belonged to the adoptive family. We've fostered two children from India and our current foster child is an ethnic minority. We've also said that we would not be a good match for a child with an attachment disorder. Anita's article REALLY glossed over what she was actually experiencing with her son and the impact it was having on the family.

Additionally, in the US or Canada, if the child is from a First Nation or Native American tribe, the child is legally prevented from being adopted by anyone who is not also from a First Nation or Native American tribe. There are rare situations where such an adoption does occur, but that is RARE.

So, families are hesitant because of cost and some reasonable fears. Families state what children they are interested in. Families may not be placed with a particular child due to heritage issues.

Let's now look at a couple of numbers. In Ethiopia alone, UNICEF states that in 2007 there were 650,000 orphans resulting from HIV and an estimated 5,000,000 orphans from all causes. Not all of those children are available for adoption.

In the US, there were only 20,679 adoptions in 2006. Of that number, some of the adoptions were children adopted out of foster care. In September 2006, there were 510,000 US children in foster care of which 23% (117,300) had a goal of adoption. Of the 289,000 children who left foster care in 2006, only 17% (49, 130) were adopted. (The mismatch between the numbers could be a result of a couple of things. First, the 20,679 adoptions may be counting as one an adoption of a sibling group if it happened in a single hearing. The childwelfare.gov site is counting number of children; not number of adoptions. Also, the .gov site does not indicate at what point the children are considered having left foster care. Some states may count that as happening at the adoption hearing. Some may count it at a different point.

So, I've played a bit fast and loose with the numbers. However, the point is that no matter in which country you look, there are more children (ages 0 - 17) who are available for adoption than there are families who are willing to take the steps necessary to adopt them.
posted by onhazier at 7:37 AM on September 10, 2009 [4 favorites]


Interesting issue.

If the new family are happy with their decision, and the kid is thriving, then it was the right move, all around.
posted by Artful Codger at 8:00 AM on September 10, 2009


I feel for the mother but I wonder what was going through the heads of the adoption agency.... particularly with the absent father.

I've often said that America spends far more of its time and money killing other people's kids than taking care of their own and this story illustrates that idea in spades.

Still, I think she did the right thing and my best wishes go out to her and particular to the poor kid...
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 8:18 AM on September 10, 2009



It's really difficult for me to get on board with commending anything I've learned so far about this Tedaldi... D is blessedly lucky that he is now in a stable situation, but this is strikingly in SPITE of the fact that he is also the unfortunate victim of an inadequate screening process and abandonment by his adoptive mother who has bailed out on the requirement that if you don't think you can parent your troubled son, you have to bear the discomfort, self doubt, and inconvenience of getting help. Oh, and, you don't quit because it's not feeling good, or you're not feeling bonded, or it's just so hard, or it's not the way you thought it would be. She has effectively modeled for her other children how to profoundly shirk your commitments when the going gets tough.
posted by hellboundforcheddar at 9:22 AM on September 10, 2009 [5 favorites]


I'm glad for the child if he is now placed with a family that is a better fit.

I found the essay unnerving, especially phrases like "he wasn't attaching." That gave me a chill.
posted by Sidhedevil at 9:30 AM on September 10, 2009


Just for fun, I'll tell you what the screening process for my dog from Boxer Rescue entailed. First off, there was a 9 page application form. We then had 3 phone interviews before they came to see if my house was appropriate. After we passed that test, we were allowed to meet my dog to see how we interacted with him. Because of his size and look, they told us they had countless applicants, but none made it past the initial step because they were all single males in their 20s essentially looking for a pit bull, which is banned in Ontario.
posted by gman at 9:49 AM on September 10, 2009 [1 favorite]


As an adoptee, allow me to state that this article serves as confirmation of my general misanthropy. It's best we simply not breed, really.
posted by mwhybark at 9:52 AM on September 10, 2009


The unfortunate thing with the US is that there is not a single, comprehensive way in which families are evaluated in connection with adoption and foster care. Each state has its own laws. I do not know how it is in Canada. That being said, I assure you that what I went through to be a licensed foster parent (dually licensed to adopt) is not unusual.

We made an initial inquiry in late 2007. In January 2008, we attended an orientation class which started to lay it out for us. If we decided anything we heard wasn't for us, we could walk with no issues. (That is true of the entire process.) We stayed and were invited back to attend the training classes. While we were going through 40 hours of classes, we had to both have physicals, criminal back ground checks, provide proof of employment and financial statements to prove we could financially care for a child, get fingerprinted and schedule the home study. For the home study, we had a staff member come out to confirm our residency, check for safety issues and tour the entire property as part of the first visit. We had to draft an emergency escape plan and install additional fire detectors. We had to prove where our foster child(ren) sleep and that it meets the state's regulations on size and safety. Some states also require inspections from the fire marshal and locks on all storage for alcohol and/or medicines. After this, we had to work with a social worker on our genograms and ecograms. Basically, we mapped out 4 generations of our families and their relationships with each other on the genogram. On the ecograms, we mapped out our current relationships with friends, family, work, and our community. During the multiple home study visits, they spoke with each of us individually and together. They spoke to our child. If there had been anyone else in the home, that person would also have to go through all this. Once all the interviews, diagrams, and classes are done, the social worker writes up an analysis of our home and family. We were then given an opportunity to review, make corrections and finalize the home study. The number of training hours may be less if you're just adopting, but the background checks and home study work is there as well. In the end, we were licensed in November 2008.

As foster parents, we then had to start with classes necessary to maintain our license. We have to take 12 hours annually of additional training. The first six hours was just on discipline.

Do bad parents slip through? Yes, unfortunately. HOWEVER, the vast majority of parents who go through this process are committed to the proper care and support of their children.
posted by onhazier at 10:22 AM on September 10, 2009 [1 favorite]


What also bothered me in her account was when her girls were watching Spongebob as D. left, and the Mom makes a point of how nonchalant they were.

This. She couldn't turn off the television? Explain to the girls what was happening? Make a ritual or ceremony of some small sort to show that the child she called her son, their brother, was important and that surrendering him was a significant event? This boggles my mind. What are these girls to take away from this experience? And if she couldn't be bothered in such a small way when he was leaving their lives, how much had she bothered up to that point?

This is tragic that this poor boy has been failed and abandoned by two sets of parents now. Here's hoping third time's a charm.
posted by notashroom at 10:37 AM on September 10, 2009 [2 favorites]



Scrolling through the comments after her "essay" made my soul cramp. Admiration? Bravery? Does this mean if I publicize my failures and shortcomings and how sad they make me, I, too, can reap this sort of cred? And if I flake on my promises I'm actually gifting those that I fuck-over with the opportunity to find someone more honorable?
posted by hellboundforcheddar at 11:04 AM on September 10, 2009 [1 favorite]


onhazier - if only ALL parents had to go through such a vigorous screening process!
posted by smartypantz at 11:20 AM on September 10, 2009


hellboundforcheddar: "Does this mean if I publicize my failures and shortcomings and how sad they make me, I, too, can reap this sort of cred?"

yes. that is what it means.
posted by shmegegge at 11:44 AM on September 10, 2009


Scrolling through the comments after her "essay" made my soul cramp. Admiration? Bravery? Does this mean if I publicize my failures and shortcomings and how sad they make me, I, too, can reap this sort of cred?

This sort of crystallizes what made me uncomfortable about the essay. The (admittedly unspoken) idea that if the author preemptively admits to having failed badly, it is somehow in poor taste to then condemn her for her failure.

That the child may now be in better hands is great, but incidental to the repugnant concept that an adoptive child is expendable to the same degree a shirt you decide you don't like after a few months is.
posted by The Gooch at 11:45 AM on September 10, 2009


The way the sisters reacted to their brother leaving was bizarre. Really, really bizarre. None of my kids can leave the house without their siblings making a big production of it and that is when they know their sibling is coming back. I wonder if the girls rejected him while he was living there and how much of that rejection was set up by the mother (as misha points out). Poor kid, I hope he is happier now.
posted by saucysault at 11:48 AM on September 10, 2009


It's odd that she wrote that he has a flat head because he was in a crib so much, as though it were a sign of neglect. Some babies get flat heads.

Additionally, the kid ignoring her while she was very upset and asking for juice is par for the course with a toddler, but she seems to see it as an illustration of their failure to bond...
posted by kathrineg at 12:14 PM on September 10, 2009


And yes, I would hope that in that situation I would tell my children to turn off the damn TV

Also sad that this child will never know his native culture, had to learn a new language and a new family and now he's starting all over again...
posted by kathrineg at 12:17 PM on September 10, 2009


It's likely the whole experience of having and losing their brother, who was treated as less than by their mother, has been traumatizing for them. It's not uncommon for children to zone out when their minds are blown- easier still to allow TV to distract them. Actually, I'd venture to say they have their own wounds from being raised by someone who can't seem to grasp unconditional love (other than of herself, that is.)
posted by hellboundforcheddar at 12:17 PM on September 10, 2009


I think it's detrimental to expect that everyone will have an instantaneous bond with a child, biological or not. Personality-wise, they have their limitations, and a child with this level of challenges -- well, yeah, I wouldn't expect him to be great times to be around for quite a while. He's eating his own poo, for God's sake. And she thinks she's supposed to just bask in the glow of his awesomeness?

I don't think that's a realistic expectation.

I think you do what everyone does, you do the right things. You clean, feed, hug, hold, comfort, you stay patient, you stand in the shower and cry, you get through. Not everyone floats through motherhood in a veil of gorgeous butterfly womanliness. You have to get to know a person to get good at loving them. In the meantime, you have a role that goes beyond 'responsibility' or even 'commitment'.

I think this was reprehensible. You pick a child who'd been dumped by the side of a road and then you dump him again? Reprehensible.

Furthermore, if this whole thing was a way to prop up a failing marriage, and who knows, but I'm just saying: that's not a great plan.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 1:25 PM on September 10, 2009 [1 favorite]


The essay has been gnawing away at me - so I've just reread it again. And this - about 8 pars into her confessional article - jumped out:

I had never once considered the possibility that I’d view an adopted child differently than my biological children.

In an earlier comment, I had at least tried to be careful in my criticism of what the adopting parent had - or had not - said.

But I think I was too kind.

If she hadn't picked up on the possibility of feeling "differently" about an adopted child - what was the point of it all the reading & preparation she did?

It's one of the oldest slurs in the book! That a mother never feels the same way about a kid she hasn't given birth to herself!

I've heard it used maliciously. I think it's totally wrong. But it's surely one of the first things a mother-of-four-birth children should have thought long and hard about. Isn't it?
posted by Jody Tresidder at 1:33 PM on September 10, 2009 [1 favorite]


The essay has been gnawing away at me

Jody- me, too. I am increasingly revolted by this essay.

And was it really necessary to share about the coprophagia, a sad behavioral consequence of maternal abandonment in infants? Maybe it was a semi-conscious deployment to invoke sympathy. This poor child may one day encounter the essay and be forced to contemplate, in addition to the other mind-fucking, that he disgusted his mother.

Ugh, I can't stand it. Moving on....
posted by hellboundforcheddar at 1:50 PM on September 10, 2009 [2 favorites]


Anyway, tips for kids who like to get poop everywhere: you put their onesie on backwards so they can't get to it.
posted by kathrineg at 2:45 PM on September 10, 2009


Scrolling through the comments after her "essay" made my soul cramp. Admiration? Bravery? Does this mean if I publicize my failures and shortcomings and how sad they make me, I, too, can reap this sort of cred?

How long is she supposed to wear a hair shirt to demonstrate her failure? Although, I do think she didn't admit to liking D, he wasn't fond her either. Failure to bond on either party's part is a recipe for disaster. Loving a child unconditionally sounds good if that's how you really feel. If it's not, the child's going to eventually to know it. It's not enough to keep him or her from getting hit by a car or drinking bleach. Kids notice when your face lights up when you see their siblings and not when you see them. Doing all the right things by them - feeding, clothing, reading to them, taking them to soccer practice, etc. doesn't replace liking them.

Parents know that they feel differently about their kids than does the nanny or babysitter, even if they're both doing the exact same activities and even if the caregivers are wonderful and loving and kids know it too. Toughing it out to just not be a quitter wouldn't have been a favor to D.

And the thing with her kids' goodbye sounds weird but it was a weird situation. It sounds like D didn't bonded with anyone in her family and feigning an emotional goodbye to a kid who doesn't care either... Although, I think good manners and an effort to show the seriousness of what was happening would have been much better than letting them watch cartoons as if it was just the UPS man picking up a package.

But certainly, giving D to the other family was best for him. And I'll give the writer credit for admitting her mistake. It's very easy in hindsight for critics and for the writer to see that she probably shouldn't have entered into this adoption. Children aren't kittens and it's one thing to think, "I would love to adopt a little boy for our family. He'll be doted on by his big sisters and the girls will love helping me with him while Dad is away. He'll be the little man of the house." And had it turned out this way, it would have been lovely. This is why people have children, adopted or otherwise. Most people have fantasies of how their life will be with kids.

And gman, I would have gotten your brother out of my house too. He could have killed you. The way your parents handled it may have been less than ideal but I think about last week's posting of the family with the schizophrenic kid. If they could find a good place for their child, she'd be living elsewhere too.

Doing your best for a child doesn't mean it fixes anything. Tedaldi realized it wasn't working and a better solution was found. Isn't that the best ending?
posted by shoesietart at 2:59 PM on September 10, 2009


Unconditional love, shoesiestart, is a choice and a mindset, independent of feeling. If commitments, especially those on the order of parenting, depended on emotional weather and warm fuzziness, we would all have been abandoned every other day.

I don't condemn anyone who doesn't "feel it" with a child. But if they are too pathological/ stressed/ impaired/ damaged to act as if they do, and they fail to bust their ass to get help, AND they think they have some sort of special story to tell about themselves and it's published in the Times, I'll probably show up with something to say.
posted by hellboundforcheddar at 3:22 PM on September 10, 2009 [2 favorites]


"Wasn't a good fit?" Too fucking bad. I've heard that phrasing before and it really pisses me off. You don't get to choose your child like a freaking sweater at the mall. There are no guarantees.
posted by agregoli at 4:03 PM on September 10, 2009


There are no easy answers here, and it's heartbreaking that this poor kid was abandoned twice. But how is it better to leave him with a family that doesn't want him? At least this way he gets another chance at having a happier home life.

In a weird way, the 'suck it up, mom' mindset reminds me of anti-abortion rhetoric and 'stay married for the sake of the children' proponents: elevating the idea of parenthood and commitment (to chastity or marriage) over the actual happiness and well being of the people involved.
posted by Space Kitty at 10:23 PM on September 10, 2009


hellboundforcheddar: And was it really necessary to share about the coprophagia, a sad behavioral consequence of maternal abandonment in infants? Maybe it was a semi-conscious deployment to invoke sympathy. This poor child may one day encounter the essay and be forced to contemplate, in addition to the other mind-fucking, that he disgusted his mother.

Ultimately, this is what bothers me the most, the coup de grâce inflicted on the poor kid. After reading this comment in the second link: "Motherlode readers scoured everything she has written in the past, finding a post that used the boy’s real name and country of origin, and circulating it around the Internet," the likelihood seems vanishingly small that he will not come across this material at some point, unless the new parents change his name and keep all of his birth information and early history a secret from him - an additional lifelong burden for this child, either way, that didn't have to happen. I can forgive the termination much more readily than Teldaldi's needless exploitation of the kids privacy in aid of, apparently, assuaging her own feelings of guilt.

If I were the new adoptive parents, I would be furious.
posted by taz at 2:15 AM on September 11, 2009 [1 favorite]


There are no easy answers here,

She seems to have found one.

In a weird way, the 'suck it up, mom' mindset reminds me of anti-abortion rhetoric and 'stay married for the sake of the children' proponents: elevating the idea of parenthood and commitment (to chastity or marriage) over the actual happiness and well being of the people involved.


I understand what you're saying, but it's not an always or never thing. Weathering boredom, disappointment, routine, change, is part of parenthood and part of relationships and there are a lot of people who can't tell the difference between the boredom and frustrations that come and go over the course of a long term relationship, as you get in ruts and out of them, and something that's fundamentally unchanging and unsatisfying about the relationship. And then people get hot for someone else and leave, telling themselves it's because of this fundamental difference and incompatibility.

This woman sounds like she hoped to get an ego boost out of the whole thing, didn't, and is now trying to get some kind of weird ego boost out of sharing this private and painful personal failure.

There's a certain sort of person, and I don't know if she's one of these or not, but there's a certain sort of person who thinks that because they publicly excoriate themselves for their failings, they're sort of superior in their dead-on honesty. I'm not articulating that as well as I'd like, but it's rampant among writers. It sort of cuts people off at the pass: "you can't tell me I'm an irresponsible asshole because I'm telling YOU I'm an irresponsible asshole."
posted by A Terrible Llama at 3:56 AM on September 11, 2009 [4 favorites]


Except that in this case she has yet to admit that she's irresponsible and continues to be an asshole. To her, it seems the failure is not about choices or actions, it's the result of an innate inability to feel good about parenting D, which implies that she merits sympathy for a handicap. She is the victim, blindsided by a terrible accident, on display.
posted by hellboundforcheddar at 6:04 AM on September 11, 2009


There are no easy answers here, and it's heartbreaking that this poor kid was abandoned twice. But how is it better to leave him with a family that doesn't want him? At least this way he gets another chance at having a happier home life.

Well, considering what I know about attachment theory, it is better to leave him with these parents so that he has a chance to form a solid attachment to them. Whether or not Mom feels a "visceral" bond with him, he feels the security and safety of waking up in the same family every day, with people who keep him safe, feed him, bathe him, and sing to him. That is profoundly important to his development. Moving him to a new family disrupts that for him and can contribute to severe emotional problems in the future.
posted by kathrineg at 8:11 AM on September 11, 2009 [1 favorite]


In a weird way, the 'suck it up, mom' mindset reminds me of anti-abortion rhetoric and 'stay married for the sake of the children' proponents: elevating the idea of parenthood and commitment (to chastity or marriage) over the actual happiness and well being of the people involved.

Children do better when their parents are married, for the most part, and yes, some people feel that one's duty to one's children is important enough to tolerate that for them.

Not sure the anti-abortion rhetoric applies.
posted by kathrineg at 8:13 AM on September 11, 2009


hellboundforcheddar: "She is the victim, blindsided by a terrible accident, on display."

yeah, that's not what she said.
posted by shmegegge at 8:45 AM on September 11, 2009



Shmeg, You are correct, she did not say that. I did. That's why it's not in quotes.
posted by hellboundforcheddar at 9:29 AM on September 11, 2009


kathrineg, Anita is married. Her husband is in the military and out on duty for significant periods of time.

Sorry, but the absentee father comments in this thread bug me. Calling the father in this case "absentee" implies that he's out of the picture due to divorce or abandonment.
posted by onhazier at 2:30 PM on September 11, 2009


No, absentee implies he's absent much of the time. Which is true. No one is disparaging the life of a military family, just acknowledging that for practical purposes, she was single parenting while D. was with her.
posted by misha at 2:33 PM on September 11, 2009 [1 favorite]


onhazier, if I were an adoption screener and a potential adoptive parent said "We have four kids and only one of us is going to be in the country for months at a time" I would not think this was the perfect home for a child with serious problems caused by neglect that need attention. I honor the husband's military service, but it keeps him out of the country for months at a time, which is a factor the adoption agency should have taken into account.
posted by Sidhedevil at 2:38 PM on September 11, 2009


onhazier: "kathrineg, Anita is married. Her husband is in the military and out on duty for significant periods of time."

I was referring to SpaceKitty's comment about the situation's similarity to "staying together for the children", not Anita's marriage.
posted by kathrineg at 2:50 PM on September 11, 2009


My parents (child psychologist dad and special ed. teacher mom) took in two stray kids, one a young teenager when I was maybe 10, and later a five year old boy who had already been adopted once after being taken from his drug-addicted birth mother, but whose adoptive dad beat him.

The first kid was a foster, and he was a hellion. He was mean to me and my pet guinea pig, set things on fire, and used a two-by-four and cinderblock catapult to launch a rock into my face at point-blank range. I ended up in the ER for stitches, and a couple of decades later, at the eye surgeon for a trauma-induced cataract removal. I don't know if that was when my parents decided he was not going to remain part of our family, but it couldn't happen soon enough for me. And frankly, I could have used more attention from my Dad anyway.

The second little boy was in my Mom's special ed. class, and he wasn't so big on bonding, but he was charming and cute, and when my Mom figured out that he was being beaten at home, my parents ended up adopting him for his second adoption. He was alternately lovable and frustrating, and with a lot of therapy, did eventually bond with my Mom and Dad. I think they gave him the best chance he could have had, but he ended up hanging himself when he was 13, maybe over a girl who wouldn't "like" him. So that was kind of devastating for my family too.

I know most kids who get adopted do really well, but I think you do need to "put on your own oxygen mask before assisting others."
posted by Hello Dad, I'm in Jail at 1:45 AM on September 12, 2009 [1 favorite]


My baggage. Let me show you it.

I didn’t want to take the thread on a derail, but I can do a better job explaining why some of the comments here reminded me of the underlying assumptions and attitudes towards women I’ve noticed in anti-abortion/anti-divorce rhetoric. Some similarities -

- Second guessing her decision
- Assuming other people know better what’s right for her family
- Thinking she can’t be trusted to make this kind of decision
- Saying she’s not taking her responsibility seriously
- Deciding that it’s only considered ‘taking responsibility’ if she keeps the child
- Behaving as if her decision makes her a horrible person
- Deciding that she didn’t try hard enough to make it work
- Judging her because she should have ‘known better’ or realized in advance what would happen
- Thinking that being forced to parent an unwanted child is reasonable, and will actually benefit the child
- Expecting women to suffer, and minimizing or mocking the very real hardships of parenting

Here’s the thing - I do get that Ms. Tedaldi doesn’t make herself seem very sympathetic. Her article comes off sounding like she thinks she’s the hero (and the victim!) here, and her bid for… forgiveness? …validation? seems pretty crass when you think about what the kid has been through.

But saying that she can’t quit, that she’s shirking her commitments, implying that it doesn’t matter if everyone’s miserable because it’s more important that she keep her word to the letter - reminds me of the worst kind of “staying together for the children” relationships. I was adopted as a child, and believe me I don't thank my adoptive parents for soldiering on. In fact, the whole family would have benefited greatly from the frank acknowledgment that the placement wasn't working. I don’t know about attachment theory, but I can tell you from first hand experience – when the parents doesn’t feel a visceral bond with a child, the kids know it –and it doesn’t feel at all safe, secure or like a good place to learn to form healthy relationships. And no one benefits from any illusions otherwise.

By the way, I think it’s kind of disingenuous to suggest that terminating the adoption is an ‘easy out’. I mean, I was a 17 year old single parent, and there were many times I was terrified, overwhelmed and had no fucking idea how we were going to manage. But I never remotely considered giving up my child, because no matter what happened I never stopped wanting to be her mom. It’s gotta be a pretty special kind of hell when you don’t want to be the mom anymore.

So relinquishing her child doesn’t make her an irresponsible asshole* - it’s probably the most beneficial thing she could do for him under the circumstances. Does it suck and will it hurt? Hell yeah – and we can all wish he had been born to model parents, but in the meantime he deserves better than to be consigned to a family that knows they aren’t up to the task.

*Speaking of abandonment, why isn’t some of this venom aimed at the woman who left him by the side of the road? At least Ms.Tedaldi made sure he was provided for.

PS. I don’t get it, A Terrible Llama. What’s the ‘it’s not an always or never thing’ you’re referring to? I’m also not sure who you mean when you talk about people (willfully?) confusing fundamental differences/incompatibility with boredom to justify leaving a relationship. Are you saying the author was just bored and frustrated with parenting and should have waited out the dull ‘rut’? (?!)
posted by Space Kitty at 2:42 AM on September 12, 2009 [2 favorites]


Oh, for the fuck of shit. "When the parents 'doesn’t' feel a visceral bond?!" AREN'T YOU PROUD NOW, DAD?!
posted by Space Kitty at 2:52 AM on September 12, 2009


Space Kitty, I found my own reaction to this article kind of interesting, because the venom that I'm directing at this woman I usually reserve for women who judge other mothers, a practice that pisses me off to no end -- the if you cry it out, you suck; if you're an attachment parent, you're a naive fool; how dare you give your kid formula, etc. etc. -- I hate that shit. I can't emphasize that strongly enough. So to read an article where I actually was one of those who felt a visceral (that word again!) anger towards the woman was a new experience for me. That's not a place I typically find myself.

Whether you're set up perfectly for parenthood or thrown into it, it's often an overwhelming and terrifying experience. I think that many mothers, I won't say majority, because I think there's a lot of secrecy about it so who knows, having a very hard time parenting, especially in those first couple of years. I'm amazed that more of them aren't left by the side of the road. I think 'jesus christ this sucks' is pretty normal. I don't blame the birth mother so much, incidentally, because I'd be stunned if she wasn't addled beyond human recognition. Tedaldi seems to have a ton of resources.

Anyway, to your specific points:


- Second guessing her decision
- Assuming other people know better what’s right for her family
- Behaving as if her decision makes her a horrible person
Sure, she put it in a blog. Just because women are judged unfairly for choosing to terminate pregnancies doesn't mean it's never okay to judge a woman's choices. Individual women make plenty of choices that they can and should be judged for, just like men do. I can think of a few women in current news stories (I don't want to derail by picking specifics, but I'm sure anyone can pick their own) who are being judged in the media or legally. Some of whom are going to go to jail, and in those situations I think we're doing the right thing socially by judging them.

- Thinking she can’t be trusted to make this kind of decision
- Saying she’s not taking her responsibility seriously
- Deciding that it’s only considered ‘taking responsibility’ if she keeps the child
- Deciding that she didn’t try hard enough to make it work
Well, I trust she made the right decision. I don't think she should have kept the kid. But I don't like her. I was trying to get at this upthread but I did a poor job; it's not even about 'responsibility', most of us would never consider giving up our children, not because of 'responsibility' but because they're our children. I think 'responsibility' isn't the right word, but I can't think of what the word is.

- Judging her because she should have ‘known better’ or realized in advance what would happen
I do think that. She's an educated person, with four other children, who's prone to self-examination, educated, with a lot of resources to look at. She wasn't drunk, or twelve years old.

- Thinking that being forced to parent an unwanted child is reasonable, and will actually benefit the child
But she actually went through a lot of trouble to get him. He wasn't unwanted until she didn't fit the vision she had for him.

- Expecting women to suffer, and minimizing or mocking the very real hardships of parenting
I wouldn't say I minimized or mocked the hardships of women. In fact, I think parenting a small child is freaking hellacious and I find it sad and frustrating when it's not acknowledged, or when you're not allowed to say out loud how much it sucks or how psyched you are when the kid finally falls asleep. I actually think it's Tedaldi who minimizes the hardships of parenting.

PS. I don’t get it, A Terrible Llama. What’s the ‘it’s not an always or never thing’ you’re referring to? I’m also not sure who you mean when you talk about people (willfully?) confusing fundamental differences/incompatibility with boredom to justify leaving a relationship. Are you saying the author was just bored and frustrated with parenting and should have waited out the dull ‘rut’? (?!)

I just meant sometimes being a parent sucks and you have to ride it out, just like sometimes being in a relationship sucks and you have to ride it out. I just meant that the notion of sticking it out isn't always wrong or unfair, but it is sometimes wrong or unfair.

Oh, for the fuck of shit
Will be hoping to find a way to work that line into conversation all day.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 5:25 AM on September 12, 2009 [1 favorite]


Thinking that being forced to parent an unwanted child is reasonable, and will actually benefit the child.

But she actually went through a lot of trouble to get him. He wasn't unwanted until he didn't fit the vision she had for him.


This.
posted by agregoli at 6:59 AM on September 12, 2009



Oh for the fuck of shit! scratches a deep itch to say that...

Space Kitty, I get, to an extant, where you are coming from and, though you would never know it from this thread, as a norm I'm usually critical condemnation and i don't like it in myself or others. This one is different because there doesn't seem to be any deep reflection going on for this woman unless you count the narcissistic navel-gazing. Anyone can make shitty choices that impact others terribly, but it's feckless to just keep rolling along and reporting on Anita's feelings and Anita's suffering and Anita's sacrificial decision- and that's all we have to go on.

I don't want to read a confession like this in the Times, unless it has something to offer in the end. She provides zero insight into the fiasco, and a lot of whimpering about poor Anita. If I read anything that indicated she knew she needed to seriously reassess herself- that's there's something really wrong with her other than difficulty bonding with her adoptive child, that she really gave up pretty quickly on a baby- I would instantly find compassion. But, she continues to be negligent instead.

Terrible Llama: I think 'responsibility' isn't the right word, but I can't think of what the word is. Yes, using the word responsibility in this case is analogous to saying we are responsible for not chopping off our own appendages because we have a broken bone and need physical therapy. That would be crazy in most circumstances.
posted by hellboundforcheddar at 10:25 AM on September 12, 2009


Oh for the fuck of shit. I meant, "to an extent" and "critical of condemnation."
posted by hellboundforcheddar at 2:33 PM on September 12, 2009


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