My dear sister-in-law was a chiropractor, and she was one of the smartest people I ever met. I remember her once talking to one of my nephews who had recently suffered an ankle injury and telling him about the scar tissue that develops around the site of the wound. She talked about how vulnerable and inflexible the surrounding muscles are even after the original wound heals because they have to adapt to the inflexible scar tissue. She was telling my nephew that he was going to have to be extra careful because that ankle was now going to be more prone to future injuries because of different tissues.
My sister-in-law’s lesson on injuries led me to think about that primal wound of adoption and I think there is a lesson here for those who live with adopted children who may feel that wound of relinquishment. I think seeing it literally, as an actual tear on the child’s heart has helped me to understand my children a little better.
Because my two youngest were adopted at birth, they didn’t have a cognitive understanding of the circumstances regarding their birth parents. Instead they relied on me and the other adults in their lives to help them make sense of that act of relinquishment at the various stages of their intellectual development. I can only hope that I have framed the situation and the circumstances so that they never see the relinquishment as a wound, but rather as an act of love, and they won’t ever form that scar tissue that my sister-in-law spoke of.
If an adopted child doesn’t have an adult to intervene and frame that event early on, then he or she will be on his own to try and make sense of the relinquishment. One of the unfortunate things about kids is that their egocentric natures will lead them to attribute all of life’s events on them. I KNOW that my oldest was totally convinced for a time that her arrival caused my husband to die. ”People in my life always die,” she would say cavalierly at times and heartfelt at others. (My husband was diagnosed with cancer 3 months after she arrived and he died 9 months later.)
It is an unfair burden on a child who had already experienced so much unfairness.
It is probably safe to assume that older children who have been bounced from foster home to foster home have already formed some scar tissue as they try to make sense of the abandonment that they have experienced, so perhaps framing these events is one of the most important jobs that an adoptive parent has.