When An Adoptee Doesn’t Conform To Their Adoptive Family

Nature versus nurture. The age-old question. You’ll hear sound arguments for both sides.

My official stance is both. However, the foundation lies in nature, in one’s DNA. Everything else will be built upon this foundation. We mold and shape our kids, throughout the years, and teach them to channel their talents and personalities to be as successful as possible in their lives. Traits in our children that can be used for good things in their lives, can also lead to detriment if proper parenting has not taught them how to assert (or wrangle in) these traits. Nature and nurture work together to shape who we will become.

Melanie is a stubborn child, like her biological mother. She is also prone to being hyper and erratic. Melanie likes to challenge authority and question everything. She gets these traits from her biological father. Melanie has two sisters who are just like this as well. Melanie, however, did not grow up in her biological family. She was relinquished at birth and adopted by another family. The family that adopted Melanie had two biological children of their own before she came along. The adopted family could be described as quiet, conservative, passive and driven. Melanie’s foundation, the very building blocks of what makes her Melanie, is almost the total opposite of her adopted family.

When Melanie’s traits, that come from her very core, her DNA, start to demand attention, Melanie’s adoptive parents become worried. Stubborn, hyper, erratic, challenging, and questioning are not things they are used to dealing with. They begin to seek help to deal with these “problems.”  You see, because the biology, the foundation of her adoptive family, has no experience with these things to them her traits and characteristics are abnormal. They are abnormal for their family. They then see this as a problem that needs to be fixed. For Melanie, however, this is just who she is. Melanie doesn’t need to be fixed. She needs someone to teach and guide her. She needs someone to show her how to mold these traits into something positive and good. Melanie isn’t stubborn, she’s strong-willed. Melanie isn’t hyper and erratic, she’s spirited. Melanie doesn’t like to challenge authority, she likes to understand WHY things are the way they are. Melanie doesn’t like to question everything, she likes to have all the information because she has a desire for knowledge.

However, because her adoptive family knows nothing about living with these traits, they are upset with it. They want her to “fit in.” They want her to be like them. She was supposed to be “as if” born to them. When they start seeking “help” for Melanie’s “upsetting” behavior, what they are really doing is trying to squash these traits and characteristics instead of molding them into something she can use for good.

Here’s the thing, though. Squashing these “undesirable” traits in Melanie is the same as killing a part of who she is. It IS who she is, no doubt about it.

Too many times adoptive parents expect their adopted children to conform to their adoptive families. It is expected of them. If they do not or cannot conform it is assumed there is something wrong with them, which is simply not the case. This puts the adoptee in a precarious position, and usually by the time puberty is rolling around. They can either deny a part of their very being and conform, or they will fight the people who are trying to change their foundation. Those that choose to conform will still be accepted as “normal” in their adoptive family but at a huge cost to themselves. They will suffer silently, maybe not even aware that they are really suffering, until it eventually comes to a head. Those who fight the people trying to get them to conform to the adoptive family’s accepted standards also face trouble. Adoption re-homing, being institutionalized, sent away or maybe even abuse will occur for the adoptee. Either scenario is not good.

All of this ties back into the “as if” theory. Adoptive parents, still today, would like their adopted children to be like them. They want them to fit into their family. That’s human nature. That’s what happens when a child is born to us that shares our DNA. The refusal to understand that adoption is not the cure for infertility leads to adoptive parents putting undue pressure on their children to conform to the accepted traits, characteristics, and standards of a family they share absolutely no biological connection to. Adoption IS NOT A CURE FOR INFERTILITY.

Certainly there will be adoptive families who get lucky and adopt a child whose biological foundation, in regards to mannerisms, traits, personalities and characteristics, are similar to them. But that’s all it is. Luck.

Adoptees cannot be expected to have a part of them, the biological part, squashed to please the adoptive family. Yet that is what is happening and continues to happen. They are their own people, a product of nature and nurture. To deny the nature part of them, and expect them to conform, means that the nurture part is going to be harmful in one way or another. One adoptee said, “It’s nature and nurture, but I never got to see any of the nature part. It was taken away from me.” That sums it up nicely. Adoptees walking around with half of what makes them who they are, their nature, out of sight or very rarely exposed to. They then have people who have no idea what the nature part of them is like attempt to raise them in the same fashion they would raise a biological child. How confusing this must be for these people.

We take it for granted, those of us who are in our original families. We can say, “She’s stubborn like you” or “I know that look, you’re upset with me, it’s the same look your father gives” and we don’t think twice about it. We understand each other, in our biological families, because we have had our nature nurtured by the same people who share our nature. Who better knows how to nurture it than them?

Adoptees should not have to conform to the identity their adoptive families think they should have. They should not be forced to either deny their nature or face the consequences of being a problem child. Their DNA is not a defect. It isn’t a problem to be solved. It doesn’t mean something is wrong with them. Perhaps it means something is wrong with you.

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10 thoughts on “When An Adoptee Doesn’t Conform To Their Adoptive Family

  1. Pingback: When An Adoptee Doesn’t Conform To Their Adoptive Family | Musings of the Lame

  2. Reblogged this on One Woman's Choice and commented:
    This is a great blog post. I sometimes think back to when my family wanted me to relinquish my parental rights to my first son Jaren. As a child, Jaren was affectionate and big hearted. But he was also a spirited child growing up, very strong willed, opinionated, witty and challenging at times. He would fight me to put on his own pants when he was less than ONE year old, kicking and getting angry because his legs weren’t going into the pant hole. When I tried to assist him, he responded, “NO, I do it!” He loved to debate everything and wanted to do things his way and on his terms. He literally was born that way. I don’t know if he got that from my side or his father’s side but what I do know is that as a single mother, it was difficult at times. I also know I didn’t make perfect parenting decisions all the time, but I did understand that that was the way Jaren was. Guiding him and allowing him opportunities to shine and express his creative self helped a great deal. I made good friends with his teachers and provided insight about his unique personality. One of his teachers figured out if she gave him opportunities to lead and assist, it made him feel as if he was contributing which helped his overall class behavior. Some people didn’t understand Jaren and would unfairly assess him. Knowing this and looking back, I’ve wondered over the years if I had allowed my family to convince or coerce me that relinquishing my parental rights to Jaren was the “right thing to do”, if the family who would have adopted him would have understood his temperament and his very natural personality. And if they would have loved him as much as me or would have been able to appreciate his unique soul. It’s frightening to think about. My life has been such a great adventure through my son’s eyes and his mind.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Ironically, as an adoptee who has gotten to know both of my birth families quite well in the last five years, my experience has been almost exactly the opposite. I always fit in quite well with my adopted family, including my extended family, so much so that most of them constantly forget that I am adopted! I am especially like my adopted mom. Physically I resemble my birth parents, but personality-wise I am much like the parents who raised me. And I always knew I was adopted, so it’s not as though my mom and dad tried to hide that truth from me. (And I most certainly was not a “cure” for their infertility, either!)

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Wow great article. I shed a few tears when reading it as it describes my growing up. As an adopted person, I always have and do still struggle with my sense of identity and have found it very difficult to articulate this feeling. My adoptive parents still take issue with some of my stronger personality traits and they have no problem telling me so. I’m a mum now myself and trying not to repeat the mistakes of the past. Thanks for your words.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Your article was such a relief for me to read. I was adopted by a family that I never quite “clicked” with, neither did my younger brother, who was also adopted. My adoptive mother never forgave me for being different and made it seem as though was l defective until the day she died.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Not only is it possible to destroy the adoptees hopes, and dreams by forcing them to conform, it can cause irreparable emotional damage. This in turn can lead to self destructive behaviors, permanent health damage, and eventual death. I’m sure there are natural parents that have seen this play out while they are completely helpless to do anything.

    Liked by 1 person

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