Adoption — Invisible Trauma

Part 2. There’s a lot that can’t be told

I’ll try anyway.

The familiar narrative of adoption is both antiquated and false. It’s a romantic notion that you can simply pluck children from wherever and plop them with other self identified adult(s), and expect a family deeply rooted in love and respect to spontaneously form.

It’s a labor of love, for sure.

But I think beneath that, there’s a constant tendril of truth — that to be the best parent, you gotta deal with your own shit. Or you gotta be oblivious to literally everything.

Whatever that is, right?

What’s your shit?

Photo by Annika Marek-Barta on Unsplash

Sometimes, you don’t know what your shit is until… it’s served up to you on a plate of hot steaming disaster. Daily.

Turns out, once you become aware of “your shit”, what you initially see is the tip of the iceberg — and only after you become comfortable acknowledging the tip of the iceberg — can you stomach the deep dive to see what lies beneath.

Timing, life unfolding, journeys, lessons, whatever you wanna call it.

Eventually you come up against something that is a challenge which directly impacts your ability to parent your kids without being a complete asshole.

For me, I’ve already discovered a multitude of issues that I have stemming from beliefs I’ve held, been taught. As these are challenged, disproven, reevaluated and upgraded I’d like to think I’m a better person and parent to my kids.

Change is hard, we all kinda know this. Habits are habits and things you’ve always believed can be hard to change despite repeated desire to shift. (that just autocorrected to ‘despite repeated desire to shit,’ which is most def funnier.)

Choices, expectations, and real life

There are so many challenges ahead of my kids— like — will they have a planet to live on?

Clean water, fertile ground, to, how will they sustain themselves independently once I’m gone and will they make safe choices?

I mean — probably not, right?

I didn’t make safe choices. More often than not, given a choice, I would intentionally make the UNSAFE choice.

So perhaps an adjustment of my expectations was in order — so that belief became: I know that they won’t always make safe choices, but I hope that they are happy and kind and able to weather the storms of life with humility and a quiet understanding that it’s all ok. Everything is going to be ok.

But will it though?

Back to the burning planet?

Anyway — I didn’t know that I’d have to deal with any of this shit. I thought it would be like the movies. Where I’m Meryl Streep and my ex wife is Steve Martin and we make chocolate croissants and then we’re dancing away under strings of lights on a beautiful summer evening with all of our magical children.

But, it’s not.

My real life is more like —Of course they wanna eat Doritos. Why does that annoy me? I wanted to eat Doritos like a motherfucker too when I was a teenager. Why is that irritating to me now?

How can I impart a healthy body image and relationship with food to my child when a) I have issues with all of those things and b) early childhood trauma complicates my understanding of how to even begin to effectively discuss these things with her so perhaps I just c) let it just fucking be what it is.

And stop overthinking everything all the time.

Just feed the kids. Doritos. Organic gmo creulty free artisan hand crafted apples? Whatever.

Pro tips in the husbandry of adopted children

Love them.

Hug them. (I‘m really bad at this, we didn’t do a lot of hugging in my family growing up)

Believe in them. Provide safe, “healthy” (what even is that again?) home and love.

And understanding. And let them be kids.

And also:

Share my strange gifts with them.

Delight in theirs.

And lastly here’s the one parenting tip that works best for ME: most of the time, when in doubt — shut the fuck up.



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Emily Roawr

Emily Roawr

Career veterinarian pivoting. I write about animals, queers, adoption, alcohol free life, and art. Inquiries may be directed to