Off the Hook

A few days ago, a very good friend who is also an adoptive mom sent me an article entitled “Accepting that Good Parents May Plant Bad Seeds,” published in the New York Times.   The thesis of the article, written by a psychiatry professor, was that some kids are just shits.  More to the point, there is not necessarily a direct linear relationship between the quality of the parents and the quality of the ‘product’, ie. the children. 

I knew that.  I’ve seen dreadful kids with (what looked like) great parents and vice versa.  And I have to admit – with my own parenting career being a little rough, to say the least, I indulge in a bit of schadenfreude when I hear about the mishaps of birth children/parents.  That’s awful.  I know it is.  Just once at a party, I’d like somebody to come up to me and, instead of a Rhodes scholar update on their darling, say, “Hey, little Frankie is finally out of jail and his re-entry’s going pretty good.  Hasn’t missed a meeting with his parole officer yet.”

That person?  The person who could tell me about his kid’s re-integration into society is, first of all, my pal forever, and secondly, a person who has managed to untangle his identity from the results of his parenting.  He is saying that he worked hard to be a good parent, things might have gone wrong, but he’s still on board and he still loves that boy.

I admire that.  Acceptance and love.  And letting go of responsibility.  And letting children be shits if that’s what they turn out to be.  And not torturing ourselves about it. 

When you’re an adoptive parent, you get an automatic pass on outcomes from the rest of the world.  “Oh well, she was adopted.  You can’t control genetics.  We did the best we could.”  Unfortunately, that big excuse – that your child was adopted – doesn’t do much to get your own self off the hook.  We are so used to being responsible for everything, so overcaring and doing, so vigilant for problems to solve and ways to help, that we just can’t abide the idea that the child can and does form his own identity and we don’t always love it.

But we always love them even if it is just a thin, wispy, fishline in the wind connection that holds us together.

3 Comments on “Off the Hook

  1. This one made me cry. Parenting is hard and frequently unrewarding.

    • A friend of mine once told me when I was raising my kids – “you have to like what you’re doing when you’re doing it (raising kids) because there’s no guarantee of a payoff.”

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