gallery Dear Adoption, I Am Thankful. Please Don’t Impose Gratitude On Me

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Dear Adoption, I Am Thankful. Please Don’t Impose Gratitude On Me

Last week on Thanksgiving it happened again, as it always does.

The imposition of gratitude.

Here is a sampling of some statements I’ve been on the receiving end of over the course of my life (especially around Thanksgiving):

“Well you must be extra thankful…Just think of where you could be…Aren’t you so grateful you were rescued?…You have an awful lot to be thankful for!…”

And the truth is, I am thankful. But why must gratitude be imposed on me? I’m about an average amount of thankful, I’d say. As thankful as the next guy who is healthy and alive. Yet, so many are willing to inform me of how I ought to be exceptionally grateful. You know, because I’m adopted. Because I was saved from an inferior life in some other God forsaken country. Because I was given opportunity, love, and safety which everyone assumes I would never have had with my biological family in my birth country.

This is something many adoptees face. The imposition of gratitude is a rude overstepping of bounds, in my opinion. If you’ve not experienced this it may seem as if I’m overreacting but I assure you, I don’t need gratitude assistance and having gratitude imposed on me so frequently is annoying.

Many will read this and think I don’t sound grateful at all; that I sound bitter and closed off. I assure you, that isn’t the truth. I’m thankful for my life. I’m even thankful to have been adopted but I will never conclude, with any amount of certainty, that my life is better and that I am indebted to life more than anyone else.

The only thing I’m certain of is the loss I’ve experienced in my life. Sure, adoptees should be thankful. But not more so than anyone else. We should be thankful on a basic human level and that obviously applies to us all. Some adoptees may be extra grateful but let each person come to that conclusion on their own. Adoptees carry around a great deal of loss. And what’s worse, is our loss cannot be measured because it’s a whole lot of unknown. We cannot be expected to also carry extra gratitude just for you.

I’m thankful for this life but no one can say I wouldn’t have been thankful for the other life; the life from which many assume I was saved. I may not have been saved from anything. My life may have been different but no one knows if that different is better or worse. In fact, I may have just had more taken from me than anyone (besides a fellow adoptee) can imagine. I can live with that. I do live with that.

Please, stop imposing gratitude on me. Your imposed gratitude is another burden heaped on my heavy shoulders and, frankly, it makes it more difficult to live with the loss and move forward through each day as an adoptee. Perhaps even, the imposition of gratitude doesn’t remind me to be thankful. Perhaps it makes me less thankful because it magnifies the loss.

-This piece was submitted anonymously by an international adoptee from India who currently resides in the US with plans to return to India in search of biological relatives.

2 comments

  1. Dear Adoptee,

    I am sorry people put their assumptions on you. Are your parents around when these friends/relatives say this stuff to you? How do they respond? Please forgive my intrusion. My daughter is adopted. She was born in Nepal. I have heard people say to her, how lucky she is and I interrupt and say “no I am the lucky one”. I have told her she needs to be grateful to have a family that has enough for desires as well needs etc. That there are many people around the world that don’t have enough to have their basic needs met. But that she need not be grateful to me, but to God and certainly no more grateful than her cousins or any other kid that has been brought up in her neighborhood. That most parents go into adoption because they need/desire to parent. I tell her I used to cry for a baby to fill my arms. That she needed a mom and I needed a baby and God put us together. I have told her that I am truly grateful to her birth mom, who did one of the hardest things anyone could do in the hopes that she have a “better” life. Your point that she might have had a better life with her birth family, but as that was not an option for my daughter. Do you feel there was anything your adoptive family could have said or done to make these instances easier for you? I hope you find your birth family and whatever else you feel is missing in your life. My daughter is 12 and will be 13 in February.

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  2. Exactly. Very well stated. Those comments are made by people who assume their quality of life is best. I tell my daughter she is a survivor. Wherever she grew up, she would have had a life. Maybe she wouldn’t have had the same education or opportunities but that doesn’t mean her life would have had less meaning. She would have had the best life she could have made under whatever circumstances. I am eternally grateful that I have been privileged to be her mother and that she is part of my life. Thank you for eloquently sharing.

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