I had been pondering about what to write about for my next post, but could find little in my life that jumped out at me screaming ADOPTION. I could have left it there and waited until something recognisably ADOPTION came up in my life. However, on further reflection I thought that this would give a rather skewed idea of my life as an adult older-child adoptee. Indeed, a hazard of writing a subject-specific blog which never strays is that it can make it seem as though that is all you do or all you are.
It’s also very rare that media stories featuring foster-care adoptees have anything but a very, very bad or a very, very smaltzy ending. There is either a family massacre or everyone skips off into the sunset. Very few of them bore your socks off.
I therefore decided to write about what was going on in my life even though it wasn’t ADOPTION. But in doing so I realised that adoption is wound up in a lot of what I have been preoccupied with. This hadn’t been immediately obvious because what I have been thinking about is both boring (although important) and also features in the lives of many non-adopted people.
In short, I have been worrying about my parents (for clarification I mean my adoptive parents). They are getting older and I am thinking about what the future holds. The health of one of them is declining and they still have caring responsibilities of their own. I have started to think about how I might – and if it is even possible – support them in their old age. I think that I may need to move closer to them. But how does this fit into my own plans? My partner’s plans? And what will I do if they need a full-time carer? How does this even work financially? What do I do if they need to go into a care home? How does this fit with my own career and family plans? Can I afford it? What on earth do I do?
But that is not all. I have also been worrying about my parents (for clarification I mean my foster parents). One of them is extremely ill and may not be here long – as least in mind. I want to spend more time with them than I can afford in either money or time. It kills me that I can’t stretch myself and also be there.
But I’ve also been worrying about my relatives (for clarification I mean my birth relatives). They are getting older and one of them is very, very ill. They’re going through a bad time. I support them as best I can but there is so much I can’t do. I just can’t do everything.
I feel as though I am trying to think through a million things. I am trying to see into the future in order to discern what I should do. I feel as though I am a hair’s breadth away from responsibilities that could overwhelm me. The sort of responsibility that could compromise my own ability to have a family or career or a life of my own.
Very rarely – if ever – do you see headlines like:
‘Adult adopted from care tries to figure out how to support their adoptive parents in old age whilst also having a career and a family’.
I guess it wouldn’t sell. But this is wound up in foster care and adoption. My parents are my parents because they adopted me. I’m thinking about these things because they adopted me. And now I am doing what people are doing up and down the country – worrying about their ageing parents – because they adopted me.
It’s also wound up with adoption, in my case, because my parents were also quite old when they adopted me. And I’m also thinking about all these things because as a foster-care adoptee I have more family than most. I am in normal, everyday contact with them all – by which I mean a phone call here, a Facebook like there, a visit whenever I can. There is more worry about ill-health, pensions, care plans, and all the rest than there is drama.
This is what adult life and post-adoption relationships with all families looks like for at least one older child adoptee.
It’s also contrary to what many people might think. For example, far from being a liability, I offer more support to my adoptive parents than their birth children do. These things are by no means clear cut!
I sometimes feel, as an adoptee, that I am viewed as a perpetual child. I am not sure why this happens, although it is extremely patronising when it does. My everyday life is filled with the ordinary things of life that the non-adopted would recognise. There are many, many people in the country worrying about the multiple caring responsibilities they face and getting anxious about how their finances and own lives will withstand the pressure. I don’t know how much research is done on the adult lives, post-25, of those who were adopted at puberty, but at least one of them lives quite an ordinary life – whatever that is.