The powerful emotional link that binds families who grow up together often manifests itself in curious ways when adult adoptees meet their biological families. Yet as common as it is, few want to touch it because–well–incest. But this issue needs more awareness, and not only because according to recent reports it’s on the rise. Also because I believe that it’s a fertile ground for a particular type of abuse.
If your ‘early experiences were suboptimal’, so the article states, then your caregivers were surely ‘distracted, overbearing, dismissive, unreliable, absent or perhaps threatening’. Let’s just back up a minute. It couldn’t also be because few western governments provide so little parental leave, that they force us back to the grindstone to leave our children in the hands of strangers? Or that they stigmatize and otherwise restrict access to mental health support for everyone including new parents, instructing mothers/parents to be overjoyed at the birth of a new baby (or else, you know, social workers will be round to evaluate your competency as a mother)?
But six does not look as A.A. Milne described it in my childhood. Truth to be told, I now realise that it never looked like that, I only wish it did. Six is brutal and I’m feeling its brutality again through my children. It is not reasonable or rational. It is brutal.
What is here? Neglect is here. Overgrown plants are here. This hovel has never been occupied, never lived in, loved or cared for. It is dirty and lonely. It is private. It is the core of all things.
I believe that consistent and repeatable actions during childhood, no matter how small, will build up mental models that we continue to follow as adults. The flaps of butterfly wings do indeed sometimes cause hurricanes. Calling out and correcting unhealthy parenting techniques in myself and others, even I seem pedantic in doing so, means that we can stop hurricanes before they start. Giving children agency and responsibility too early before they are ready to assume them, will result in a catastrophe. Too late, and we risk disempowering them.
For all we want to help our children to be hygienic, in the long term at least making the ‘dirt can be fun’ narrative accessible to them, will later greatly help their appreciation of the often messy and beautifully ‘dirty’ activity that is sex.
So going to meet his family, I knew I would be the square peg. To tell you the truth after 40 years, it’s not a big deal anymore. I have my partner, my children and I’m doing fine as the odd one out, thank you very much. I’ve even made a career out of it on the basis of–‘if you’ve got it, flaunt it’. I don’t fit in, so instead I celebrate it. It’s much better that way.
The gift of being able to feel your emotions is therefore the gift of survival. Emotions are signals from our bodies which help us devise strategies which we believe will help us survive. But in order to survive–and thrive–we need to be able to feel all of them. That’s what they are there for.
I don’t remember them killing my baby because they put an IV in my arm and told me to count backwards from ten. And by the time I’d hit seven, I was asleep on the good stuff. But I knew from the soreness between my legs when I woke up that they’d done it. Been there. Up my vagina with speculums and nozzle headed vacuums. Sucking out the foetus that would have ruined my life.