Saturday, April 24, 2010

The "Perfect Child" Myth

Experts warn prospective parents that in adoption, there is no "perfect child". They tell you that adoption is based on grief & loss (which it is) and we have to "give up" our expectations of the fictional idealized birth child. You know the one I'm talking about; the heaven-sent cherub with perfectly sculptured features, the brilliance of Einstein, the poetry of Shakespeare, and your family nose or laugh or your partner's eyes. What they don't always tell you is that the "perfect child" doesn't exist, even in birth families.

We're further warned that being adopted means coming with the dreaded "Special Placement Needs". That they might need help in certain areas, or supports, or different life plans. Or come with a sibling, or need extra time to attach. Oh, the horror. (please note my sarcasm) 

When I heard that speech, I remember thinking distinctly "That's GARBAGE. Why would I want to pass on my family nose!?!?" That's not to say we haven't dreamed of having a biological child. Most people do. It just means that choosing adoption didn't feel like such a shift from what we envisioned in the first place. In fact, when we welcomed our son home, we sat smugly and thought "Well, if adoption isn't about receiving the perfect child, somebody out there missed the memo!"  

In time we learned -- like all parents do, that our child indeed was not perfect. But he was perfect for US and our family. He's hilarious and witty and charming and naughty and spirited and... well, perfection.

When I talk to prospective parents who are grieving their infertility, I try and help them be open to the idea that - after they'd worked through their grief and were ready - adoption didn't have to feel like a consolation prize. Some families - mine included, planned to adopt before we ever entertained the idea of a biological family. Our son saw to that himself, when he claimed me as his mother and stole my heart over two years ago.

I guess I'll never understand the myth of the "perfect child" when I look at my little one and know unquestionably that he was meant to be our son. For those of you who are waiting, or wondering, or just plain bewildered about the possibility, consider these wise words:

"We get the kids we deserve." - which is a lovely left-handed compliment. It basically means, no one is perfect, but somewhere out there, is the "almost" perfect person who's been waiting for someone just like you.