Rebel or Compliant?

I spent the summer and fall of 2011 reading books, blogs, and articles about adoption – studying may be the more appropriate word. I wanted to understand the experiences of others who found their families so that I could “prepare” myself for my experience and understand more about the experiences of the others impacted by my decision to seek my natural family. In the midst of reading, I encountered (over and over again) a very intriguing notion – that adopted children have a tendency to become a “rebel” or a “compliant.” The literature suggested that most adopted kids choose one of two paths – they are “hellions” within their adopted families and society in general or they are “perfect angels” in those same circles. And I had to ask myself, “which one am I”?

I’ve been thinking about that question for almost 2 years and I think I’m both. Growing up, I did some things that I am not proud of today. Made some bad choices, some known to my parents and some not. Found myself in some situations that I am lucky to have survived. But I also got straight A’s in school. Won more debate trophies than I can count. Earned scholarships to college (where I did more of the hellion stuff). And (finally) “settled down” to a life of law school, marriage, and then a real job. Bottom line? I had some great moments and some not-so-great moments in my youth. And I figure my story isn’t that much different from yours.

Except for one thing – the “why.” You see, I knew what I was doing and why I was doing it. In every good choice, in every bad choice. And the reasoning went something like this…

“If I do X (insert bad choice) and people give up on me, it just proves that people don’t really care, that I’m disposable, and I should get out before they can hurt me.”

“If I do X (insert good choice) and people think I’m great, they’ll always want me around.”

As I type the words (and consider erasing them and this entire blog post because I’m not sure I’m ready for the world to see this much of my psyche), I waiver between laughing and crying in my head. Laughing because it’s all pretty laughable. People are much more complicated than I am giving them credit for – a few bad choices won’t make people who love you stop loving you and a few good choices won’t make people who don’t love you start loving you. Crying because it’s all pretty sad. People aren’t always more complicated – they have a tendency to love those who are easy to love and reject those who aren’t.

I was blessed to be raised by parents who were more complicated. My highs and lows never seemed to rile them too much. They praised me appropriately for the good stuff and punished me appropriately for the bad stuff (at least the stuff they knew about). But they taught me that love is love – and it remains in place regardless of what you do because love is about who you are.

And I believe that. And I don’t. And I trust that. And I don’t. And I want that to be true. And it’s scary to rely on it.

So at 38 years old, I wear more earrings than my professional colleagues think appropriate, while I deliver the best leadership content I can create. And I am careful not to show off my tattoos to those who might be offended by them, while I plan my next two to honor my natural families. And I cautiously enter friendships with people, while I hold my best friends very close. And I look like a slacker, while I pride myself on my work ethic. And I wear t-shirts of my favorite rock bands and comedians (some you likely would think are inappropriate), while I read my Bible and pray. And I keep my inner-most thoughts to myself, while I write a blog that I hope will help people like me.

I don’t know about most adopted kids, but I am neither a “rebel” nor a “compliant.” Those “boxes” aren’t quite big enough to contain the complicated, nuanced juxtaposition that is my life. And I doubt they are for you either – adopted or not. So, here’s my advice – just take what God has given you (including your nature and your experiences) and be the best version of you that you can muster. It’s enough for the people who matter. And you need to know the ones who really matter – sooner than later.

The Meeting of the Moms

One week ago, I had one of the most interesting experiences I’ve ever had – I introduced my mom, dad and brother to my natural mom. My husband (Jeff), my natural mom and I arrived to my parents’ home in Nashville around 9:30 p.m. The first moments went as I thought they might – my parents made sure my natural mom was comfortable in their home by showing her around and letting her know where everything that she might need was located. My parents are, and always have been, gracious hosts – their home is comfortable and they strive to make anyone who walks into it comfortable as well. After we got settled, we watched a bit of TV together and then hit the sack.

Sunday morning dawned and with it the prospect of attending worship with my family. Pretty cool experience really. Faith is a huge part of my life story (in both my natural family and my adopted family), so it was cool to sit in worship with 3 of my 4 parents. My brother, Shawn, was there as well and that made it even better. The preacher, Joe Beam, talked about warriors in the Kingdom of God – he even managed to address our situation when he said that parents who allow their children to be adopted and those who adopt are warriors as well. I thought that was pretty slick – especially because he had only been informed of the reunion at hand a few minutes before it was time for him to speak.

Lunch brought time for conversation about my adoption and the events that led to it. While I had felt a bit of tension during the first moments of lunch, at some point that disappeared as my parents talked with each other about their stories. I wish I could eloquently describe what I heard, but my synopsis is simple – I have two families and I think it was part of God’s plan for my life. I’m still trying to sort through why that might be true, so stay tuned for future blogs on that topic.

Sunday afternoon and evening were filled with a celebration of my niece’s high school graduation. Hannah, the younger child of my brother and his wife (Vida), was cheered by family (including her sister, Sarah) and friends as she completed that phase of her education and brought a chapter to close in her life. I am thankful we had the opportunity to be there.

Monday was the Memorial Day holiday, which means a cook-out in my family’s tradition. We all sat on the screened-in porch at my parents’ home and relaxed. At some point in the mid-morning, my mom asked my natural mom if she would like to see photos of me growing up and the true bonding began. I have no idea how many hours they sat together looking at photos, but I know I spent at least 2 hours scanning pictures for my natural mom. Thankfully, my mom had some duplicates and was happy to share them with my natural mom or I would have spent all day doing that activity. My dad and Jeff, sensing the importance of the moment, disappeared to grill and my two moms just spent time together. I popped back up occasionally to get more photos to scan and I saw two moms – both equally important – joining together to talk about their daughter.

While I call my natural mom “Mom” when we are together, I had intentionally chosen NOT to do so in front of my mom, but about mid-way through the day, my mom pulled me aside and said it would be okay for me to call Carol “Mom” because I have two moms – the only caveat was that I should be clear which one I mean so they both wouldn’t be responding at the same time. I understood the caveat, though I must admit the idea of saying “Mom” and have two awesome moms running to see what I need was pretty appealing.

The day wrapped up with photo-taking and a movie as we all just got comfortable with my reality – I have four parents. And I love them all.

I’m posting some photos from the day – they include:

My two moms together
My two moms, my dad, my brother and me
My two moms and me

Oh, I’m also including a few photos of me as a child – just a sample of what my two moms spent all day viewing.

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Becky in Crib

Becky Christmas

Becky 3rd grade