Recently my kids and I were having a discussion about possible job/career choices they thought they might enjoy in the future. Artist, soldier, basketball player, veterinarian, police officer, restaurant server, teacher, custodian and cyclist were amongst their dream vocations. More interesting than hearing their selections was listening to the rationale behind each one. It made me happy to know that their choices truly reflected the interests and hobbies for which they have the most passion.
After talking about why or why not they think it's important to enjoy what they do, my daughter all of a sudden became very absorbed in thought. After a still moment, she raised her head, looked at me and softly said, "I think I know what I want to be most of all. I think my best job that I could ever be is to be a mommy."
I have so many friends who have shared with me that it has always been a childhood dream of theirs to become a mother. They just knew. It was a non-negotiable. Being a mom was something that they WOULD become one day. And though I couldn't exactly relate, I could tell by the determination and conviction in both their eyes and in their voices that they truly believed that their every happiness hinged upon their future dream of becoming a mother.
And I understood. Maybe I didn't understand their deep-seated desire to become a mother, but I understood what it felt like to have that kind of passion - to possess such an innate longing that absolutely nothing could stop your heart, your mind and your entire being from working toward its fulfillment.
When I think about dreams as they pertain to adoption, I can't help but notice how encouraging, accepting and affirming our society is of adoptive parents who make the conscious choice to fulfill their dream of becoming parents. It's also not hard to miss how discouraging, dismissive and invalidating society's messages can be to adoptees and first parents who wish to actualize the dreams of their own. The irony is that many times it is the fears, misconceptions and insecurities of those whose dreams are already fulfilled who remain the most threatened by the dreams of others - dreams that may or may not even exist.
From the age when I could start thinking in terms of who I wanted to be and what I wanted to become, my biggest dream was quite simple: I wanted to be whole. For so many years, with an intensity and insatiability that words cannot describe, I so badly wanted to find the pieces of me which I felt, but couldn't articulate, that were missing. Admittedly, part of my search for identity was due to the natural developmental growth that occurs at different stages in one's life, but for me, it was much more than that. I realize now that the longing stemmed from the need to find out who I was, where I came from, who I came from and who and what I was as my original self. . . apart from my (adoptive) family, outside of what I felt society, family and friends thought or said I should be.
Often it was me who stood as the biggest obstacle to overcome in actualizing my dream. At times I felt too afraid, too undeserving, too unsure, too ashamed and too ungrateful to believe that I had the right to search for myself. I will own that part of my inability to forge ahead when perhaps I could or should have. But I will also assert that it was because of some extraordinarily, deeply embedded discouraging (however unintentional) messages from family and society that factored into those feelings I described above. The people who would cast their looks of disapproval if I mentioned that perhaps I'd like the chance to meet my Korean parents. The ones whose hurt practically spilled out of their pores when I said I felt like I didn't belong or that I didn't feel "normal" in that place and time. The ones who now write to tell me that they hope to God their kids don't go through what I did, because the pain and hurt as parents would be too great for them bear.
As an adoptive parent myself, I certainly know about and recognize the fears that many adoptive parents may have. Based on conversations with my own parents, I know they, too, harbored fears of raising an adopted child. But something that I am able to share with them now - something I wished I could have reassured them with back then - is that their dreams of being parents could never be undone. Had I possessed the ability, language and awareness to express then what I am able to now, I would have shared with them in no uncertain terms this offering:
Mom and Dad:
You will always be my parents. I will love you always - no matter what - in the same unconditional way that you love me. Please do not be afraid that my dreams may be different than your own. I hope you know in your heart that my dreams can never, ever take me away from you. No matter what happens, I will always be your daughter.
I know that my son's dreams are just that - my son's. They are his. His decision to do with them what he chooses. His to discard, change, fulfill, conceal, nurture or share. I cannot guarantee I will always know what his dreams are or that I will always agree with them or that I will even like them. But I can promise to do my very best to support them. I view his dreams as an extension of himself; and just as I will always love and accept him no matter what, I vow always to do the same for his dreams.