Last year, as we sat on their back deck, chatting casually about their home, the discussion turned to some of The Kiddo’s less than favorable traits. His adoptive mother said that she knew I didn’t agree with the diagnosis, and went on to explain why it was stay as it was.
There was nothing for me to say. There was no room for me to jump in and question them. That had always been our relationship. They were the authoritarian figure and I was the submissive. My inclination that they had gone about the diagnosis in the wrong way was not entirely based on The Kiddo. Yes, it was colored with my own personal experience in dealing with my own kids and their various issues. I knew as a parent I would have never jumped to the same conclusion they had, and that I would have pushed, demanded and expected more from the medical community. As The Kiddo’s mother, I felt like they had confined him in a label that fit because they were struggling to deal with him.
I couldn’t say any of that. I wouldn’t say any of that. So I nodded. I smiled, and just remained submissive.
As they described his behavior, I noted that even the small things about him, his empathy towards others, the lack of a physical notation for the diagnosis and his apparent affection toward his family didn’t fit with the bill. I didn’t say anything, because what would I say? Would I openly allow my skepticism to line my face? Could I, like my own family had, tell them that they should stop comparing him to his younger sister because she and him are not biologically comparable?
No, I wouldn’t. Even though my instincts roared fiercly within my chest. I would bite my tongue.
They described how he acts emotionally. How he refuses to discuss anything, and suddenly, there it is, right in front of you. They said it was due to him being delayed, but I knew better. I smiled, knowing that he definitely got that trait from me. I didn’t say anything. But my husband did.
“Danielle does that. Actually, so does Potato.”
The look on their faces. I still remember the doubt that crossed their eyes. I still remember the subtle glance at one another. The conversation continued. With my husband at my side, I spoke up whenever they tried to express a situation that was identical to my son that I parented, or myself. I wanted them to know that there was nothing wrong with The Kiddo, or his behavior. It was genetics. It was me. It was his father. It was our traits. My husband would echo my sentiments.
I felt as though they wanted my approval. That they wanted me to say I agreed with the diagnosis. All I could say is that I understood what it was like to have people disagree with you- I did know, I do know. We’d, my husband and I, had spent many evenings frustrated with family who denied the issues our children contend with. Yes, I did understand. Yet, I didn’t say how with every potential diagnosis, I would question before I accepted it. I would research, and I would push harder. If something didn’t feel right; a therapy session that went awry, or a test that seemed completely unnecessary, I advocated. I dug for family history, I spoke to people who have worked in the fields that we were dealing with, I spoke to friends who had dealt with the system. I was an eager participant in getting to the bottom of their problems, but I wasn’t about to enable anyone to slap a label on them prematurely.
After this visit, my feelings on The Kiddo’s diagnosis solidified. Where I had been maneuvering in a small area of doubt, this time, I was certain that they had made a grave error. I put together bits of our conversations since they had him diagnosed. I placed the sheer fact that they had not included me in this diagnosis, refusing an actual clinic that would help to properly diagnose him, because the clinic required my involvement. I reeled at how much he sounded like my Potato; an empathetic, thoughtful kid with a temper that could stop traffic. I replayed their lack of desire to revisit the diagnosis with other professionals, with me present, because, they just wanted to see how this all played out.
But I said nothing. I just let my frustration for the situation simmer, and admitted defeat. They had all the information they wanted through me, and yet, it was not enough for them. They had evidence that his behavior was completely genetic, but it wasn’t what they wanted. They were content to tell him his brain was different, and refused to change their perspective that his confusion over who my parented son is, his half brother, might have something to do with their lack of explanation on their part, and due to his age. There was so much more that I could explain about his behavior, but they didn’t want to hear any of it. They wanted the label and my obedient silence.
Perhaps that was the turning point. Perhaps it was the reality that they didn’t respect my son’s genetics accordingly, and refused to look at the full picture. Even with my own acknowledgement that his behavior was par the course for myself or for my own children, they still wanted to keep him caged in the diagnosis. I knew that they would argue that they did, but I just couldn’t see it. I still don’t see it. All of the evidence I had compiled gave me more answers than their so-called diagnosis.
The chilling realization that they wanted him to be as submissive to their desires and opinions as I had been? The devastating idea that they would rather label him as less than, or hear them declare that they don’t hold much hope for his success in the future? The reality that they wanted us both to accept that they knew us better, that they could dictate how our experiences were in this adoption, and that anything that differed from their view was wrong?
Now, I’m shaking my head, but I’m not silent anymore.