A few more thoughts on "Find My Family" and a holiday wish.
On tonight's episode of Find My Family, Tina said she just wanted to know if her birth son was happy and healthy. When she learned he's in his twenties and doing fine, she said, "I could be done right now."
Of course on this ABC show she wasn't done. Tina went on to meet her son Tim. Whether those of us watching Find My Family are birth parents, adoptees, adoptive parents, or not part of the adoption triad, we know such cathartic moments often lead to disappointment.
Not every adoptive family is a happy one; not every birth parent wants to be found; not every adoptee is "lucky" or traumatized by loss. We all come to this issue with our own loads of baggage.
But most of us are able to handle many conflicting feelings. We can love more than one mother or father. Love is not an on-off switch or the simplistic binary of Hollywood movies or the National Enquirer. What's most transformative about adoption is the way it allows us to extend the boundaries of love; it validates the rich complexity of life.
For me, it's ironic that a reality show like Find My Family presents more emotional nuance than you'll see almost anywhere else on TV. I admit, I was on the defensive when I watched the first episode, after reading dire warnings from other adoptive parents on sites like Rainbowkids. The soapy formula, the tearful hosts, the relentless happy endings put me off before I'd experienced a second of it.
But after the first episode, I felt divided. Artificial as the format seemed—and that glowing "family tree" on a heavenly hillside is still hard to take—it couldn't squelch the feelings of the participants.
As a result, I sought other responses to the show from different perspectives in the triad. The range of reactions to these Adopt-a-tude posts has made for a bracing conversation. It hasn't been an easy discussion for an adoptive parent like me. But it's a necessary one, I think, and I find that my frame of reference has changed.
I'm still concerned about the show's melodramatic pitch and telling edits. Yet despite its flaws, I'm drawn to the undeniable gut impact of these stories. (Click here for my reaction on Open Salon: "Find My Family: Why Reality TV Sometimes Works.")
I want to thank fellow adoptive parent Lisa for her honesty in sharing how she grapples with these issues. I recognize myself in her. I thank Claudia, a birth mother, and David, an adult adoptee, for their passionate defense of the show. The journey I've gone on is nothing to compare with the walk up the hill of those previously lost souls David speaks of in his review; that's something I can only imagine—yet I am able to imagine it now, an unexpected gift.
My wish? That we carry this conversation forward. That we hear each other's pain and accept it. That we form alliances.
"What is it that allows our goodwill to expand and our prejudice and anger to decrease?" asks Pema Chödron in The Places that Scare You: A Guide to Fearlessness in Difficult Times.
We may not want to train as "warrior-bodhisattvas," in the words of this Buddhist nun, but recognizing how interconnected we are—"to grow in understanding that when we harm another, we are harming ourselves"—makes sense to me. As Chödron writes,
"Our personal attempts to live humanely in this world are never wasted. Choosing to cultivate love rather than anger just might be what it takes to save the planet from extinction.... So we train in recognizing our uptightness. We train in seeing that others are not so different from ourselves. We train in opening our hearts and minds in increasingly difficult situations."I thank you all for stopping by Adopt-a-tude and helping this op-ed-zine to thrive. May the new year be illuminating, too.