Rebecca Walker


Monday, March 19, 2007

Celebrate your success, know that many cannot

I am sensitive to the fact that discussing the intimacy of family relationships can be very polarizing in our society. The strong feelings that arise are the evidence that this topic deserves attention, and so we must all make sure that as parents we are listening to our children. This includes inquiring with an open mind and an open heart in a way that can receive that which we may not want to hear. If we find that those whom we love the most are free from the difficulties that face many step and adoptive families, then celebrate the unique and positive accomplishment of having created healthy relationships that can endure throughout a lifetime. There is no harm in doing this.

At the same time I hope that everyone will consider that there are millions of people who cannot celebrate this accomplishment. I believe that they deserve to have a voice that stimulates dialogue about their situation. Remember that while many families may be doing well, there may be many more that are not. Responding negatively to the discourse of the issues of those families is exactly the kind of response that suppresses the voices of those who yearn to be heard. It is injurious to them in a way that compounds an already difficult situation.

Until we can think of the families who are struggling with these issues and wish for them the support, respect, openness, and caring that they deserve, books like Baby Love will continue to raise an extremely important dialogue that is good for individuals, families and our society. Please feel free to offer supportive advice and acknowledgment of the difficulties others may be enduring as a way of expressing the depth of your understanding, compassion and altruism.


Blogger Annick said...

I ask why you wish us to focus on the struggles of adoptive and stepfamilies instead of the struggles of ALL families. As you know yourself from your relationship with your mother, biological connection is not a foolproof protection against pain and estrangement. Let's not ignore the pain of dysfunction within biological or even intact nuclear families by proclaiming that blood is everything, anymore than we silence the pain of the step and adoptive families that are not currently "celebrating their success".

Blogger Dane meets Simone said...

Amen, Annick.

Makes me appreciate even more all the adoptive families out there, even the overexposed celebrities (bless you, Angelina Jolie). Maybe they never got the memo about a lesser love. Or maybe they just have lesser egos. And less fascination with their own biological products.

Sigh. Sad.

Blogger Dawn said...

I wrote about this on my blog, this quote from a profile in the Times, "The most incendiary notion in “Baby Love” may be that, for Ms. Walker, being a stepparent or adoptive parent involves a lesser kind of love than the love for a biological child." I realize you may have been misquoted and were speaking of the particulars of your own experience. But it doesn't bother me (as an adoptive mother who also has a bio child) because I know the intensity of my love for both. But the responses to my blog entry makes me sad for the people who ARE bothered by comments like this, particularly comments from adult adoptees who find such assumptions incredibly hurtful.

But I'd be interested to hear what you really DID say and not just a quote about it.

Blogger LilySea said...

"Remember that while many families may be doing well, there may be many more that are not."

I'm sorry, but why do you speculate that more are not doing well than are? And I also wonder why you're so concerned about step- or adoptive-families as opposed to every other family out there.

Every family has problems. Some are quite unique to the people involved, some are intertwined with larger social issues. But this hyper-focus on vague "problems" related directly to family types which are already stigmatized is baffling to me.

Many of the problems of these families are in fact rooted in the negative perception of outsiders. I can't help but think you are adding to that negative perception.

Blogger Anna said...

Does it really come as a shock that you (a woman who had a relatively privileged path through pregnancy) have raised the hackles of women who are facing infertility and contemplating their options? How do you think it feels for us to hear you frame adoptive families as the "less than" option?

Even if you feel that the world needs an open dialogue on the challenges facing chosen families, you've hardly set yourself up as a trustworthy spokesperson.

Blogger Celeste Brooke said...

It seems like Rebecca's comments have provoked some very strong reactions in people who have understandable pain associated with this topic. However, I feel that every person has a right to share their experience, and it's important to keep in mind that she is not speaking for anyone else, that she is only speaking of her own authentic experience which is just as valuable as anyone else's. All that we can hope to be in this world is truthful. I feel very strongly that she has only clear intentions of liberation from suffering for all people, and no intention of negating anyone else's feelings by speaking of her own.

Blogger hlp said...

Hmmm... In response to the question of a qualitative difference in the kind of love that bonds chosen and biological families that I see folks responding to with intensity here, what I'm thinking is that I'm endlessly grateful for the members of my chosen family who choose me with the same intensity that they do their blood folks. Of course, I'm talking about an adult family of peers, more or less; I don't expect my friends A or P to choose me over their kids, nor over ailing parents. And as a not-parent as yet, I can't comment on the feelings of mothers/fathers. I will say that I feel as bonded to A's and P's kids as I can imagine feeling about any child not mine.

What's so interesting to me in this chain of comments is that when I read Rebecca's post originally, I didn't read it as referring to step or adoptive families. My experience of the message of her text was that she was calling for folks to relate to families in struggle with the same respect that we relate to families for whom things are rocking. And that message made me feel fantastic. My family of origin was full of conflict and serious, serious problems, but doing a heavy judgement trip on them wouldn't have done any of us any good. It's my experience that families who are locked in difficulty are just as people as anyone else, and just as deserving, and perhaps more in need of, being related to with respect and compassion.

Yep. That's what I'm thinking right now.


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