Downton Abbey’s Alarming Failure to Pander

or, How Can TV Writers  Fail to Consider My Fee Fees?

(This post needs editing in a bad way. For one thing, I don’t remember the show as well as I thought I did.)

So there’s this TV show. The snurchin watched the first three seasons and has currently lost all interest, but she remembers it pretty well, and (warning!) is about to spoil some of it for you.

On Downton Abbey, one of the noble Crawley family’s three daughters, Edith, has a baby out of wedlock. She does what wealthy women in such a situation did back then: flees to France to give birth in secret, leaves the  baby with a rich family, and “gets on with her life.”

However, the show currently takes place in (I think?) the 19020s, so this is not an adoption. When Edith changes her mind, she simply goes and retrieves the baby. She can’t keep her, of course; she moves her daughter from France to live with a family on or near the Crawley estate, so she can interact with her.

And Dr. Russell Saunders of The Daily Beast hates that, because he’s adopted a kid and attempted another adoption. He wishes Downton could be a bit more modern about these things,  like it was about that one gay character. He knows “it would be ridiculous to expect contemporary mores about adoption to apply” to this situation, but he goes right ahead and demands them anyway.

Then he’s sad when he gets them, because they’re too contemporary. Make yourself comfy; this is gonna be a long one.

First, the lack of contemporary mores: Dr. Saunders apparently wishes the show had considered the grief of the first “adoptive family” for no reason other than to see the grief of a contemporary adoptive family. We have no evidence they grieved; even Saunders can only muster “presumably loving” to describe them. Perhaps they thought of themselves as fostering a child, not parenting it. Perhaps they thought of themselves as helping someone out of her trouble. Perhaps they were relieved to not have to raise the girl. Who knows? What we do know is that they did not adopt. So when Dr. Saunders’ “thoughts immediately turned to the family that had loved the baby and lost her,” he was definitely wishing Downton Abbey would portray them as a contemporary pair of PAPs whose adoption fell  through after years of waiting and hoping and wishing and praying for someone like Edith to get knocked up and give them the greatest gift a couple can ever receive….and for no reason at all. Not only is it probably not realistic, these are incredibly minor characters.  I can’t even imagine where the scene would go or how incongruous it would seem. (“Hey, remember those French people? They’ll never be part of the story again, but we need you to know they’re real sad now.”)

But it really bugs Dr. Saunders that “[t]here was scarcely a mention that Edith’s change of heart would wreak havoc in theirs,” even though there’s no reason to suspect any heart-havoc happened. And he knows that, and he knows it’s wrong to ask that it change, but he really wants it to change. I see can that he relates to those barely-even-characters, and feels for them. And so, it seems, he wants his their pain to be part of the story.

It hardly occurs to him that we don’t see this couple because they are not part of the story. The Lady Edith’s baby Downton Abbey plot thread is not about that first family. It is not about an adoption. It is certainly not about an adoptive couple and what they went through and how long they waited and their special deal with god and their adoption that fell through and their trip overseas and their RADish and their adoption that “disrupted” (all by itself) and their book and their blog and their blahblah snore fart sound. It’s not about them.

Just.
This.
Once.

I think that’s what really annoys Dr. Saunders, not the fact that the show didn’t project contemporary values back in time for his pet issue (as I’ll eventually argue, it sort of did). He’s finally encountered a conversation addressing something vaguely like adoption that isn’t about him, the adoptive parent. I am entirely sincere when I tell you that, should they choose to do so, adoptive parents can still easily live their whole lives without encountering such a conversation, if they want to. And some of them still want to.

The use of “What about the adoptive parents?” in conversations about adoption is starting to remind me an awful lot of “What about the men?” in feminist circles or “What about the white people?” in conversations about race. What ABOUT you, Dr. Russell? Conversations about adoption are expected to be all about you and your feelings. You are the people with the power and the voice, and yet the minute someone doesn’t pay proper fealty to you, an injustice has been done, even if only to minor fictional characters.

Back at Downton, “another family is now raising [Edith’s baby] as their own, and loving her just the same.” This second family is shown to care about the baby very much–i.e. they are being presented as the good, progressive adoptive parents  Saunders wanted to see. They even took in a child from a sort of “disrupted adoption”! They even have a form of “open adoption”! What could be more contemporary while still being reasonably true to its time? Dr. Russell should be pleased with Edith now, right?

Especially since the audience’s sympathy is with this couple as well as with Edith. They are loving people! We’re even expected to consider their suffering, as he just requested for the first couple! Isn’t it actually better for all involved that Edith placed the baby with them? No, Sirree, not to Russell Saunders.

Why? Because the “progressive” adoption story he said he didn’t want but really does want is too progressive: It does not feature the proud new adoptive couple as the One True Pair of parents. What Dr. Saunders really wanted was a nice, contemporary-flavored Downton Abbey story about adoption featuring a nice, nuclear, Baby Scoop Era adoptive family–not a contemporary, progressive one. But this “adoption story” is going all wrong! Why can’t the baby’s “second adoptive father” (he isn’t) and Edith see “the damage they are doing”?

To what “damage” does Dr. Saunders refer? The damage wrought when the “second a’father” asked Edith, the child’s wealthy, noble mother, to be more involved in her life and to be her godmother. This hurt the “second adoptive mother’s” feelings, because the child already had a godmother. But if you were a pig farmer raising someone else’s kid, especially if you loved her, wouldn’t you want her to have friends in high places, mother or not? And if you were the kind of loving, educated, contemporary, progressive  adoptive father Mr. Saunders said he wanted to see, might you not you feel it would be in your daughter’s best interests to grow up knowing her heritage and her mother? (Oh Hell no, that’s going too far. That woman’s hurt feelings are too important, and we are going to turn this time machine around and go back [or is that forward?] to the 1950’s RIGHT NOW.)

“When the farmer’s wife objected that the child already had a godmother, I could feel her frustration and anxiety. Her love for her daughter has weight, too, and the show owes it to her character to honor it.”

If the show/actress makes it plain that this love exists, isn’t it already being honored? Or would true honor for that love require Lady Edith to turn her back on her daughter and stay out of this couple’s lives forever like a “good birth mother” of the 1950s or 1960s? I think it would require that; in fact, I can’t think what else it would require in Dr. Saunders’ mind. Because I got something wrong about him. I thought he wanted to see a story that would show us what contemporary APs might feel in this situation, i.e., pain. But no. Toward the end of his essay, he says very clearly, “I don’t want to see the little girl’s *adopted parents [sic] in pain.”

(Fuck Lady Edith’s pain. Fuck the baby’s pain, which it will obviously never feel because these two would do such a good job of parenting if that cow would just get out of the way.)

Imaginary people who remind Dr. Saunders of himself, it seems, should not have to feel pain at all. Saunders needs for the APs to be the two and only parents because they are like him. And when people like him  appear in adoption stories, they have always been the main characters and the good guys. Good guys don’t get hurt–they get rewarded. And the reward of adoption was supposed to be the gift from someone else of a baby that has (somehow) never, ever been anybody else’s. Not this “pain” bullshit.

Meanwhile, the people who actually want change in adoption are speaking out and have been for some time. Adult adoptees and our first families want to tell our truths about our stories in our words. You still have most of the power, Dr. Saunders, but you can’t be the main character in every story that involves (or almost involves) adoption anymore. And I don’t care very much how you feel about that.

*?! She didn’t adopt them!Seriously, y’all need to cut that “babies adopt adults” bullshit out, NOW.

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Filed under AdoptoLand, Stop Saying That, Tee vee

Wish List

Assuming you celebrate a holiday of some kind around the time the days stop shortening and start lengthening, and assuming that your celebration includes gifts, what adoptoland gift would you wish for?

I wish for

1) Open records for all, immediately.
2) An end to international adoption. Wanna help a child in another country? Go there. Don’t want to go there? Send money. Can’t send money? Solicit money from others, and/or organize. I don’t care what you do as long as you stop pretending it’s acceptable for poor children who want to eat every day to surrender their names, languages, homelands, and existing family ties for that “privilege.” Every child deserves to eat every day without having to be someone they are not in order to do so.
3) A society that does not champion the nuclear family as the true, eternal, and only way to have a family, meaning any other sorts of families must imitate nuclear families no matter who that hurts or how impossible that is.
4) A society that knows women are just as human as men are.
5) A society that knows children are just as human as adults are.
6) A society that prioritizes humanity over money.
7) An end to pre-birth matching.
8) An end to private adoptions.
9) A living wage for a day’s work.
10) A society without victim-blaming.

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I’ll Just Leave This Here.

Now snark away, snark away, SNARK AWAY, ALL!

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5 Things You Can Do to Show Your Adopted Parents You Love Them

Returning the love is vital in all relationships.

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When you were adopted, it wasn’t just your parents who adopted you to be their child. You also adopted them to be your parents. If you were a baby, you obviously didn’t have a say in it, but people who cared about you did. They made sure you ended up in a stable home with parents who would love and care for you your whole life. Or you may have been an older child wanting, even pleading, for someone to adopt you. Either way, you were fortunate enough to be brought by loving parents into a family, just as though you had been born there.

My husband and I are parents of five adopted children, so I know how it feels to be an “adopted mom.” When our kids were little, we loved holding them and tucking them into bed with stories and songs. Some days, I was completely exhausted caring for three little ones under 3 years old. Yes, you heard right. Once we started adopting, we went for it, and God blessed us with these three in three years. I loved being their mom. Two more came along later.

Through the years, they’ve all expressed their love for us in many sweet ways. Here are just few of the things they’ve done that let us know they love us. I could list many more, but this will do for now.

5 Things Our Kids Do to Make Sure We Know We’re Loved

  1. They call us.

When we adopted our first child, a tiny baby boy we named Michael, we were happy beyond words. For years we had wanted a baby but could not give birth to our own. Holding this sweet baby in my arms and knowing he was mine was a dream come true. We cannot express the love we feel for this son. He’s a grown man with children of his own now. And what a blessing he is to us! Now here’s the fun part. Even though he lives hundreds of miles away, he calls us every week at least once, sometimes more. Last time he called, which was just two days ago, he said, “Just checking in on you and Dad. Are you doing OK? I sure do love you.”  How do you think that made us feel? He worries about us and always makes sure we’re doing well. That’s what a good son does. It puts a big smile on our faces every time.

We love it when he shares his life with us, tells us about his job and what he and his wife did for fun that week, or shares a hard time he might be going through. Then he asks us what we’ve been up to. He cares. We wish he lived closer, but with today’s technology we keep in touch quite well. He’s a computer geek and keeps us updated on the latest, including how to use Skype. We love seeing his face as we talk. It’s fun when his wife wanders into the room and says “hi” to us, too. They have a cute little dog that we call our granddog. Sometimes when we’re talking, she climbs up on his lap and vies for the camera. It’s so cute. We almost feel like we’re there. As for his kids, they grew up. The fun part is, they call and check on us, too. We love this sweet family he’s given us.

  1. They thank us for hanging in there during the tough times.

When our daughter Lynda was a young teenager, she was a bit difficult (and so were the others at times). She didn’t like our rules. Sound normal? Yes, she was pretty normal in that department. So we had to learn how to discipline her with love. Sometimes it was really challenging. There were a few times we heard the words, “I hate you!” It hurt, but we knew she didn’t really mean it.

I made some mistakes along the way. After all, I had never been a mom before, so I wasn’t all that good at it at first. Even as they grew I still made mistakes. But I kept trying my best to be a good mom. That’s what moms do. We keep on doing the best we know how.

Now here’s the interesting part. Lynda now has a daughter who gives her fits just like she gave us. It makes me chuckle a little inside when she calls and says, “How can she do that to me?! After all I’ve done for her.” Deja vu. I know exactly how she feels. Then she says, “Thanks, Mom, for hanging in there with me when I was such a brat.” I promise her that it will all work out well if she just hangs in there with her daughter, like it has for us.

A few weeks ago this daughter moved about six hours away to a new home. Last week, she sent me a card (well, us—she loves her daddy, too, so it was for both of us). It was cute, with an adorable dog holding a smiling sun. The card said, “You are my sunshine! Thinking of you, both of you.” Then she wrote a sweet message, which in part said, “Just wanted to drop a quick note and let you know how much I love and miss you.”  I love that she sent the card because I can save it. She calls and sends me text messages, too, but you can’t put them in a scrapbook.

  1. They thank us for adopting them.

Many years ago when our other daughter Carol was about 12 years old, something happened that I’ve never forgotten. It was a simple thing, but it meant the world to her father and me. Let me set the stage by telling you that this daughter is mentally disabled. She spent her school years in special education classes. She endured ridicule from insensitive “friends.” Her life has been challenging, for her and us. Through it all, our love is real and never-ending. Here’s what this special child said to me that day as we sat in our living room. I can’t remember what we were doing, but, like I said, I’ll never forget what she said.

She looked up at me and, out of the blue, said, “Thank you for adopting me. No one else would want me.” I assured her again of how much we love her. It broke my heart to think she would say that no one else would want her. But it touched me deeply to hear her thanking us for adopting her. It was way beyond her years and her mental capacity to think like that. She would surprise us every now and then with statements that belied her mental condition. We knew that inside her is a whole person we will someday know in a life beyond this one. In the meantime, we continue to do all we can to make her life as whole as it can be in her situation.

  1. They send us cards with loving messages.

When we receive greeting cards on special days from our youngest son, who is now a principal of an elementary school, he always writes personal messages to us. On my birthday this year he sent me a beautiful card. The best part was the hand-written message at the bottom. He wrote, “I hope you have a happy birthday. I love you and appreciate all you have taught me and do for me. Love, your son, Paul.” Alongside was another endearing message from his sweet wife. I am always filled with overflowing gratitude at these cards and messages.

  1. They call us their “real” parents.

Our son, John, filled my heart with warmth and love the day he told his younger brother that when friends ask him if he wants to meet his real mother some day he says, “I’ve already met her. Every day when I come home from school, she’s there with snacks for me. That’s my real mother.” I love that he feels that way because that’s what I consider myself. I can’t imagine having any children besides these precious ones that heaven brought into our home.

We feel so blessed to have these five delightful, interesting, caring children as our own. And we’re getting the message that they feel the same about us. That’s what I call happiness.

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AUTHOR / Joy Lundberg  

Joy Lundberg and her husband, Gary, are the parents of 5 children, all of whom were adopted. They are also the proud grandparents of 20 grandchildren. Joy is a prize-winning lyricist and has written/co-written several books and articles about marriage and families with her husband. Learn more about her on their website.

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Filed under Adopted And Happy!, AdoptoLand, General Ignoramitude, Sad and beautiful, Stop Saying That, The Adoption Process Moral Pedestal, WTF?!, You're going to Hell for this.

(meta) Drat.

I (obviously) won’t be posting every day in November after all. A’mom in hospital (she’ll be fine).

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Filed under Uncategorized

Oh Hell Yes.

Again, no words from me, just this.

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Hello, Darkness….

Today I’m sad and sore, so instead of my words, I offer my readers the words of one of my heroines.  Claudia, you are the bravest woman I know.

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Filed under Srsly

Demons In Adoption

The votes have been tallied, and this award couldn’t have gone to a shadier, shittier bunch of people.

This year’s recipient of the Demons of Adoption Award is a good example of being among the worst in an industry that thrives on bad practices.

Founded, in 1978 by attorney James S. Albers, Adoption by Gentle Care has been in the spotlight before. Already in 2011, the agency was nominated for a Demons of Adoption Award for their handling of the case of Benjamin Wyrembek.

In that case Adoption by Gentle Care placed a boy with an Indiana couple, in November 2007, knowing that the paternity of the child was not established. Benjamin Wyrembek, the father of the child contested the adoption and after a long court battle, the adoption was dismissed.

As a result, the child was officially in custody of Adoption by Gentle Care, which was ordered to show the child to his father on February 8, 2010. The agency failed to comply with the court order and through it’s executive director John Cameron was held in contempt on July 2, 2010.

The Indiana couple appealed all the way up to the US Supreme Court, but eventually October 30, 2010, the boy was handed over to his father.

Adoption by Gentle Care quickly dismissed executive director John Cameron, who was replaced by Trina Saunders. This change of leadership however didn’t change the way Adoption by Gentle Care operated.

Nope. After “cleaning house,” they snatched Baby Camden, using every dirty trick in the book:

When the issue of paternity came up, the agency coached Carri Stearns to list the father as “unknown” on the birth certificate, even though the father was known.

The case worker, having learned her lesson from the case of Dusten Brown (baby Veronica) asked if Carri had any Native American blood. When she answered truthfully that she did, the case worker responds: “Carri, you can’t say that. If we name Native American blood, then this adoption won’t happen. He’ll go to foster care.”

[…]

During the relinquishment [Carri] had to testify that she was of “sound mind and body”. In such testimony one must state that they are not under any mind altering substances and are making this decision of their own free will, independently of any coercion of duress. At the time Carri was still under doctor’s prescription for Vicodin and Dilaudid, but was advised by Adoption by Gentle care worker to say “no” to the question whether she was using any medication.

Three days after the relinquishment, reality what has transpired set in and Carri came to the conclusion she had made a terrible mistake.

Adoption by Gentle Care refused to revoke the consent and pushed through with the placement of Camden. However, the family chosen to adopt the boy, returned him to the agency and he has been in foster care ever since.

Yes, the same “foster care” the agency used fear of to bully Carri out of her baby. Only it’s worse than they threatened: Camden had now been declared “special needs” because he has de Morsier’s syndrome. Not only does no one seem to know what sort of treatment he’s receiving, the condition also makes him less adoptable than the average white male baby. Doesn’t matter: He’s still white and little and cute, there’s still a chance he can be sold, and Gentle Care is keeping him.

Remember how awful it is to take a child from “the only family s/he’s ever known”? Camden is reportedly now in a second foster family. Including his real one, that makes four. He’s only seven months old.

 

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Filed under AdoptoLand, Forever Family, You're going to Hell for this.