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Friday, October 27, 2006

Madonna's Adoption Brouhaha

There are one thousand good reasons to adopt and only a few bad reasons to adopt:

Bad adoption idea #1: adopting a child in order to put their nimble little fingers to work.

Bad adoption idea #2: adopting a child in order to make another person jealous.

Bad adoption idea #3: adopting a child so you could be his or her saviour.

There is a thin line between helping other people and becoming their saviour. And sometimes when we discuss transnational adoption, that saviour complex comes bubbling to the top. And when it pokes its head out of the jumbled soup that is parenthood, it makes me worried. For that child and for that parent.

I don't know Madonna and Guy's motives for adoption--I'm not in their head or in their family. I don't know the intimate details of how the adoption took place or what was said to the birth father or what thoughts ran through Madonna's head when something that smelled vaguely like the starting words of an adoption reversal took place. I don't know how deeply invested they are in the life of this child or what kind of childcare they're giving him. I don't know if Madonna makes her kids breakfast in the morning or leaves all nightly tuck-ins to the nanny.

I can't throw stones because I live in a glass house where I'm considering transnational adoption as well. What I can comment on is something she said during her Oprah interview: "To see what I saw. It is a state of emergency. As far as I'm concerned, the adoption laws have to be changed to suit that state of emergency. I think if everybody went there, they'd want to bring one of those children home with them and give them a better life."

And that's what I mean by the saviour complex. Avonlea has a wonderful post about race and adoption as well as class and adoption. She asks difficult questions about adoption and poverty--whether we are more uncomfortable discussing class and poverty in regards to adoption than even race and nationality. And Madonna's words played directly into this idea of removing children from poverty and bringing them into affluence as a means for "bettering" their life.

My fear is that Madonna actually believes that she is helping the country of Malawi by adopting this child and bringing him to England.

As I said in the beginning, there are 1000 good reasons to adopt. I don't think I would be writing this post at all if she said something like this to Oprah: "Oprah, Guy and I realized that we wanted another child and we have so much love and support to give another child. But since we couldn't conceive with my eggs, we decided to adopt. And we met this boy at an orphanage in Malawi and I instantly knew that he was meant to be in our family."

Some humble parenting: I hope we do a good job raising him. I hope that we navigate this new experience well and help our son grow. I hope he knows how much we love him and how he is now one-third of my heart.

Anything other than thoughts of saviourhood and how much he needs you to parent him. How about how much you need him to be a parent?


serenity said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
serenity said...

My delete sorry - I HATE TYPOS!

Let's try this again:

You are right- there is a VERY thin line between helping other people and becoming their "saviour."

We're considering transnational adoption as well - partly because we are worried that we just can't conceive, but also partly because we know that we can give a child a home here that she or he wouldn't otherwise have. And we are most drawn to the places from where we have family heritage- Russia and the Ukraine in particular.

For J and I, anyway, I feel like our reasons for adoption should be more than "because we can't conceive." And the more research I do, the more sad I get about babies that are in orphanages. I very much want to "save" them and give them a loving home. It just seems karmically right to us.

But, of course, I know I can't save a country by adopting one baby.

Still... it is a thin line indeed.

I think it gets back to your post about being "out" versus in. If Madonna admitted that she was adopting because she was infertile, would we feel differently about how she's approaching it?

I'm not so sure.

Avonlea said...

You address these issues very cogently - whereas I fumble around. I like your humbling parenting version very much. I suppose that since we cannot stop the "saviors" from their missions we can only hope to educate them.

Round is Funny said...

Humble parenting - you hit it on the head.

Let's face it: even if she did have the savior complex, if she had chosen just to make that giant donation and NOT adopt, her actions towards improving the lives of these children would have spoken much louder than they do now.

I am a supporter of international adoption, but it's an imperfect solution to a much bigger problem.
How does a multi-millionaire help "save" a country by taking away one of its' children?

Anonymous Infertile said...

Doesn't it just seem like a bit of a publicity stunt? Is Brangelina an adopt from a foreign country shouldn't everyone else? And, you haven't heard anything from Madona in forever, could this just be a way to get herself back into the limelight?

Anonymous said...

Are our stuggles such that we can't simply be happy that a child has found a home? So much of the blogging that goes on talks about our upset in others judging us for not having children a "natural" way. Who are we to judge anyone for wanting a child-or for their motives? What do we do to our existing children-and other loved ones-as we go through these cycles?

How dare we.

Good for Madonna. Shame on us.

C said...

Doesn't motive count for anything, anonymous? A child should be brought into a family to be loved, to be raised as a member of that family, and to have a home with people who love him/her. Not to assuage someone's guilt or to symbolically save anyone or anything.

I agree that we know very little about Madonna's motives for adopting, but I also think that anyone who has ever even considered adoption has asked themselves the question, "Why do I want to do this?" We should ask that question. After all, the life of a child is at stake. Wondering if this very high-profile celebrity has the best interests of a child as her primary motivation for adopting him is a natural thing. It's not wrong to wonder and to speculate, especially given her comments to the media.

Barely Sane said...

Very well put! Her recent actions have led to all sorts of non-PC comments regarding adoption. It's sad that there is such a media circus surrounding this too. Perhaps she did do it for one of the right reasons but man, has it ever caused a fire storm.

Why do celebrities have to muck stuff up so badly??

Dee said...

It really bothers me that during the Oprah interview I can't remember her once saying that they decided to adopt because they wanted another child. All I heard was that they wanted to save a child by bringing him into their home and giving him a good education.

I think that wanting a child has to be the primary motivation for choosing to add any child (bio or adopted) to a family. I can't help but think that any child who was only adopted so that the parents could save them is going to feel like they have to be grateful for their lives, always having to prove their worth and justify their place in the family. It's not a burden I would want my kids to feel.

Since I don't know the Ritchie's true motivations, I can only go on what she has said publicly. And what I've heard worries me. At the very least, she's not expressing herself very well.

Anonymous said...

Yet what if the tables were turned? Would our answers to why we want a child so badly stand up when the limited parameters of what child we are willing to take-the one grown inside versus one in existance needing love-is questioned? Could any of us stand up to the scrutiny of having every decision on this voyage scrutinized? Have none of us ever said things not as eloquently as we may have liked?

I know I have.

We don't know her motives. But it seems we are all too happy to question them. Jealous, anyone, that she got what we want?