An adoptive mother who expressed ambivalence about her decision 15 years ago to adopt two little girls from a Russian orphanage ignited a firestorm of indignation from redditors on Monday, with over 3,300 comments by Monday afternoon.
Redditor always-right started an AMAA (Ask me almost anything) thread, 15 years ago we adopted 2 girls from Eastern Europe. If I had known then what I know now …” which discussed the heartbreak of trying to make a normal life for two adopted children emotionally damaged by severe abuse and neglect in their formative years.
If she was looking for support, she may have turned to the wrong place. Redditors were pretty tough on her—at least at first. A thread surpassing 3,300 comments can’t possibly be summarized in a single sentence. But the message seemed to be: if you adopt an older child who turns out anything less than sunshine and roses, then shame on you: bad parent.
The conversation began cautiously, with Always-right posting:
First of all, EVERY story and situation is completely unique, so this is just our story. I can’t speak on the adoption process itself because it changes so frequently …. What I can speak of is our experience in raising 2 girls who were already almost 5 and 6 when we adopted them (they are biological siblings).
The experience people have actually raising these children doesn’t seem to be addressed anywhere, so that’s why I decided to make myself available for people who want some frame of reference.
“These children” refers to post-infants adopted from Russia and Eastern Europe in the 1990s, when those countries were still adjusting to the social and economic dislocations stemming from the collapse of the Soviet Union and its Communist satellite governments.
Underfunded, overcrowded orphanages were notorious for their neglectful conditions, and children who spent their formative years in such institutions were extremely likely to have emotional problems as a result.
Always-right’s two daughters proved no different:
We have dealt with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Narcissistic Personality Disorder, Fetal Alcohol Effects, Reactive Attachment Disorder, arrests, drugs, failing out of school, lying, sneaking around, destruction of property — go ahead and name it….we’ve been there. We’re both college educated, own a business and although we’re far from rich, we have both the resources and support of our families to have provided these girls with every opportunity, but instead most of it was spent on counseling, all sorts of programs, specialists, and a whole shopping list of other things, none of which ultimately made much of a dent. I look at two things very differently now: 1) nature versus nurture and 2) Freud’s assertion that personality is fully developed by age 5.
Criticism immediately flew harsh and heavy.
HotwaxNinjaPanther snapped, “This woman’s story agitated me to no end, but I suppose she at least gave us something to learn from this…Don’t have preconceived notions about your children being anything but children. They’re not born knowing the rules. You have to teach them…. If you just want kids that you can admire while other people take care of them and teach them… maybe you should just have your children stuffed and mounted like a trophy antelope.”
Bake7221 blamed the girls’ problems on always-right’s parenting. “There is a couple in my hometown who adopted 2 sons, 20 and 15 years ago …. Their situation sounds exactly like yours. The correlation I’m drawing here is they were and are terrible parents … and so are you.”
Redditor Cluith asked more succinctly, “Never thought that you may just have failed as parents? Don’t try to find excuses like their origins.”
In her second edit to her original post, always-right had elaborated on her attempts to help her daughter:
When my younger daughter turned 17 we sent her to a one year program at a tiny private boarding school (read: behavioral facility) that provided the 24 hour a day supervision she needed. Because of the structure and constant supervision … she was able to finally accomplish things she never had before (like passing her classes) ….
That prompted SomeDude89 to target the behavioral facility. “Are you aware of the rampant child abuse that took place these places?” he asked. He then blamed always-right’s problems on her “naivety” in thinking she could adopt children “from a country half way around the world” and expect a happy ending.
But the tide eventually turned a bit more positive—or at least neutral. Iouaname673 asked, “How much of the girls’ behavior do you blame on their own choices and how much do you blame on the situations they were raised in?”
Always-right responded, “My biggest failing as their parent was thinking they would outgrow their behaviors and not taking into account how seriously their first 5 year affected their lives. … Eventually I saw that, but it was too little too late.”
FlyreFiend told her that children who remained in such orphanages often wound up in worse circumstances than always-right’s now-adult daughters: “At the very least, you likely stabilized a bad situation even if it didn’t get better from your perspective.”
One of always-right’s most spirited defenders, priegog, apologized “for every douchebag in this thread who’s being judgemental and accusing you of all sorts of things. I actually know what a whole infancy of abuse does to a kid. … your effort and sacrifice were not in vain. Just think of what would have happened to them had they stayed in Russia.”
Priegog then addressed always-right’s critics en masse: “Frankly, screw you. You quite simply have not the faintest idea of what you’re talking about. Political correctness is not the reality of life, and just because you think it’s improper to think that a child so damaged can’t be corrected with the right amount of love, doesn’t mean it’s not true.”
Redditor Nanuq905 empathized with always-right and assured her that even children adopted in America can have emotional problems; Nanuq grew up with two elder, adopted siblings with problems similar to always-right’s daughters’. Another redditor, Worshipthis, even suggested some children will have problems regardless of what their parents do: “Some kids just have issues no matter what the home situation.”
Photo by mrhayata