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dear birthmother letters

 

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'birthparents' views on adoption

  May 2003

Nature vs. Nurture - The Mystery Gene

 

Almost every pro-adoption publication reports negative behaviors of adopted children and attributes these aberrations to pre-adoption life, and specifically to the natural mother and her family. Or the natural father and his family. This phenomena has been labeled by adopters as the Mystery Gene.

The Mystery Gene is a nasty little fellow that can strike at any time. It is responsible for all kinds of problems in substitute homes. The Gene operates as a sort of malevolent Casper to the adoptive world. Apparently this devious gene somehow manages to escape and inhabit the child before the original birth records can be sealed, thwarting the adopter's best attempt to prevent its appearance. It is hard to pin down, hard to catch, and harder to deny, even when those in closest contact with it, are in denial themselves.

This little rascal, the Nature Gene that unfortunately attaches itself to adopted children, can erupt in bad behaviors without warning. It even has its own language, sort of like a script common to the children it inhabits. The Gene speaks through the adopted child and says things like "you're not my real mother" - or father. It tells children to slam doors and forget to do their homework.

One adopted boy, now an adult, reports that he grew up believing he had inherited a Poor Student Gene that intimidated him in the classroom and hindered his learning. He didn't know why he had so much trouble concentrating on his schoolwork. His adopters solemnly explained to him that he had inherited this Bad Nature Gene from his mother, who was most likely Trailer Park Trash amongst other sins. They seized every opportunity to reinforce their punitive judgment of his mother.

They told him this so often that he began to believe it. This made the Gene mad. It told the boy to behave even worse and so he did. It told him he was No Good, just like his mother who was a slut, a prostitute, a drug addict, and exactly like those Bad Women in the bible who deserved to be punished for their sins. His adoption was her punishment for her shameful behavior.

The boy learned from his adopters that he was the result of the sin of which they spoke and that inside him was this Very Bad Gene known as Bad Blood, which is the colloquial expression of genetically inherited traits. He got madder and madder, but eventually learned to swallow his rage in order to keep the peace in the adoptive household, even though this made him deeply unhappy. But the Bad Gene had finally stopped asking questions which his adopters considered a Good Thing.

This adoptive child-raising technique is called Bringing Up the Mystery Gene with Standards and Values that with enough negative reinforcement, will convert Nature to Nurture within about 18 years. When this grim technique works out well, the adopted person becomes a smug, blaming, self-righteous little prig who sneers at his natural mother, wherein his adopters congratulate themselves on having done a fine job. It means they have won the battle with the Rogue Gene.

An even more desirable conversion is when an adopted child shows positive behaviors and academic gifts. The adopters heave a sigh of relief and warmly welcome the Bad Gene's opposite number, Nurture, which has chased away Nature and left a malleable child in its place. Nurture can show itself in musical, academic or sports talents, according to adopters. Sometimes it manifests as Saintly Behavior, that can be mistaken for approval seeking behavior, but fortunately seldom is - as someone from outside the family may wrongly attribute that approval seeking trait to Nurture. But that seldom happens.

Sometimes Nurture makes terrible mistakes that end with death or injury to the adopted child. This is considered rather unfortunate but is shrugged off as happening in all families, not just adoptive ones. Well, thank goodness for that.

However, when the adoptive person rebels, refusing to accept the definition of themselves or their mother as Bad, it is clear to all that Nature has licked Nurture and the long battle for Decency has been lost. The adopters first clue as to the cause of their problems were things the adopted boy was saying, such as "If I'm adopted, where is my real mother?" and "Why didn't she want me?" - questions like that. They didn't know how to answer which just endorsed the existence of the Bad Gene lurking inside 'their' son. If they had shared the same Gene, they would have known what to say. Actually, if they had shared the same Gene, there would have been no mystery. But they didn't and anything they told him just seemed to make the situation worse. It was therefore quite clear that the Bad Gene came from the Gene Tree of the natural family and not their own. It couldn't have. After all, no one in their family had ever behaved like that.

Gosh, During an adolescent identity crisis the boy stopped learning completely and was subsequently diagnosed with Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD). This was attributed to the drugs and alcohol his mother had no doubt consumed during her pregnancy. The boy was notified of this factual evidence of the Bad Gene that had jumped from his mother into his head and disrupted his learning processes. This sensitive information sharing is known as Christian Love in many adoptive homes. Needless to say the son soon gave up the struggle to learn. Perhaps he realized he had learned quite enough already, which shows just how smart he really is.

This Mystery Gene is a real Trouble Maker. The longer it stays around the worse it gets. It can force a teenager to drive too fast, drink alcohol and use other drugs (just like the boy's mother) and stay out well beyond curfew time. Teeth that don’t grow straight and require expensive orthodontic treatment can always be attributed to Nature. Everyone knows that Nurture is not responsible for crooked teeth, although Nurture is responsible for paying the dental bills. Nature gets bad grades and talks back. It can be sullen and resentful when lied to about its origins. Most of all, it can be Ungrateful, which is often the easiest way to identify it. Luckily, adopters are good at spotting it hanging around their home.

But the most reliable way to identify the Mystery Gene is when the adopted child, now grown into a lanky adult - or a short one - who may not resemble his or her adopters, brings home the unwanted news of an unexpected and unplanned pregnancy. The Mystery Gene has surfaced once again. Just like his/her mother, completely irresponsible. Nothing to do with Nurture, especially the adopters lack of responsibility in failing to provide adequate education regarding fertility, as one might expect them to do as a parenting duty. But I suppose that's an occupational hazard of being an adopter - it must be so tempting to forget the potential dangers of fertility associated with Nature, that old Rogue Gene that just won't stay away.

This in-your-face fertility is the worst thing the Rogue Gene can do. The situation frequently ends in yet another adoption, which is the only way to get the Rogue Gene under control. You actually have to breed it out of existence if you want it to shut up. If the purpose of the boy's adoption was to obscure the adopters infertility problem, then the Rogue Gene was really asking for its own obliteration - and so brought its expulsion from this Sacred Adoptive Family Unit upon itself. Entirely.

But what beats me is - how did this boy's mother - this socially, educationally, economically challenged young woman with such incredibly high-risk behaviors, even live long enough to give birth to her son in the first place?. Adopters know for a fact she would have stopped off on the way to the trailer park to shoot up, get drunk, have sex with goodness knows who, then crash the stolen car she was joyriding in, along with her equally worthless friends.

And given the poverty status of most first mothers during pregnancy, how they and their families could even afford to support the expensive Bad Habits of that Evil Gene is the Real Mystery. It is perplexing. Social workers, researchers and policy makers should look into this. The Mystery Gene will still be there, waiting to be noticed. I think it's just been trying to get their attention, all along.

 
  Voices From Exile May 2003 "Nature v Nurture-The Mystery Gene"
Copyright 2003 Joss Shawyer

 

Voices From Exile Copyright © 2003 Joss Shawyer

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