It sucks, walking on eggshells.
As an adoptive parent, I felt I had to do it many times. It’s downright uncomfortable. None of us want to break those delicate membranes, for egg yolks run and are messy. And bits of shell can lodge in the most annoying places. And to keep peace, I did it.
What is curious is that our adult adoptive daughter finally told me that during her childhood and teenage years felt she had to do the same thing.
And what do you know?--each of us was walking gingerly on the I-don’t-want-to-hurt-your-feelings-or-your-pride “eggs” (issues). Unbeknownst to me, she felt she could not always “be herself” because she knew I was: 1) a sensitive soul, 2) an uber sensitive parent, 3) an incredibly over-the-top sensitive and protective-of-our-only-child adoptive parent.
So for years, rather than just walking softly, she (and I) began to dance ‘round the eggs by skirting emotions. Other kids ranted, “I don’t want you to be my mother. I hate you.” I never heard those words from her. At least not audibly. Could I tell she was struggling? Sure. But not wanting to probe and potentially be hurt, I kept silent.
So sometimes the dances intensified. She finally told me recently that even though she witnessed friends doing that to their parents on occasion, she could not bring herself to hurl those words for she knew (rightly so) that they would wound me too deeply. Thinking back now, I saw her bite her lip more than once. Sometimes her pain must have been so great.
But she chose silence. So, on the eggshells, she continued to walk. And other times, danced around it all. Me, too.
I have observed that many biological children don’t feel the need to dance around or walk on eggshells. Even if they shouted at their parents, the words wouldn't penetrate their parent’s shell the same way as it would an adoptive parent’s.
A sensitive soul herself, this adoptee, stopped before she railed. I was unaware she was dancing alone in her world while I did the same in mine. Delicately tip-toeing on the eggshells every day – oh. I am grateful for her kindness, but I am truly sorry it took her so long to “be herself.”
As an adoptive parent, my dances consisted of my agonizing over the “family” issue which was hard to bring up at all, much less without tears. (The all-too-familiar adoptive parent struggle: even if or when you know your birth family, will you still consider your dad and I to be your family?)
And so my soft treading and dancing continued, too.
If you are an adoptive family and this sounds like something happening in your life, perhaps you could look for signs in yourself and your children.
Perhaps your kids are suppressing their emotions. Perhaps you are, as well. As parents we probably wouldn't want to call attention to the fact that we struggle not to be ourselves in deference to how it might make them feel. All the while hearing the strains of “Gloria” as we do our best to find in our home peace, good will to all those abiding there. I am now of the option that we find the glory when we honor our rightful position for we are, by rights, parents and our adopted child is really our child!
In talking with adoptive and other parents, I believe now that all parenting could be considered dancing, but adoptive parenting and adopt-eeing in general might brings up some extra sensitive and raw emotions. Don’t we simply want to know—am I a good enough parent/son/daughter? Deep down, each parent and child, each human being is seeking acceptance.
Perhaps what any adopted child who is walking on eggshells or dancing around the eggs is really hoping their parents would magically perceive: “I don’t know if you can handle it if I, like friends raised by blood mothers and fathers would say ‘I hate you’ (in this moment) or ‘I wish you weren't my parent’ (in this moment) because actually this really has nothing to do with you, but I am frustrated that I got a B- on my test. Please understand me!”
And, on the other side, are adoptive parents walking and dancing at the same time wondering whether their child would somehow ‘get’ them whether or not they verbalize the biggest crisis in their hearts: “Can I tell you how much I hurt when I don’t know which family—us or your birth or friend/peer family—you will ultimately choose, or through what circumstance you will choose that one? Because we understand your desire to know them, to even be with them, but—just the same—we love you and want you to still love us and accept our love as one true and bona fide child—no matter what?”
Learning that she danced, and knowing how it felt to dance myself gave me perspective. Because she could be as honest as she has, I have decided to do the same. She has become much more herself. She voices. My husband and I voice, too.
And to that I say: Glory-be!