NIJMEGEN – In Rob Marrevee’s book Vaderland he writes about the foreign adoption of his two sons. The Nijmegen resident hopes to put an end to the ‘adoption adventure’ with his book (Trouw, 2022). Marrevee has told of his experiences with adoption and how his children have suffered because of it in several interviews: “If he had known what impact adoption had and has on the two boys, he would not have done it.” (Broadcaster Gelderland, 2022).
It has been known for some time that adoption does not have to be an adventure. From the ‘baby farms’ in Sri Lanka to the illegal kidnapping and sale of children in Asia: Adopting children is not always easy. In addition, it is not necessarily problem-free for adopted children: Many adoptees begin to question their origin at some point. One will work on it for one day, the other for years. The problem can start as early as childhood or adolescence and it can stay with them forever. No, that adoption is not perfect and not without consequences is really not news.
But does that mean we have to accept Marrevee’s experience as the eternally current truth?
My adoption history
I was adopted from China in 1999 when I was six months old. I was received with open arms by a Dutch couple who could not have their own children. My childhood was flawless; I went through elementary school with no problems, with a beautiful cito score as a result. Things went wrong during puberty: I started having problems at school and was forced to drop out of school at the age of sixteen. And now you’re probably thinking: “You see, it went wrong with her too! Marrevee is right. “But dear reader, I have bad news: all this really can not be attributed to one thing. And adoption? It really had nothing to do with it. I dropped out of high school because I had a backpack; who had to do with several DSM-5 diagnoses, all of which had nothing to do with my adoption history.Or adoption must be the new ‘vaccine’ that one can supposedly get autism from, but that conspiracy theory I have not heard until now.
No, adoption has very little to do with how my life came to be. For the most part, my background has also made a small difference, unless you consider my time at TTO (bilingual education) as ‘made possible by my Asian genes’. That’s why I’m writing this: despite being adopted myself, and all too familiar with the identity issues that can arise from this, I still have a question in return for Marrevee and similar adoptive parents: is it realistic to blame problems like eg. pruning and smoking of weed? adoption?
Adoption has very little to do with how my life has been
I have no intention of walking around: I also struggled myself with questions about my adoption and doubted my place in the Netherlands. In a country where I was not born but brought up by my adoptive parents. Like Marrevee’s son, Zenebe, I’ve had quarrels with my parents. I asked them critical questions about why they adopted me, and I have not even had contact with them for several months. Still, I can tell you that at the age of 23, I love my parents dearly and would never have wanted it any other way. Quarreling is part of growing up. You can get stuck in it and blame everything on an adoption story or talk about it and come up with it together.
One experience should not represent the whole picture
Everyone is free to think about something and share their experiences. Marrevee has the right to tell his story, just like everyone else. But my fear is that with all the attention now being paid to his story, this will be the new image of adoption. And I find that worrying. I agree with Marrevee that the adoption adventure is outdated, but we do not share the same thoughts on how to deal with it. My personal opinion is that the experience of Marrevee and his family may be there, but that it is too short-sighted for the general picture of adoption. I miss the experiences of other adoptive parents and children and journalistic research on this topic.
When I myself had mixed feelings about my adoption, I began to think and look beyond what I already found and knew. Thanks to the journalists’ books Martijn Roessingh (Why China gave me two daughters) and Xue Xinran (Messages from a Chinese mother) gave me a broader picture of adoption and a better understanding of the reasons why children were abandoned for adoption in China.
It is easy to paint adoption as ‘bad’, but one must not forget that adoption has also saved lives. Where in countries like China they may have been strangled with their own umbilical cord or had no chance of life due to an underlying illness or disability, children here have been given a second chance. In the Netherlands, the unwanted girls were welcome, and the so-called children with ‘special needs’ received the right care. After all, people who wanted children but could not have them biologically were given the opportunity to become parents. And while there will undoubtedly have been cases of illegal adoption or individuals who would have been better off not being parents, it is important to me that adoptees are not generally portrayed as’ bored ”: “bored, that your parents gave you up “or” your parents should not have adopted you, “these are comments I still do not like to hear, and I know that applies to many more adoptees.
Adoption also saved lives
I think the topic of adoption is more complex than ‘just a fairy tale’ or ‘just a nightmare’. In reality, it is anything but black and white, and it is of utmost importance that we have a good conversation with each other. Abroad adoption involves many parties, ranging from adoptive parents and children, and there are winners and losers. From adoptive parents who have trouble raising their children, to the children themselves who have difficulty fitting in here. From adoptive parents whose desire to have children has come true, even more beautiful than ever dreamed, to adoptive children who can not imagine a different life because they are happy here. Who may not live in another country.
Finally, but certainly not to forget: the biological parents who only wanted the best for their child and who gave it up for a better future. Let us also not forget these parents and abolish their ‘sacrifice’.
What is always important and remains important whether you adopt or adopt: communication is a must. You can not determine your past, but you can set the direction for the future.
Lotte van Dijk (23), intern RN7 and student media editor