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The landscape of adoptions is vast, articulate, impossible to catalogue or label.

Many different stories, do not try to combine them in a unique speech. Very often these are meetings between different cultures, obviously between different generations and talking about it as if it were something defined is simply absurd.

What we can say is that there are almost always enormous expectations on the part of the parents, who sometimes are not psychologically prepared to face this experience. Thinking of welcoming into one’s own home a child who until then had been in an institution can give rise to expectations that often clash with reality. As I said, it is impossible to generalize, and I will limit myself to a couple of words.

Adopting a child is one of the most beautiful things a human being can do, beyond the motivations that led to this choice. We all know how long and laborious the path to adoption is. Many challenging passages at the end of which it is thought that the difficult part is finished, but it is not so.

The natural mistrust of a child who already has a difficult past on their shoulders on one side, and the desire to feel like a mom and dad on the other, can give rise to short circuits of difficult solution.

But that’s not what I want to talk about, because a lot has already been said about that. Today, however, I would like to mention a rather frequent dynamic which is not spoken of.

Let’s try to imagine a child who from an early age suffers a series of abandonment and abuse. Note that for a small child even the death of a parent is experienced as an abandonment that generates anger. How do they survive psychically in the face of what appears to them as, and often is, a terrible violence? I am not just referring to the natural and conscious scepticism and distrust towards adults, hard to imagine this is not the case.

But I want to think of another reaction, not conscious, that they are likely to have in order to be able to move forward despite all those disappointments. Often the only thing they can do is make themselves indifferent, anaffective, fantasize that their affective relationship with disappointing and violent people of reference has never existed so they put on a layer of glass that will protect them and make them immune to suffering and pain. The crucial point to understand is that if over time you manage to create a valid emotional relationship and trust with the child, and it is obviously desirable that this happens, this armour will break. But it is easy to think that beneath this armour there are rabies and hatred that the child could no longer afford to live and that can emerge only in a valid relationship. If all goes well the child finds themselves “forced” to find that hope in a human relationship that in the past had been cause of so much pain and will do so through very violent crises. It is in this fundamental passage that parents must resist understanding the child without becoming authoritarian or desperate. This is indeed the most delicate and difficult period, and it is not necessarily short, far from it, but at the same time it is also the most important. It is here that everything is on the table, the possibility that the relationship evolves in one sense or the other and consequently that the child can find a lost wellbeing or get sick permanently.

Parents need to understand that those sometimes very violent reactions can be signs of something going the right way. Finally the child can afford to live what until then had been prevented and will do so in the only relationship that at that time they feel deep and reliable. But it is often unfortunately at this very stage, necessary and desirable, that the parents, unprepared and caught unaware, risk to fail everything, withdrawing, becoming hyper educational, setting rigid rules, feeling depressed, feeling failures themselves or even calling the child ungrateful, or arriving to the total surrender by saying after all is not our child. I repeat, I am not saying that things always go this way, but nobody ever talks about these things because often you do not have the theoretical tools to talk about them.

You have to remember that it should be the child who needs the parents and not the other way around because if you need to be told you are the most beautiful mother in the world it is then difficult to withstand when there are the reactions I mentioned.

I don’t want to be misunderstood, I’m not saying that because of their tormented story you have to accept any child/kid’s reaction without blinking. Saying NO is very important but if those No’s are said because you understand the internal situation of the child and not as a rabid reaction, you will avoid entering a dangerous sadomasochistic relationship whose outcome is often catastrophic.

My intention, with these lines, is not to ruin a legitimate dream but to prepare future parents for a not so remote eventuality. It is in fact in this phase of relation, so difficult but at the same time rich in possibilities, that I have seen entire families shattered, not to mention restitutions, which are constantly increasing.

And then dear mom remember that you will really be the most beautiful mom in the world if you have continued to love me even when I was pissed off, seemingly for no reason, making me understand that another world is possible!

Marco Michelini

Thanks to Chiara Fanasca for the traslation of this article


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Credits by: Trung Nguyen