Q. "As the mother of an adopted daughter, I would like to comment on your reply to the parents who wanted to adopt a child who would be older than the child they have.
"Your answer struck us as so negative.
"Our daughter was 2 years old when we adopted her from South America. She was given up at birth and had spent her first two years in an orphanage and in many foster homes. According to our pediatrician, she would soon forget those two years once she was in our home. We believe that she has. We don't believe that she requires any more 'tender loving care' than our biologic child.
"In the case of our daughter, we know the names, ages, education, background and addresses of the birth parents. After explaining the reasons she was placed for adoption, we seriously doubt she will want to find either parent, but she can if she wants, and we won't feel this is a reflection on us or think we would need 'love and strength to accept this.'
"We also take exception to your use of the phrase 'two people gave him away,' equating a child to some old clothes or toys. Generally only one person gives up a child. Your phrase assuredly would give our daughter insecure feelings.
"At the least you should have referred the letter-writer to the Council on Adoptable Children in Reston, Va. Phone: 620-2180.
"It is one of the many support groups made up of adoptive parents who answer all kinds of problems, from breast-feeding, to the adoption of a child who is older than the child at home. There are also the Adoptive Parents Committee, Inc., 210 Fifth Ave., New York, N.Y. 10010; OURS, 21040 Pine Ridge Dr., Anoka, Minn. 55303, and Latin America Parents Assn., P.O. Box 72, Seaford, N.Y., 11783."
A. A spokesman for the National Committee for Adoption also found the answer negative, which wasn't the intention. With three adopted nieces and a nephew in our family, the blessings of adoption are very clear. Nevertheless, it would be unfair to pretend that adoption doesn't carry some freight of its own.
Of course parents wouldn't tell an adopted child she was "given away," but sooner or later the child infers it, as she would if she were "given up" (or "out" or "across" or "over").
At some point the child who has had to change parents is going to feel she was rejected. This isn't because of those early memories, but because she, like every child, wonders about her origin. Even the child you bear may wonder if she's really a princess in disguise... and then wonders when the queen will come to call.
This sort of fantasy usually starts -- and stops -- about 7, but it may last longer, or recur later in the adopted child. Although she may not mention it, she still must learn to face and handle the fact that she was adopted, and she must do it before she can get on with the business of growing up. Although it may not bother you if she should search for her birth parents one day, it does give many adoptive parents a twinge.
And would a child rather belong to a family than live in an institution? You bet. And would she rather live in a happy home than a miserable one? Of course. And can her adoptive parents love her as much? They couldn't do anything else.
The genes are responsible for many things, but love grows a day at a time.
Each day a parent and child live together, work together, play together -- whether the child is adopted or not -- they bond a little better. Love is the same in either case, but we can't pretend that the circumstances are the same as well.
Parents handle reality better when they know what to expect. Labor hurts too, but it doesn't hurt as much if you're prepared for it; if you know what precautions to take; if you realize that the love of and for a child is worth much more than the pain that labor -- or adoption -- could bring.
The Community Psychiatric Clinic has scheduled a 6-week discussion group, "Adoption Insights," to help parents deal with the fantasies and myths of the adopted child and the questions both parents and children have. The meetings are scheduled for 8 p.m. each Thursday, starting tonight, at 4803 Hampden Lane, Bethesda. (Sliding scale up to $35 per family for the series.) To register, call 933-2402.
And for more on the bonding of a family, there is the superb book, On Becoming a Family, by the superb Dr. T. Berry Brazelton (Delacorte, $14.95). You can hear him in person at 8 p.m. Feb. 25 in the Christ Church auditorium, 118 N. Washington St., Alexandria. To buy a $3 seat, call 549-0111. The talk marks the dedication of the Family Center, sponsored by the Parent Education Project of the Alexandria Community Y