I love Glee. I’m not ashamed and can admit it freely. However, when 6the show began an adoption storyline, I groaned inwardly. It is so rare for a show to do adoption well, and Glee is no exception. The main adoption story revolves around 16 year old Rachel, one of the main characters. She is being raised by a gay male couple and knows very little about her birth mother. Her birth mother winds up being the coach of Vocal Adrenaline, the main rival of Rachel’s glee club. The two meet and share some heartfelt moments, but Rachel’s birthmother has a hard time with the reunion. She keeps saying, “I missed my chance with you” and “you are all grown up.”
This constant refrain rubs me wrong on SO many levels. First off, a teenager is not an adult. Do you remember being 16? Although I was hesitant to admit it, I needed my parents just as much as I did when I was 1. I needed people in my corner, who could tell me that when my day sucked, that didn’t mean my life sucked. I needed people who loved me, flaws and all, and could both hold me tight and let me go. I needed people who could tell me where I came from and where they hoped I would wind up.
Over 90% of orphans in the world are above the age of five. They are not sweet little babies. They come with trauma, opinions, and stinky feet. The Glee storyline implied to me that somehow these children are less worthy, they have missed their chance. I am overly sensitive to it, I know, but in so many ways these children are taught that they are less, and Glee just reiterated it.
It is easy to look at a baby and understand how much he needs a parent.
But the eight year old sitting next to him and the fifteen year old standing right there need a parent just as much. Yes, older children are going to come with stories you will not know and memories you will not share. With any luck, people will have loved your children before you did. That does not mean that you have missed your chance. That does not mean you should not consider the impact that you can have on an older child’s life or the impact she can have on yours. Being a parent is not about a child who meets your needs, it is about meeting a child where he is and helping him to become a healthy adult.
I have adopted five children, three of whom were not babies. I didn’t teach them to walk, but I get to give them direction. I did not teach them to talk, but I get to help them speak up for themselves. I was not the first person to love them and I won’t be the last, but I did NOT miss my chance because I missed out on changing diapers or watching first teeth erupt. I am still their mother, for better and for worse. I share that title with others, but that doesn’t diminish its power. A child is never beyond needing love. Glee, you missed the boat.