Rick Reilly is a sports writer. Colin Kaepernick is a quarterback, about to play in the Super Bowl on Sunday.
Reilly is an adoptive father to an 18 year-old daughter, and Kaepernick is an adoptee. Presumably, these two would have a lot to talk about, were they to sit down to dinner together. Unfortunately, Reilly (probably with the best of intentions) made an ass of himself by publicly challenging Kaepernick’s statement that he isn’t curious about his birth mother.
First Reilly assumes that Kaepernick isn’t curious because he thinks meeting his birth mother would be a betrayal to his adoptive family. Which Kaepernick never said. Second, Reilly assumes what the birth mother feels, and must have felt, about the person she gave birth to:
But you can’t imagine what it would mean, how deeply it would be felt, for a woman with regrets and doubts to once again hold her child, even for five seconds. A meeting like that could fill two hearts.
Fellow adoptee Matthew Salesses, in the New York Times, expresses concern over all these presumptions:
….[I]t isn’t for my parents to say whether I should contact my birth mother or not. I am sure they know such a statement would set me off, as would the suggestion that they should control that decision. It is certainly not another adoptive parent’s place to say what I should do. I am a parent, and I am annoyed enough when another parent tells me what is “best” for my child.
Right now, as I understand it, adoptees are fighting for adoptee rights so that they can make such decisions themselves. For a long time, adoptive parents have decided what adoptees can and can’t do. Sometimes, that meant closing off access to birth parents; sometimes, telling them to meet. Adoptive parents have spoken for adoptees’ feelings. Adoptive parents have written the literature and taught families how they should treat adoptees.
The adoptee is the central figure in an adoption. The adoptee should have the right to do what he wants about his birth parents. He shouldn’t have to deal with a sportswriter telling him how to be “healthy,” “healing” and “natural.”
It seems to me that adults should have the right to make their own choices, and adoptees are certainly no exception. Neither Rick Reilly, nor any of the rest of us (even those who are adoptees), know how Colin Kaepernick feels, and we should never presume that we do.
What do you think of Rick Reilly’s statements about Kaepernick?
Does an adoptive father have any right to presume the experience of adoptees, birth parents, or even other adoptive parents?
If you’re an adoptee, how did Reilly’s statements reflect your own experience?