More wise words from Wendy Kramer

I’m currently trying to work up the energy to blog about three important new books that have come out over the past month that all throw light on donor conception processes and families, but a sinus infection is keeping me low for the time being.

However, for your delight I am re-blogging a post from DSR co-founder Wendy Kramer based on the Hodding Carter quote below.  I used this many years ago when I was a parenting educator and have always thought it summed up the heart of ‘good enough’ parenting.  I believe it is the fundamental security we give our children that gives them roots and that our ultimate task as parents is to let them to fly free.  Wendy reminds donor conception parents that we all need to consider our child’s genetic roots as well.

Roots and Wings
Posted on April 2, 2015 by wendykr
“There are only two lasting bequests we can hope to give our children.
One is roots; the other wings.”

This Hodding Carter quote has been the tagline on my emails for many years now. This week I spoke with an egg donor mom who questioned me about it, asking if I interpreted the quote as meaning that donor conceived children’s “roots” are from the genetic parent(s) and the parents that actually raise the child supply the “wings”, saying that she felt like she was both to her adult son (who does not know yet that he was conceived with an egg donor).

To me, the quote means that we parents owe our children both: roots and wings. It’s not just one or the other. Parents who raise donor children do provide both roots and wings in the form of family, security, and instilling our children with the confidence and the tools to fly on their own one day. Also though, we do need to acknowledge the “other” significant part of the roots that we might not be able to supply and that might be very important to our children.

So sure, parents who raise children certainly do provide both. But, there is another person who also contributed to our children’s roots: ½ their ancestry, DNA, and medical history do come from the other biological parent.

Once again, we hit upon the notion that some parents like to think that the donor is just a “piece of genetic material” or only a “donated cell”. But in fact for many donor-conceived people, it’s much more than that. They have an unknown person who contributed half their DNA, their ancestry and their medical background: three very important pieces that contribute significantly to who a person is.

Just like in adoption, some kids are not very curious, and some are extremely curious to know about the donor. And as in adoption, families need to be supportive with whichever type of child they get. Or you might end up with resentful offspring; angered that keeping the secret was more important than their right to the truth. Or fearful offspring protecting the parents that haven’t yet healed from the pain/shame of infertility. That’s not their burden to carry. It’s not their shame to carry on. Too many offspring come to the DSR in secrecy, behind their parent’s backs, afraid of hurting or angering them.

Secrecy does imply that there is something shameful about the methodology of conception. Donor conception can be talked about openly and honestly between loving parents and their donor children. Telling is just the beginning though. And having a curious child in no way lessons your importance or significance as a parent. It is an innate human desire to want to know where we come from.

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About oliviasview

Co-founder and now Practice Consultant at Donor Conception Network. Mother to two donor conceived adults and a son conceived without help in my first marriage.
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6 Responses to More wise words from Wendy Kramer

  1. Eve says:

    thanks for the words of wisdom, Olivia – roots and wings is what we all need.

  2. marilynn says:

    Unfortunately not everyone shares Wendy and your idea that it’s unfair to mislead a person about who they are and are not related to. http://www.rollercoaster.ie/Discussions/tabid/119/ForumThread/141461225/Default.aspx

    To read the comments on this board it’s like they really believe ‘this is just another way of creating a family’ and they are in no different a position than a woman raising her own biologically related child that’s related to her and all her relatives that don’t have a biological mother and slew of unknown maternal relatives out there in the world somewhere not knowing they even exist. It’s just not at all the same as having nothing to tell because the kid’s related to you and your family. Telling them they have a whole other family out there in the world is a HUGE BIG IMPORTANT deal and it’s not their place to withhold information that pertains to the kid they are raising and to all relatives of that kid. It’s just so arrogant the way they talk about how angry and put upon they are by efforts to mandate disclosure. They speak of donated genetic material as if it actually treated their infertility some how like a medical miracle they’ll have to seek abroad because they want to conceal information that does not belong to them from the individuals it belongs to. They want so badly for the child to be theirs and only theirs just like normal and they are infuriated that there are efforts to prevent them from deceiving the children they give birth to. Buying the ability to give birth is not the same as having nothing to tell because the kid is related to you. It’s so sad that there will be people forced to be raised by individuals that would perpetrate such a fraud against a person they say they so desperately want to love and care for. It’s just not the same and pretending it is means they’re pretending the person they are raising is someone else entirely. Then that person is not really wanted after all, they just want a warm body to play the roll of the child they wished they’d had.

    A person’s roots are other people, those they descend from. Those people have names and faces and unique stories that are part of the individuals who descend from them. All those people who are ‘rooted’ in the same individuals have a legal right to know about the existence of one another through the ability to obtain one another’s vital records. This whole business undermines the legal rights of family members to accurate vital record information which is tragic and a public health problem. I wish everyone thought like Wendy and you but they clearly have blinders on.

    Happy Easter Olivia

  3. Mac says:

    Roots and wings…..only a few words but carry so much meaning and clarity.

    Nobody should be lied to about their conception but I disagree that your roots must be genetic material. I am not rooted by people I have never met! They have no significance to me even if we are related. Surely the experiences we have in life is what roots us. We are all unique and individual. Perhaps my parents provided my roots but they did that by helping and supporting me through life and recognising the unique differences that each of their children have. Is that not the key to the sucess of any family, regardless of how they are made…celebrating each person for who they are?

  4. oliviasview says:

    I agree with you completely Mac. I just think that for SOME donor conceived people genetic roots have significant meaning – maybe exaggerated meaning, probably because of learning late about their beginnings. These roots need taking into account, but I do believe very strongly that a child’s sense of security (being rooted) comes from being raised in a loving, supportive and honest family.

  5. Lil says:

    Again, roots may mean different things for different people – and obviously the definition may be quite metaphorical. But biologically – we are a living expression of genetic material (influenced by external environment) and without it, it simply wouldn’t be us any more.. I think it would be great if parents didn’t impose own ‘roots’ definitions on their kids and just let them come to their own decisions on that. It’s too often that parents who suffered from infertility and came a long way grieveing the loss of their own/spouse’s genetics somehow expect their (donor or adopted) child to ignore their own genetic connections by bringing them up as if it’s the most normal way in the world. I think it’s hypocrytical – after all, (almost?) nobody starts building their family with the concept of “let’s just go and choose some cool donors for our kids – to hell with the genetics”. Anyway, I’m so glad there are countries in the world who discuss that openly and let donor kids choose for themselves if genetics matters – my country is so much behind in this that it’s unbelievable.. 😦

    • oliviasview says:

      Thanks so much for your comment Lil. I agree that it is very important for parents not to impose ‘approved’ ideas but allow their growing and adult children to come to their own conclusions.

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