One day, one of my adopted children asked me, “Daddy, why did my birth-mommy not want me?” I was able to sit that child down and carefully explain to them that indeed their birth mother most certainly DID want them. Their birth mother loved them so much that she gave them life and then took the steps she could to find a good home for them. The fact that the birth mother was not in a place to care for a new child did not equate to not wanting the child. Placing her new child with us was a profound, and for her painful, act of love, not an act of ‘giving up’ the child, or, worse, abandonment.
And so it troubles me to hear in Walter Isaacson’s biography of Steve Jobs, Isaacson, Jobs’ acquaintances, and Jobs himself refer to his being ‘abandoned’ at birth. In the culture of the day, his birthmother was in a very difficult predicament for which adoption was a compelling and loving choice. To place a child for adoption is not to abandon the child.
Many, apparently, want to attribute some of Jobs’ unique personality traits to his being thus ‘abandoned’. Jobs, while still using the language of abandonment, rejects this logic.
“Knowing I was adopted may have made me feel more independent, but I have never felt abandoned. I’ve always felt special. My parents made me feel special.”
His parents clearly did a wonderful job of diffusing the potential abandonment angst. Jobs gives them the greatest tribute any adopted child can give to those who parent him. Isaacson writes:
He would later bristle whenever anyone referred to Paul and Clara Jobs as his “adoptive” parents or implied that they were not his “real” parents. “They were my parents 1,000%,” he said.
I hope he was able to tell Paul and Clara that.