By Lauren Jankowski
I’ve always been logical to a fault, even as a child. Perhaps this is why I never particularly enjoyed stories that were written specifically for adopted children. To me, they just seemed too straightforward: “Look. This character is also adopted. See, s/he is just like you.” Yeah, and…? Even the beautifully illustrated story “The Mulberry Bird” just didn’t do it for me. Being an animal lover, I just couldn’t get over the fact that the author seemed to think birds had the same concept of adoption as humans did. Also, a seagull would never adopt a chick from another seagull, much less the chick of an entirely different bird. Most children probably don’t think of things quite so literally. I’ve always been a rather old soul.
This extremely logical approach to literature brought about my first dilemma fairly early in life: where were the stories for me? It was hard enough to find a story with a strong heroine. Harder still, finding stories with unconventional families. Every story seemed to have the same cast of characters: Mom, Dad, biological kid(s). Even stories like Hansel and Gretel –biological brother and sister. They knew their parents (awful as they were). The focus was always on biology. It soon became clear that there was a norm…and I was outside of it.
Then, one day, I happened to stumble across an Egyptian myth: Isis and Osiris. Granted, it was an extremely watered-down version of the original –one that had been written specifically for very young children –but the basics of the story remained more or less intact: a single mother raising a son after his father was murdered. This story was unlike any I’d ever read; I loved every last word. Soon, I was devouring Greek and Roman myths as well. In classical mythology, I found what I had been looking for: the unconventional cast as heroic. Children with an unknown parent accomplishing great feats. Parentless goddesses portrayed as equals to deities with more traceable lineages. It was amazing and refreshing. I’d found my stories.
As I grew up, my love for myths remained strong. When I read the original myths (the un-watered-down versions), I found some of the more problematic elements of these amazing tales: blatant misogyny, violence, incest –aspects that made the feminist in me positively cringe. Still, at their core, they remained the stories that I’d grown to love. The exciting tales of heroes and heroines, many from unconventional backgrounds. They were flawed, but also heroic. I came to view myths as a celebration of humanity in all its different forms.
As I continue trying to survive college, I often find myself in Classics courses. I’m a Women & Genders Studies major, but my heart will always belong to the Classics. My best experience was in a Classical Mythology course and the field still stimulates my natural curiosity. These centuries-old tales taught me that being outside the “norm” isn’t a bad thing. I’ve come to find that myths are an important part of whom we are. It’s a shame that we’re not exposed to them at an earlier age.
I’m not a parent and I know next to nothing about kids, but I think that parents of adopted children should try to expose their kids to these amazing stories. People who were adopted should try revisiting these tales as well. There’s something new in them every time. Speaking from personal experience, it’s always nice to know that being different is okay.
[Photo Credit: euthman]