Adoption—Are you an egghead or a potato head?

“When a true self-identity is lacking many wanders and seekers become prone to falling through the trapdoor of despondency.” Judith Land

Why do some adoptees think it is their inalienable human right to know their true identity while others seemingly don’t care? Boiling water softens a potato and hardens an egg. When we find ourselves in hot water, and in danger of being criticized or punished, our “flight or fight” response is triggered. Our reactions to fear either harden or soften our chances of survival. Adoptees who fear confrontation react by withdrawing and escaping into isolation, darkness, and oblivion (flight). They are unwilling to play detective or rock the boat because they are afraid of the consequences. Other adoptees strive for validity, genuineness, truthfulness, and open communication. They are highly motivated to solve the mysteries of their origin and discover their true identity (fight).

An egghead is a professor, virtuoso, whiz, or brainy scholar intellectually gifted in the field of academics.

An egghead is a professor, virtuoso, whiz, or brainy scholar intellectually gifted in the field of academics.

Eggheads are hardened by the adoption experience. They have an emotional need for a curative and emotional breakthrough reality that will finally make sense of their disrupted life stories. They possess a nostalgic spirit and a wistful sense of homesickness. Awkwardly suspended in a bewildered state of confusion, they restlessly long for an intimate view of days gone by. They seek verity and a genuine sense of legitimacy. They have a natural curiosity about the past and a strong desire to reconnect with missing family members. Separation from their ancestral roots increases their passions and strengthens their desire to reconnect with the lost. Reality doesn’t scare them because they believe in self-determination. They are empowered to fight against injustices and correct previous wrongs. They seek wisdom, honesty, truthfulness, validity, mutual consent, reconciliation, and positive connections; while abhorring deceit and vagueness. They are hardened by the daunting challenges of initiating a quest for self-discovery by rummaging through historical documents, interviewing strangers, cultivating an historical literacy, and the difficult task of building a family tree. They possess an innate psychological drive that motivates them to validate all facts, and reject falsehoods and unsubstantiated legends. They are motivated by an innate sense of destiny and driven by a belief that the most worthy and noble course of action in life is to solve the mysteries of their origin. They want to know why their life’s trajectory has been so radically altered and they willingly fight for what is inherently theirs—a true self-identity. Seeking reality, genuineness, and truthfulness in all things, they are naturally drawn to individuals who seem “intuitively familiar” and they have a sentimental sense of forgiveness toward those who have trespassed against them.

“How precious! Oh and look! She has your nose!” Mr. Potato Head is an American toy consisting of a plastic model of a potato with replaceable ears, eyes, shoes, a hat, a nose, and a mouth.

“How precious! Oh and look! She has your nose!” Mr. Potato Head is an American toy consisting of a plastic model of a potato with replaceable ears, eyes, shoes, a hat, a nose, and a mouth.

Potato heads are softened by the adoption experience. Innocence comforts them. Lacking a natural curiosity about their family history, ancestral pedigree, geographic place of origin, and inheritance, they have a callous ambiguous ambivalence to the past and an indifference to their apparent lack of a coherent identity. Their memories and recollections of past events and people are foggy and unfamiliar because they are unenlightened and blind to history. They naively accept without challenge the legends and fabrications that have been told to them. Vagueness, deception, delusions and even crass naiveté don’t annoy or trouble them. They are unconcerned knowing that anonymous strangers unlinked them from their genetic antecedents, native language, and cultural heritage. They fear close examination, scholarly investigation, and public scrutiny. They are apprehensive about the reasons for the radical shift in their life’s trajectory, but they are unwilling to take any actions that may land them in hot water with adopted family members who might interpret their intentions as self-serving. Current circumstances and relationships are what define legitimacy to them. The love, gratitude, compassion, and appreciation they feel for adopted parents, who are perceived as virtuous individuals, trumps any negative feelings they may have of being isolated, anonymous and unheralded. They happily embrace the status quo and their current family relationships by dancing to the words of the song, “If you can’t be with the ones you love, love the ones you’re with.”

Which kind of adoptee are you—a softened potato head or a hardboiled egghead?

Judith Land celebrity adoptee

Judith Land


adoção | adopción | làm con nuôi | itewogba | zokutholwa | การนำมาใช้ | गोद लेने | нэвтрүүлэх | whāngai | អនុម័ត | tallafi | korsashada | aanneming | doro | adopsi

About Judith Land

Judith Land lives in Colorado and Arizona with husband and coauthor Martin Land. Judith is a former nurse, retail shop owner, college instructor and avid outdoor person. Her book "Adoption Detective: Memoir of an Adopted Child" is a true story detailing the journey of Judith Romano, foster child and adoptee, as she discovers fragments of her background, and then sets out to solve the mystery as an adult. She has reached readers in 192 countries. "Mothers and fathers everywhere in the world need to understand that children are forever and always." --Judith Land
This entry was posted in Adoption, Children, Life, Parenting and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

33 Responses to Adoption—Are you an egghead or a potato head?

  1. Interesting article and perspective. I guess I’m a soft boiled egg. I’m a reunited adoptee and a full on “egghead” in my mind, but I don’t express my views publicly for fear of rejection. Maybe I’m just in in the closet egghead 😉

    • Judith Land says:

      Janice: Good response! Softboiled and in the closet! Laughter is integral to the healing process. When we don’t feel like laughing is when we need it the most. Play heals the body; laughter heals the mind and joy heals the spirit. Finding humor in response to a situation that gives us pain is a skill that is nothing to laugh at.

  2. Lesley Earl says:

    Wow! I have yet to find an adoption group that I feel reflects my adoption experience. This blog could put me over the edge if I let it . However I’ve done enough inner work to know that for me “you know nothing John Snow” I don’t have any problem with being adopted.I grew up in a family that adopted 3 of their 4 children…my difficulties with adoption come from the governmental policies that moved infants around so no one would get attached…add to that 5 different families 3 different names 1 failed adoption by 14 months of age. This was and is MY trama my primal wound. I’ve met my mother (glad I did) and my temperament, energy , looks, all come through my maternal side and I love that. However I am real glad I did not grow up with my mother. I watched what she did to my sister the one she got to keep (she gave up 3 of us)…She did not do her emotional work…and so she dumped her pain and agony on the one she got to keep. I was really pissed at my parents when they gave me my adoption order without me asking as my world was circling the toilet at that point in time and this simply introduced more emotional chaos at a time when I was already feeling frazzled and fried. I would have to tell you that I am eggs sunny side up, served with a side of perfectly crisped hash browns. I have been in therapy for much of my life searching for understanding of myself. And I’ve been highly successful so that today I really like who I am and I do not have any need to grieve the loss of my family of origin. I have my fathers name but I’m not looking him up. To do so costs money (which I do not have) and emotionally I struggle more than enough to put one foot in front of the other and keep moving. I am real and direct and a non bullshit kind of person. My rage today is directed at systems… government ,social systems, political parties, institutions . I would love to find an adoption space where people share how they got through their agony and losses without getting lost in the pain. Or sharing how they climbed out of the pain. The agony I have read as I’ve pursued various groups has been an eye opener for me because none of this has been what drives me crazy…

    • Judith Land says:

      Leslie – I hope others who see your message will also respond to you request. “I would love to find an adoption space where people share how they got through their agony and losses without getting lost in the pain. Or sharing how they climbed out of the pain.”

      Everyone encounters moral dilemmas in their lives. We all struggle to make the appropriate choices. It is a fact of life that we don’t always make the best decisions. That’s why adoption causes so much hand-wringing, second-guessing, self-doubts and insecurities. For all these reasons, it is normal to continually reassess, reconsider, and second-guess the consequences of adoption in response to changing conditions and altered circumstances. Giving someone the gift of a second chance in life is a blessing and a profound act of kindness that is often an essential step for finding peace and a happy life.

      Discussions I have had with clergy, counselors, social workers, parents, and adoptees and the books I have read lead me to conclude that the hearts of many adoptees are as “brittle as glass, and when shattered, at of risk of being left all alone from here on after to pick up all the pieces in solitude”. Adoptees suffering from post traumatic stress disorder, anxiety disorders, the primal wound, sorrow, grief and bereavement are often ignored because the signs and symptoms are psychological and not medically quantifiable. Post traumatic stress disorder, adopted child syndrome, and the primal wound may be overlooked because they don’t technically qualify in medical terms as syndromes because the signs and symptoms are psychological and subjective, the observed condition and the cause and effect aren’t clear, and the relationship is not measurable. It is difficult to diagnose social withdrawal, apathy, inability to experience pleasure, antisocial behavior, defects in attention control, and failure to thrive resulting from an adoption because the symptoms cannot be measured directly. The signs and the severity of the cause are difficult to recognise, and when the adoptee has difficulty describing their symptoms, the relationship between the cause and effect often remains unclear. Unfortunately, when stress and anxiety rise to a high level, the adoptee may eventually exhibit destructive behavior directed toward self, family or society—only then are the problems resulting an adoption accurately diagnosed. Judith

  3. eagoodlife says:

    Neither of course because I refuse to be categorised!

    • Judith Land says:

      Eagoodlife: You are wise. Categorization is the act of sorting, classifying and compartmentization. Taxonomy is the branch of science that is concerned with the classification of things based on shared characteristics. Categorization is useful for understanding scientific, economic and social statistics in nearly every profession, but human categorizing can easily be perceived as a cultural form of bias, stereotyping and prejudice. Even when poking fun at someone, we should never assume to “know” them because they are a member of a certain class, organization or category.

  4. JuneBug says:

    Interesting read Judith. I find myself shifting and swaying between egghead and potato head. More strongly an egghead, but any hint of rejection from birth relatives (real or imagined) and I’m mashed potato.

    • Judith Land says:

      Junebug: It is natural for adoptive parents to feel jealous and rejected if their child expresses an interest in knowing their true identity. They may view this action selfishly and perceive it as self-serving, ungrateful and disloyal. The fear of hurting their adoptive parents feelings by acting without their support and approval is a major constraint to adoptees seeking answers to the reasons for the unexplained deviation in their life’s trajectory.

    • Judith Land says:

      I like your “mashed potatoes” comment. When we find something funny in life it is because we have discovered the hidden truth. Humor enriches our lives, reduces stress, and helps us see the lighter side of things. Moments of fun expose an endless kaleidoscope of possibilities. If anyone else out there feel like a french fry, a double baked potato with bacon, a sweet potato curly fry, a fried onion ring, a potato salad, an au gratin casserole with cheese, or a salty potato chip, I would love to hear from them.

    • Judith Land says:

      I know exactly how it feels to be a mashed potato. My birth mother initially refused to meet me. She was angry at me for disrupting her life and exposing her hidden past. The mental state of feeling rejected and spurned by the birth mother is a powerfully toxic emotion for adoptees. It takes tremendous will power to keep the chin up and retain a positive outward appearance when this happens. I continued to be very persistent, overtly optimistic, positive minded, and unrelentingly refused to give up. I must have seemed like one of those plastic toys with a weighted bottom that returns to an upright position no matter how many times it is pushed down. After a period of several months her attitude eventually softened and we finally reconciled our differences. Things have been very good ever since, but whenever those feelings of rejection creep in I feel the same as you…

  5. Interesting idea — as an adoptive mom (and genealogist), I found both my kids’ biological mothers, established relationships with the one who want a relationship, and at least located the other biological mother “in case.” But both my kids have no interest in establishing any relationship with their biological mothers even though I have emphasized how important I think it is. So, I have the relationships which, at least for me, are comforting and full of blessings.

    The only quibble I may have with your categories are the negative connotations with adoption and adoptive families — you and I may disagree about whether adoption in and of itself is a good thing (and boy could I go on about that), but I really believe that I have been upfront and honest with my kids. In fact, having met their biological families and lived close to them, I think they are not at all delusional about their current relationships or their biological ones. No, we are not their “biological family,” but not all biological families are great either. In fact I would argue that many of us who have a biological family would have preferred a different one.

    But overall, interesting thoughts and ideas about how adoptees look at adoption — thanks for the interesting post!

    • Judith Land says:

      Thanks for making the world a better place for your family and everyone around you. You are a virtuous parent because you seek only goodness and what is best for your children. You have the ability to understand and validate the profound and the skill to encourage love to grow.

  6. Hard boiled egghead. Without a doubt.

  7. Judith Land says:

    Good for you! I also know a few Eggs Benedicts, Huevos Rancheros, mushroom cheese omelettes and a soufflé.

  8. Incredibly patronizing. A failure to share YOUR experience does not mean somebody is weak or lacks curiosity. It doesn’t mean they’re afraid. It’s incredibly presumptous to degrade the experiences of others. You’re entitled to your own story, not to judging the stories of others.

    • eagoodlife says:

      Nicely put and so true.

    • Robin Red says:

      Yes, I agree as well. Did it ever occur to the author that adoptees might innately have a fear of rejection? And that contacting birth family (who have already rejected you once) might be less than completely worth it? Totally slanted article. I don’t find it fun, despite the author’s lighthearted remarks. I am OK the way I am, and so are the rest of you in the same predicament. We’re OK.

      • Judith Land says:

        Robin Red: When we find something funny in life it is because we have discovered the hidden truth. Humor enriches our lives, reduces stress, and helps us see the lighter side of things.

        The fear of rejection is one of our deepest human fears. Humans are biologically wired with a longing to belong; we fear being seen in a critical way. It is natural to be anxious about the prospect of being cut off, demeaned, or isolated. We fear being alone, severely punished or openly criticized. Nobody wants to be evaluated negatively in social situations. Reconnecting with the past is one of the most challenging events many adoptees must learn to face in solitude. The intensity of the emotional experience for many adoptees is often outside the range of natural variability for mental health and healthy living. Judith

        Life is stressful for many adoptees, a series of obstacles and mental stress they need to constantly overcome. Becoming obsessed with the mundane, worrying about every plight and every wrongdoing, stressing about the uncontrollable leads us to the road to Abilene. Getting irritated when things don’t go your way brings us down. Holding grudges is like drinking poison. Having contempt for others is a recipe for solitude. Stressing about things that can’t be changed is a waste of time. When we can’t adjust to change, we aren’t living correctly. Planning for a life that doesn’t exist is like refusing to live at all. To live a happy life, we need to admit our flaws, learn to live in the moment, learn to say we are sorry. Most of us know from experience that having a sense of humor about things can make life a little easier—and there’s plenty of science literature to back that up. Being able to laugh at yourself is a sign of an optimistic personality, a sense of humor, peace, freedom, and the basis of a happy life.

  9. Judith Land says:

    Thanks for commenting. Social atititudes about adoption and adoption issues have evolved over time. One of the greatest changes took place with the release of the novel “Roots: The Saga of an American Family” written by Alex Haley. His book led to a cultural sensation in the United States in the 1970s and is considered one of the most important U.S. works of the twentieth century. His story stimulated tremendous interest in genealogy and appreciation for African-American history. Story telling, sharing of experiences, and expressing our feelings to others is ultimately how we learn. Geneolgy is of great interest to some of us and boring to others for a variety of reasons. There are hundreds of varieties of potatoes, ways of preparing eggs, and an endless number of opinions about life. Each character in every story is unique, and I respect that fact.

    • Robin Red says:

      With due respect, did the author think we would not know about “Roots?” Though Alex Haley had a hard time finding his roots, at least there were not the legal boundaries adoptees face. So, somewhat similar but not exactly. IMHO.

  10. I grew up a potato head, or so I thought. However I believe an “egg head” was always there and I cant imagine it not being deep down within every adoptee. I must say, I know it is difficult to face, to acknowledge as an adoptive parent that we, adoptees no matter how loved or full our life has been will always have a hole within our hearts that only the birth family can fill in whatever way that happens to be or to what extent may differ, but they hold that key. Ive always said, adoption wasn’t part of Gods perfect plan, it was a provision just as it was for Moses.

    • Judith Land says:

      Michelle: Well said. Destiny is not always preordained. Life is about making choices. Our lives are the sum of all the choices we make, the bridges we cross, and the ones we burn. Our souls cast long shadows over many people, even after we are gone. Fate, luck, and providence are the consequence of our freedom of choice, not the determinants. When justice is served by following our principles, making good decisions brings us inner peace. I think most adoptees would prefer not to be viewed as permanent children in need of lifelong supervision and protection. They eventually grow to be responsible, mature adults, fully capable of making their own decisions about search and reunion. Adoptees with an emotional need for a curative and breakthrough reality that would finally make sense out of their disrupted life stories prefer to be treated equally with all citizens, and not have their true identity hidden from them when it comes to a desire for self-determination.

  11. Hi Judith,

    I thought I posted a reply to this either here or on Facebook Sunday but I don’t see it. I’ll try to recapture it now.

    First off, thank you, your blog post has encouraged me to start blogging myself.
    You suggest interesting metaphors for the adoption experience and the type of adoptees out there–boiling water, softened potatoes or hard boiled eggs…

    Building on your metaphors, I’d say I’m a boiled egg and potato salad– broken in pieces and tossed in mayo! The mayo, by the way, is my metaphor for the cried and uncried tears in my adoption experience.

    Thanks again for helping me get started. And here’s to the healing power of humour! However messy and troublesome, I hope the recipe that is me ends up tasting good! Right now the jury’s out and the cook’s still in the kitchen!

    Best regards,

    Marijke Rigby (potato) / Karine Cichocki (egg)

    • Judith Land says:

      Karine: Broken in pieces and tossed in mayo (tears). Wow! You must be a strong person. I am glad to know the cook is still in the kitchen. When a true self-identity is lacking many wanders and seekers become prone to falling through the trapdoor of despondency. Lacking energy and focus, they may have trouble maintaining concentration, spontaneity, and interest in life. Many adoptees hearts are as brittle as glass, and when shattered, they are at of risk of being left alone to pick up all the pieces in solitude from here on after.

      • Judith Land wrote:
        When a true self-identity is lacking many wanders and seekers become prone to falling through the trapdoor of despondency. Lacking energy and focus, they may have trouble maintaining concentration, spontaneity, and interest in life. Many adoptees hearts are as brittle as glass, and when shattered, they are at of risk of being left alone to pick up all the pieces in solitude from here on after.

        I can attest to this adoptee’s heart being as brittle as glass
        And to it having shattered some time in adolescence. I wasn’t fully aware of what was eating me back then but your description of falling through the trap door of despondency–the lack of energy, and the sheer impossibility of maintaining spontaneity and focus–that fits me to a tee.

        I am, however, thankfully, not alone in my efforts to pick up the pieces, melt them and reshape, and reforge them into a stronger, wiser, more enduring and more compassionate heart. Indeed, I could never do this work alone. I don’t believe anyone can.

        We each need an enlightened witness–someone to light a lamp and show the way, and we need our fellow travellers along the way to laugh and cry and cry and laugh about it all.

        Ultimately, my journey to wholeness is my journey to faith–faith in something bigger than me , and faith in my true, higher self, faith in the goodness and oneness of everything and me with it…
        As I like to say, after all: Life is Buddhaful! So, choose life!

      • Judith Land says:

        I agree about needing an enlightened witness. Sharing my thoughts and emotions about my adoption search with my husband was therapy for me. He was the sole person aware of my plight and veiled inner turmoil, but only God could provide relief from the enormous internal pressures that were compressing and suffocating my soul. An eternal flame inside me ignited my passions and illuminated my path. When I set out to find my roots and discover my true identity, I chose to lead and walk alone because there was no one to follow or guide me, and when I was in my lowest emotional states of mind and there was no one there to help me overcome distress or discouragement, I found it therapeutic to direct my accepted wisdom to God.

  12. Reblogged this on karinecichocki's Blog and commented:
    Here are some interesting metaphors for the adoption experience–being boiled in water–and adoptees’ responses or reactions to that experience. We adoptees may be potatoes or eggs. Neither foodstuff on its own fully captures my experience, however. Rather, I’d describe myself as a boiled egg and potato salad, broken in pieces and tossed in mayo!
    The mayo, by the way, is my metaphor for the cried and uncried tears of my adoption experience.

    I thank Judith for helping me start blogging–I couldn’t reply to her blog without creating a WordPress account of my own–the rest is my history or recipe in the making! I can only hope that the recipe that is me ends up tasting good, however messy and troublesome it often seems. For now the food critics and punters are still waiting for the main course as the cook’s still in the kitchen…
    Enough with the food metaphors already! I’m feeling hungry and it’s time for bed. I hope you enjoy this little appetiser!

    Ok now Basta!

    • Judith Land says:

      Buon Appetito! I love to cook (and eat) and enjoy your metaphors and analogies. All good culinary dishes need a memorable name like Karine’s “Insalata di Lacrima” (salad of tears). You are making me hungry. I am serving Orange Cranberry Pound Cake to guests this evening. Remember that life is life a bicycle—keep moving in order to maintain your balance. Let us know what you cook up…

  13. Pingback: Adoption—Are you an egghead or a potato head? | tummum's Blog

  14. Lisa Peisner says:

    Egg – Hard Boiled. 🙂

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