MISFIT DOC: Redeeming the Monster Dolls

Adoption failure rates are significantly higher for older children—“older” is subjective but I’ve seen it defined by one orphan advocacy agency as “7 years or more.” These older children, of course, have experienced more than babies and toddlers. Such experience, often negative as it relates to why they’re orphans, can get in the way of attempts to forge a new life with a new family. The majority of such adoptions do succeed, but failure occurs at higher rates than with infant or toddler adoptions.

I experienced that failure several times. I call the unsuccessful adoption “failure” but the failure is not the child’s. As I would come to tell one of them years later, “You were born into a situation that you did not choose. Entonces nobody should judge you for the effects of those circumstances.”

1PWhen an adoption doesn’t succeed, there is pain all around and it’s multi-layered. The first time it happened, A. told us through a translator, “Tell them it’s not because of them—they are good people.” It’s amazing to me that the boy was able to articulate this thought even as he was buffeted emotionally by facing the loss (loss of biological parents) that is the condition-precedent to adoption. It’s so amazing that, as I write this now, I wonder for the first time if he actually uttered those words. Perhaps the translator, feeling sorry for me, made up the thought …

There is pain all around and it is complicated. This year, as we participated in the local Fire Department’s Holiday Toy & Food Fundraiser, my husband suggested I give away a Monster High doll gift set he found in our closet. My body rebelled with a brief, violent spasm though I only replied with a soft-spoken “No.”

At my husband’s surprised look, I said, “I want to keep it just in case …”

Then I became quiet because the logical interpretation of that “just in case” would be that there might be a reason for C., now too old for the dolls, to receive them. How would that ever happen?  C. lived on another continent, and I wasn’t even sure where she resided. Of course it will never happen, I thought — and shooed away the pain.

3PI took the box of dolls away from my husband and returned them to a high shelf in the closet where they, as they had for years, would stay hidden even as they remained in my home.

Three days later (I can’t make this up!) C. contacted me through Facebook. Ah, Facebook—ye who dissolves national boundaries and the limits of physical geography! C. began her message by apologizing for rejecting my and my husband’s past adoption offer (older children, unlike babies and toddlers, are able to decide on adoption offers). This is how I came to tell her something I hope she will take to heart—that children should not be judged adversely for behavior formed through negative circumstances not of their own choosing. I hope she really understands this message as, given the lack of family support, it’s not unusual for orphans to feel a high degree of (not just material but psychological) insecurity.

During that brief conversation (internet access, I suspect, is expensive for her), I didn’t have a chance to mention that I’ve been keeping the dolls that I’d once intended to give her. After all, she didn’t even know I heard her wish for them. She didn’t even know the dolls exist. But now I know why I saved the dolls—for a poem whose internet publication, I hope, will make the poem something that C. may read someday. Through such discovery, C. will finally receive the dolls she once longed for during her unfairly too-brief childhood.

For C.:



You wanted them


[sparkling, star-dotted

gift wrap with

shiny red bow]

It didn’t happen

But I want to make

this memory for you:

for the rest of your life


you were wanted


people exist

who cherish you




Eileen R. Tabios loves books and has released about 40 collections of poetry, fiction, essays, and experimental biographies from publishers in nine countries and cyberspace. Her most recent is INVENT(ST)ORY: Selected Catalog Poems and New 1996-1915 (Dos Madres Press, 2015). More information is available at http://eileenrtabios.com

Submit a comment