Monday Notes: 3 Points of Clarity about Adoption from an Adoptee

Ever since I found my biological father, brother, and sisters by completing one of those Ancestry.com DNA tests, I’ve answered a barrage of questions. They seem to come from people who cannot seem to wrap their minds around what adoption is or from those who cannot conceive the relationship that adoption offers. So, here’s some clarity.

img_8185#1 “Your dad wasn’t your dad?” To put it simply, yes and no. I was adopted as a ten-month-old baby by two parents who did not birth me. Growing up, I called these parents mommy and daddy, the same way you called your parents something affectionate. I hope no one’s reading this with sarcasm. I find this is the first part that people just don’t get. When you’re adopted as a baby, you don’t call your parents, adopted mom and adopted dad. And when you find out you’re adopted, you don’t start calling them, Mr. and Mrs. Gregory. They’re just mom and dad, like your parents are. But for the sake of this post, I’ll add the adopted in front.

img_7197#2 “Aha! That’s why your grandmother took care of you!” No. My grandmother did not adopt me when I was a baby. My grandmother is the mother of my adopted mom. I know for some my history is a bit confusing, so here’s a brief explanation in less than 100 words. My adopted mom died when I was 16 years old. I never knew my biological mother, because she gave me up for adoption when I was a baby. The drama I write about concerning my dad is from my adopted dad. After he kicked me out of his house and gave up his parental rights, my adopted grandmother took care of me when I was 17 years old and provided whatever I needed from that moment forward.

Usually by this point, I get a blank stare or silence during a text message. But some people have returned with this one:

#3 “So, your cousins, aunts, all the people you visit and talk about…they aren’t your family?” <sigh>Like #1, the answer to this is twofold. No. These are not my biological family members. Yes. Of course, they’re my family. I’m 45 years old. These are the people with whom I was raised. Similar to your family, they watched me take my first steps, learn to eat solid foods, babysat me, played with me, shared secrets, bought me necessities for school, took me on family vacations, hung out with me at family reunions, paid for my undergraduate education, attended graduations, visited when I birthed my own children, attended my wedding, etc., etc., etc. They did family things, just like your family may have done for you.

Whew! Now that I’ve cleared that up, I’ll write what it means to find and know my biological family.

Until then, let me know what your family situation is. Are you adopted? Have you adopted children? Was it an open/closed adoption? Do you wish you were adopted? lol (I have someone who told me that) Do you have adopted children in your family?

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50 thoughts on “Monday Notes: 3 Points of Clarity about Adoption from an Adoptee

  1. I’m the mom. My kids are my kids. But I do wonder how they will tell their stories as they leave home. Will I always be mom, or will I become the adoptive mom? Time will tell. It’s super sweet right now because they look like us and so when we go new places we can choose to talk or not talk of adoption as we see fit. And no one even suspects if we choose to not talk. It has given my kids a level of freedom to just be themselves. Life is complicated enough without adding a target like “I’m adopted” to it!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I hear you. I think these things manifest differently depending on how you approach/explain adoption and also the outcome of the situation. For example, I found out I was adopted by accident (long story), and then my mother died and my father gave up his parental rights. I’m not sure I would’ve felt the need to question or pursue had either of these events been different, you know?

      Also, it’s cool that your children are comfortable with their situation! That makes a huge difference. And I agree to some degree about not adding “I’m adopted” to it lol I partially agree because part of my issue was I felt shameful, which it doesn’t sound like your kids have an issue with 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Hello, I’m an adoptee. My parents adopted me at 3 months. You nailed every aspect of being an adoptee. Throughout my life I was asked, “is that your real parents?” “Is he your real brother?” “Since you were adopted we aren’t really cousins.” My parents never made me feel different, it was ignorant comments like these that made me feel different as a child. It took a long time to change that. Thanks so much for posting. ❤️

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Nice to meet you Lisa! I think you really did hit the nail on the head when you said “it was ignorant comments that made me feel different as a child.” For me it was that, plus my mother and father weren’t really open to discussing THAT I was adopted, which I understand is a thin line. So, yeah. I had to learn like you, that it was okay and to ignore other people’s comments.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I am in the process of adopting my nephew because my sister (adopted cousin by my parents before she turned 2) was killed in 2017. For now, we live as a normal family but he is separated from his biological sisters. Family around here is so important. Wish me luck that this whole process is seamless.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Best of luck to you and him Brittany! I’m sure as he ages, he’ll want to know where his bio sisters are (if he remembers them). My biological siblings and my cousins on my mother’s side said they always wondered where I was throughout the years.

      As for you, I know you’re fully capable of providing him with what he needs. That’s why you have him ❤

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I was briefly listening to an Australian Show on Netflix and one of the characters said, There is a difference in being related and being family. She stated that family is something you build. I found that to be quite profound. I have paternal cousins to whom I’m related to by blood but they have no notion of family. We’ve been estranged for years. Never speaking. They are toxic, abusive, abnormal and prone to violence. In order to protect my brother Stephen and myself I separated from them and I have nothing to do with them. When they die I will not be attending the funeral which has happened in the past. If I didn’t Love or even like you in life I’m not going to fake it at a funeral. Good riddance to manipulators and abusers.
    Family is and can be created. I’m closer to certain friends than most of my blood relatives.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I completely agree DeBorah. Even in my adopted family, I don’t associate with everyone, and I interact with some more than others for varied reasons. One thing I’ve learned being adopted is exactly what you’ve said. Family is who you make it. Period.

      Liked by 2 people

  5. I’m glad you brought up the point that African American adoptions were not prevalent when you were growing up. I didn’t add that component because you look young in your photo. It is true that in the last 20 years or so things have changed considerably. My first husband (The one who had a child out of wedlock that was given up for adoption.) Actually wound up adopting in his second marriage. That wife wAs unable to conceive and they adopted an adorable African baby boy. He, along with his half sister, were in the wedding party of my oldest son. It was a grand event. My son married a lovely girl from the Philippines, the wedding party looked like the United Nations and I felt so happy… as if all my protesting for equality in the 60’s made a difference. (Don’t get me started on the setbacks due to the current administration!). So I didn’t even think of that extra clog in the wheel of your story. Today, so many of my friends or colleagues have adopted children of various backgrounds that I forget how it was in the past. I’m sorry about that.
    We all have an origin that’s for sure. What’s also interesting is that I’m now finding that my ancestors, because they lived in what was called the Jewish Pale in Europe, often married 3rd or 4th cousins. They were not allowed citizenship in most European countries because they were Jews, and it was against the law for them to marry a gentile. Hence, I am discovering so many people related to me on both my mother and my father’s side due to distant cousins marrying one another. DNA! And my second husband wasn’t Jewish, his father was Portuguese. Well it turns out on that side they were Portuguese Jews! My younger son did his DNA with me to learn about his gentile side only to discover he’s 75 percent Jewish. (Which he said he always felt anyhow. He identified as Jewish even though his father was not.) And his Irish granny on his father’s side is only 2 % Irish. She wasn’t happy about that. Lol ya gotta love science. It brings out all the skeletons in the closet.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I think it’s odd that people feel free to ask you such personal questions! Family can mean so many things, and adopted parents (etc.) are certainly real family. I wasn’t adopted, but my two cousins did come to live with us when I was two and they were 10 and 11, after their mother died. And my Aunt Mickey was adopted as a child, after living in an orphanage for a couple of years. She always told me that the experience of living in the orphanage was hard, but she knew the nuns were doing their best to take care of her and the other children. Family has many meanings…….

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m used to it Ann. They’e mostly friends and I think I have the type of personality that’s open to (authentic) conversations, soooo it happens, but it’s unnerving sometimes lol.

      Thanks also for sharing about your Aunt Mickey. Learning about different family makeups is pretty interesting to me. Sounds like your aunt has a great mindset about her upbringing.

      Like

  7. There are adopted children among family and friends. The question of whether it ‘matters’ is interesting. People often seem to focus on whether someone is a ‘proper’ daughter / son, brother / sister – does it matter. If someone is a ‘half’ sibling, does having a different mother / father matter. Similarly, in newspapers about high-profile people it often says ‘their adopted daughter’ etc. Why not simply put ‘daughter’? I can understand why people want to seek ‘birth families, but in terms of ‘adopted’ circumstances, the distinction is in how we were brought up by and with whom and how we feel about that, surely?

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Very Insightful Doc! You’ve done an excellent job explaining the complexities of family, be them adoptive or biological—there are certain family dynamics that are the same in EITHER case.

    One of my best friends found out she was adopted AFTER her mother died. She was about 33 at the time; her adoptive father passed away when she was 15. She had a VERY complicated childhood as her mother (adoptive) became very ill after her father (adoptive) died…. so she basically raised herself from age 15 on. It was crazy! And needless to say, VERY difficult!

    That said, she just found someone through DNA ancestry who is very close to her and could possibly be the lead to one of her biological parents. So it looks like her history is in the process of being revealed.
    To me, it is amazing how things come to light.
    Thanks for sharing this!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Absolutely Lady G!

      And EEK! Her story sounds similar to mine. I’m finding these ancestry stories are also shedding a lot of light on parents’ secrets that they thought they’d keep forever tucked away in the closet. I know they never imagined a 21st century situation that would reveal all their shenanigans :-/

      Liked by 1 person

  9. A very interesting post. Thank you so much for sharing. My goodness you have been through a lot!!

    I am not quite sure why anyone would have difficulty understanding what an adoptee is. Especially in this day and age. There are so many children who are adopted. Perhaps, I understand so well because being a teacher I came across many children over the years who were adopted, in foster care, or living with a family member for various reasons. And now, since I have done my DNA I have found a 2nd cousin who was adopted and I helped him discover his biological father who happened to be my late mother;s first cousin. He was able to discover his birth mother by requesting his birth certificate but the father was listed unknown. I came up as a either his first cousin once removed or a second cousin through our DNA when he contacted me.

    I started going through my late mother’s old photo albums to look at her younger cousins. He was a ringer for my cousin, Alan, now in his 80’s who I haven;t seen in years.

    My newly discovered cousin never knew he was 50 percent Jewish and is discovering his European Jewish roots. We hope to meet up in person one of these days, but it has been a delightful surprise getting to know him via phone conversations, emails and texts. I have photos of his bio father when he was a young man and I was a little girl. His birth father was a pilot and ironically he is too. Fascinating stuff. He was so grateful that I helped him discover this mystery that has nagged at him for years. His birth mom didn’t want her secret to be known. Her family doesn’t know and since he was born in 1959 the fact that the father was Jewish would have been scandalous. In her mind at least.. Crazy how racism and bigotry affect people. She begged him not to tell her children because the his father was Jewish. As if that would make a difference. So at first she wouldn’t share who his father was. I deduced it right away. But it was;t until he reassured her that he was a successful businessman and didn’t want a dime from her and wouldn’t upset the apple cart that after he asked her using the name I had given him, she was so shocked she admitted it. Rather a sad story that she didn’t even want to see him in person.
    Anyhow, life is complicated. Relationships are conciliated and children love both their adoptive parents because they ARE their parents. And sometimes adoptees feel a connection to their biological parents. Sometimes they don’t. Mostly my cousin wanted answers and he found them. And now we chat and email frequently. When work allows, he will visit.

    It is pretty crazy the things people ask. My first husband had a child out of wedlock and the mother of that baby chose to give her up. That child found my ex husband when she turned 21. My (our) son was 24 by then and when he discovered he had a sister he flew out and met her. They have a relationship and she even came to his wedding many years later to be apart of the festivities. So sometimes things work out. My side of the family is very welcoming. I have two natural born sons one from each of my husbands. I divorced one husband, the other died. Such is life.

    Having dealt with students who had aunts, grandmothers or older siblings raise them due to parents being determined unfit, incarcerated, or other circumstances, I have found that those children are just like any other child I taught. Since I taught gifted students, all my “kids” were in the top 1 or 2 percent and thus brilliant and wonderful. I loved them all and whoever took care of them, biological or not, it didn’t matter. The children were awesome. I often think of one amazingly bright little girl. Her mother was a drug addict, gave her to her sister to raise and left town. This child knew that and despite the odds was extraordinary. Her aunt did her best, working several jobs because she took care of 2 of her sister’s children and those kids were so kind, loving and grateful. They didn’t have much money so on teacher appreciation day or Christmas this sweet child would write me a poem or a story and make me lovely origami animals. Her genuine kindness and gratitude was extraordinary. On valentine’s day I bought several extra sets of cards and would give them to the children whose parents I knew wouldn’t buy them any valentines to pass out. You would have thought I given this little girl the world!!! Quite honestly, I would have adopted that little darling myself if she were in foster care and not with her aunt who was her legal guardian. To this day, I have in a memory notebook some of the sweet notes she wrote me. At the end of the school year her biological mother returned and she was so thrilled. I met her at a class play and didn’t get a particularly good vibe from her. Sadly the woman only stayed a week and crushed this child’s hopes and dreams. Some people are just not meant to be parents. But, fortunately they do create the most wonderful, strong, inspiring children. Whoever raises them deserves to be called Mom or Dad. And these beautiful adopted children are survivors in a way. They are pretty special in my opinion.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks again Lesley. I appreciate the thoughtful comment.

      I think sometimes people’s ignorance/misunderstanding about it is sometimes cultural. Formal adoption for African Americans wasn’t really a common thing back in the day. I mean, I know several people who were raise by their grandparents due to things you’ve mentioned you’ve observed with students, but nothing really really formal, you know?

      These messy (but helpful) DNA stories are getting to be quite popular. Thanks also for sharing the two that you did. If I’ve learned anything at all, it’s that we all have an origin story. Sometimes they’re super beautiful and other times, well…it is what it is, I suppose.

      I also loved hearing about your former student. Being an educator, I can relate completely. So, to get back to your first point, I agree this is why you (and I) probably have a drop more empathy and understanding for different situations. We know firsthand that ANYTHING is possible when it comes to students’ and children’s backgrounds. There are no wild stories lol

      Liked by 1 person

  10. My paternal Grandma’s birth mother passed away during childbirth. My grandma was the 13th child. Her father was a preacher who was a rolling stone. A neighbor asked could she raise my GM and he obliged.

    My grandma did not know that the woman who raised her was not her BM until her grandkids told about because they were being mean.

    The “adoptive” mom got very sick and was unable to care for my GM. At age 13 she was sent back to her dad. He was preoccupied with his new wife and her 5 kids. A few years later, my GM met my GF. They got married at age 16 and 26. My Dad is the oldest of 7.

    My grandma, at age 94 just told me this whole story during our last visit.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Good grief Kelsie! It’s a wonder any of us make it through life intact with some of the things we endure. Although I personally understand there’s no great time to bring up one’s background, I wonder why she waited so long to tell you this?

      Like

    1. Heeey Neil! She is. I’ve written about her a few times. The latest was “The Greatest Thing About My Grannie.” She always says, she did it without question because my mother had asked her to well before she died.

      Liked by 1 person

  11. Oh my… ready? lol
    I have a biological mother, father and two stepfathers. One half-sister, as far as I know three half-brothers, two stepbrothers. In addition, for many years one step-niece and two step-nephews, who in my mind became sister and brothers too.
    My ex-husband is the youngest brother of my second stepfather…because I thought it was not complex enough, hahaha.
    Lots of grandparents, all no longer living.
    Anyways, today I have contact with my biological mother and the two stepfathers and one half-brother. Oh yes, and one stepmother.
    Looking forward to the rest of your story 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Patty. I already knew we had the Gemini thing to bond us, and I knew about your step-fathers and your bio mom. Buuuut, your ex-hubby was your step-uncle? Yeah, that’s a lot lol

      Stay tuned! It’s coming in a couple weeks ❤

      Liked by 1 person

      1. yeah..you know, he was a couple of years older…my ticket out of the turbulent merge family 😉 Not a good base to start a relationship on, now I know, but fortunately we learned this together and after 13 years (including one year of marriage) we got secure enough to part.
        Weeks! Ok, good test for this impatience woman, lol

        Liked by 1 person

  12. Kathy, you are supremely kind to approach all these as a ‘teachable moments’ rather than writing everyone off. I wasn’t adopted, nor have I said such thoughtless things to folks who were adopted — but I’ve definitely said my share of stupid things to people about other stuff. We should all be as patient & wise as you ❤

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Haha! I’m “supremely kind” on this blog. My hubby hears all the unkind thoughts I have as I process people’s conversations with me.

      And you’re right. We’ve all made an ignorant comment at some point lol 😉

      Liked by 2 people

  13. My best friend’s uncle is adopted. He was never treated differently – he was only two years older than us. We never wondered about him or thought he was different in any case. I’m sorry people ask you those questions. family isn’t just blood, my mom always told me.

    Liked by 2 people

  14. Not adopted. There is adoption in my extended family, but it was always kept quiet. I do have friends who have adopted though. I can’t believe the things people ask you….

    Liked by 1 person

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