Adoption – Your “own” children?

I have had a relatively long familiarity with adoption; my youngest sister was adopted as a baby when I was a teenager. For years before that, my mother was a foster parent for children who were on their way to adoptive families. And as an adult, I have volunteered extensively for foster, adoptive and children’s advocacy organizations. So, basically it has always been something that is sort of “no big deal” to me – some children are born biologically to the parents, some children are adopted. Whichever they are, it really doesn’t matter, it’s just the way they arrived. Like being born C-section or regular birth, with blue eyes or brown eyes. No big deal.

However, I sometimes realize that this familiarity and acceptance of the various ways that families become families is somewhat unusual – in other words, a lot of people actually still seem to feel that an adoptive family isn’t perhaps a “real” family. That adopted kids aren’t really “your” kids. Although most of the people who feel this way, I believe, are just clueless and maybe think that because they have no real experience of it, at the same time it’s a troubling train of thought.

This is on my mind after being brought home to me again, by a woman who has adopted two children from India. She wrote to me after reading my book, to tell me how the book resonated with her and to tell me the story of her family. I wrote about it on this Weight of Silence blog; you can read her story here.

One day she posted about a disturbing encounter she had:

Talking to a very nice lady who was oohing and aahing over our littlest two and how they are so amazing and asking all sorts of questions about their adoption. I asked her if she was thinking of adopting and she exclaimed (in front of Bubbly and Sara), ‘Oh no! I want to have my OWN children.'”

I realize that the woman in question meant no harm, but was rather ignorant and extremely insensitive. However, this type of belief and attitude is very disturbing. Especially when there are “real” parents all over the world, by the millions, who aren’t any kind of parents at all. Who abuse their kids, neglect them, abandon them…and then there are the parents and children who were meant to be families from the start, and who find each other because they are parents and children of the heart, which is just as strong as blood.

It is one of the strongest, most important lessons I have learned all through my life: Genetics have NOTHING to do with what makes a family. Family is all about love.

Pass it on.

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About Shelley Seale

Shelley is a wanderer and student of the world, yoga chick, voracious reader and dog lover. She pounds the keyboard as a freelance writer, author and publication designer, based in Austin, Texas when she isn't traipsing around the globe. Shelley has written for National Geographic, USA Today, The Guardian, The Week, Fodor's, The Telegraph and Texas Monthly, among others. Shelley has performed a catch on the flying trapeze, boarded down a live volcano, and was once robbed by a monkey in India. But she doesn’t know how to whistle.

Posted on June 15, 2010, in adoption, children, India and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. Thank you for putting into such clear, simple yet eloquent words what goes into making a REAL family….such as ours. I’ve always known you totally & completely embrace Katie as your REAL sister every bit as much as Amy, who is your blood sister. However, it always makes a mom feel warm & grateful to hear it put into words. We, as many people would think, are not the so-called “normal” family; but then I always say what is “normal” with anything in life. Yet anyone who has known us for many years as well as those who have come to know us more recently could attest to the truth that our family is no different from most others. We don’t always agree, we sometimes argue & hurt each others feelings; but any one of us would kill for the other. On most days we don’t even think about the fact that Katie is adopted….only when some outside force reminds us do we even remember that fact. So many times I have referred to something about her that would actually require her to have our genes only to think “oh thats not true”. I have definitely come to the realization, at least my realization, that environment is, for the most part, much more important & meaningful in a person’s development than genetics. If only everyone could truly see & experience what it means to accept & love unconditionally all your children as I have. I can truly say without reservation, having raised both biological & adopted daughters, that I feel absolutely no difference in any of the three. Yes, I have different relationships with each but that is only because they are different people with totally different personalities; nothing related to genetics at all. Like you said, there are so many children born to parents who don’t truly appreciate them or even know what to do with them or how to parent them. Does that make them more of a “normal” family? I think not. Blood does not a family make; but love does….complete & totally unconditional love.

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