Our Parents Are Our Parents
To make this a little clearer: please stop asking us who our “real parents” are. I know it’s usually a small mistake, but the amount of times I have been asked, “So, who are your real parents?” (or variations of it) is exhausting. The question implies that our parents are not actually parents to us, which is harmful to our families. In my case–and many international adoptees’ cases– I do not think of it like that at all. My adoptive mother is my mother, both legally and emotionally. Just because we happen to not share DNA, it doesn’t mean she is any less of a mother to me. Also, even if you would want to ask about an adoptee’s story, please use the term “birth parents,” not “real parents.”
Learn more about Positive Adoption Language.
This is why when some people have asked if I miss my birth parents, I have to tell them that I don’t, really. Contrary to popular belief, it’s not out of hate or spite (and sometimes I wish I knew more about them), but I personally cannot say that I miss people whom I have never met. There exists an odd, very distant sort of feeling for them, but it’s less I-miss-my-birth-parents and more I-wonder-about-them-occasionally. This is not an uncommon feeling among adoptees.
I wonder if they are avid book-lovers, like I am. I wonder if they think about me. I wonder if the reason I’m so short is because of their genetics, or because I don’t exercise enough. But when I think about warm embraces, feeling safe, talking about life, and all that good stuff– it’s not my birth parents that come to mind. I don’t imagine a what-if-they-were-here-to-give-me-all-that scenario. I picture my mom and feel content knowing that when my birth parents were in a situation where they couldn’t, she was here to do that.
Not All Adoptees Are Traumatized
Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of situations where adoptees can feel some of the negative impacts of the adoption. Abandonment issues, attachment disorders, and other conditions can and do happen. It is important that we acknowledge those things, and help those who struggle with them. However, I have noticed that not every adoptee has a huge, life-changing trauma to deal with (at least, not tied to the adoption specifically). For some of us, our adoption story is a part of who we are, but it is not a significant source of trauma.
A few people have approached me in the past and talked about how inevitably sad my story must be. There have been countless questions about why my birth parents “didn’t want me” and what circumstances “would lead them to do such a thing.” Personally, I wish people would stop it with the victimization. Yes, there are parts of my story that are sad, but that doesn’t mean I am a woeful child always wistfully staring out the window wondering how my birth parents could have done this. To be completely honest, since my adoption occurred at a super young age, I go through most of my daily life forgetting about it– because for me it is normal. It’s just my life to go home to a mom who doesn’t look like me. I think sometimes people get so caught up in their curiosity about our backstories that they forget to think about us in the present tense. We have lives outside of our birth parent’s decision, we live on, and we might not even think about it until someone else brings it up.
Adoption Is Not Second best.
Adoption may be presented as an alternative option for some families, but that does not make it the lesser or second-best option. The idea of adoption being used only as a last resort has always gotten on my nerves, for a couple of reasons.
The first is because in my case it wasn’t the last resort, but many people might assume that it was. When people hear that my sister and I live in a single-parent household, they automatically think that there was a divorce, or that our father tragically died young, or any number of other sad situations. In reality, our mother just really felt like adoption was the right option for her, with or without a spouse. She has expressed multiple times that she just knew that she wanted to adopt regardless of who was with her.
The second reason is that it feels dismissive and diminishing. While it is rarely said in blatant statements, this notion that adoption is a backup resource for having children leads to people making a lot of harmful assumptions. People say, “Oh, you were adopted? Did your parents try everything? Could your mom just not find someone to marry? Was it fertility issues?” This is not to make light of any of those situations, but I would like to know why people can’t just be adopted because a parent wanted to do so. There always seems to be some kind of but-surely-something-else-was-tried-first mentality. Growing up and hearing the implication that your story is supposedly not as good and not natural compared to families with biological children is frustrating (to say the least).
There are a lot of birth parent and expectant parent stories out there. I think it would be really great to fill in the triad and start learning more about adoptees’ stories.
Mahli Rupp was adopted at 9 months old. She is an avid reader who loves to write and attempt other arts such as drawing, painting, and singing. She is almost always willing to share her experiences in adoption and answer questions whenever she can. Mahli will begin college as an English major and hopes to use her writing skills in whatever path her life brings. When she isn’t huddled in her bedroom with a good book or movie, you can find her hanging out with friends or in a bookstore.