On Adoption: “When are your REAL parents coming back for you?”
Even though I haven’t seen my friend Kelly in over 28 years, I still feel like securing a large piece of electrical tape over my mouth every time I think about her. Kelly was one of the first friends I made in Ms. Lefever’s kindergarten class after moving to the United States, and the first to invite me to her home for a playdate.
While playing with her impressive collection of stuffed animals, she assigned two of the larger stuffed raccoons as adoptive parents of a smaller koala bear. Eager to learn a new English word, I asked her to explain what “adoptive” meant.
“It’s when a baby grows in one lady’s stomach and then she lets another lady be the mom. I’m adopted too,” Kelly explained.
The concept of adoption seemed strange and possibly illegal to me, so I pried, “When is your real mom coming back for you?”
Even at the age of five, Kelly exhibited a level of patience I still lack at the age of 32. “No, silly, my mom is my real mom.”
I try to remember my past ignorance and Kelly’s grace when my own daughter is asked these kinds of questions. And just like my childhood friend, Cal answers from a place of confidence when others ask where her “real” father is or how it feels to have a man “pop up” in her life at the age of seven to be her dad. If Harv is around when people try to make sense of how our family came to be, Cal waves in his direction and says with ease, “That’s my real dad. He’s my only dad. He takes care of me and he loves me.” One time, I think I heard her add something about how she likes that her dad laughs at all of her mom’s jokes no matter what, but I just brushed it off. All of my jokes are funny. I must have misunderstood her.
And when my 13-year-old addresses the seven years she spent without a father, she simply says, “I had to wait for my dad. But it was worth it.”
It doesn’t seem to bother her that people poke at the validity of the bond she shares with her father. She recognizes that an absence of understanding in others doesn’t detract from the love she receives and gives to the man who will love her always, in all ways.
I’m tempted to write about the answers I’ve given in the past when people ask me when I’m going to have another baby so I can give my husband a “real” child of his own, but then it would be apparent that I don’t keep my own childhood ignorance in mind all of the time. Also, who needs that kind of profanity in a blog post about family love and commitment? Let’s just say I’ve learned to modulate the shrillness in my voice while I say as evenly as I can that Harv already has a child of his own and that he’s an amazing father to our daughter.
I understand now that where we start is our biology and the road we travel is our biography. And whether we gain the parents we have through biology or biography, the end result can be the same- a happy family.
When I think of all the Kellys and Cals, I feel a deep sense of sadness that some people will never accept this concept. To these people, a “real” family starts in only one way. Any other permutation is seen as a makeshift solution, a model plastered together with imperfect seams and ill-fitting pieces.
I guess they haven’t been lucky enough to experience love by choice, and not by chance.
Happy Father’s Day, Harv. Both Cal and I are lucky as hell to have you in our biography.