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Elizabeth Jayne Liu on adoption

On Adoption: “When are your REAL parents coming back for you?”

By Elizabeth Jayne Liu

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.

Elizabeth Jayne Liu on adoption

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.

About the Author

Elizabeth Jayne Liu

Elizabeth started her blog, Flourish in Progress, on her thirtieth birthday to chronicle a yearlong shopping ban. Surprisingly, she s...

Elizabeth started her blog, Flourish in Progress, on her thirtieth birthday to chronicle a yearlong shopping ban. Surprisingly, she survived, and now records a series of weekly challenges called Monday Dares. She fails a lot.

Elizabeth writes candidly about her former addictions, love of four-letter words, and her affinity for all things rap. She lives in Los Angeles with her husband, whom she married after dating for just eighteen days, her 13-year-old daughter, and her complete collection of Yo! MTV Raps Trading Cards.

Connect with Elizabeth on The Huffington Post, Facebook, and Instagram (@flourishinprogress).

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Natasha
Guest
Natasha

Thank you!!!!! ‘Our’ oldest (she’s 9) is not biologically ‘his’. But boy oh boy don’t tell either one of them that! That is her daddy. One of his brother even tried to get Lu to call hubs step dad, and he got the talking to of his life 🙂 also, Cal sounds like the most awesome child ever so you are doing a great job!

Leigh Ann
Guest

“I understand now that where we start is our biology and the road we travel is our biography.” That line totally blew me away.

Lovely piece. My sister is a single mom and her daughter is just now starting to ask questions about her absent dad. I hope she’s able to find a man like Harv who will love her like his own someday.

Isabel Kallman
Admin

WORD.

Candy
Guest
Candy

In my years … many years, haha … of life on this earth, I’ve discovered that, oftentimes, children understand and process issues much more easily than we adults could ever begin to. I think it’s because they haven’t yet experienced much of life’s negative, hurtful, shameful, etc experiences which can pollute their emotions and decision making. They still possess unaltered, fresh, pure, young hearts and minds, capable of things far beyond that of an adult. At least, that’s my theory.  With all this said, I can so relate. My husband and I adopted a “child.” I put child in quotes… Read more »

Anna
Guest

Love this. It’s really fantastic you can remember this childhood story, and that your friend’s answer has stayed with you all these years. xo

mrsbourne
Guest
mrsbourne

Beautiful piece!!  Especially loved Cal’s answer about having to wait for her dad, but it being worth it.  So perfect! I was adopted as an infant 30-something years ago and grew up understanding this.  I remember some friends not “getting” it, but I never had issues with it myself.  What has been interesting to me is the process my own children have gone through trying to understand that I didn’t “grow in Nana’s tummy.”  They’re tweens now, but once the concept of adoption was introduced,  it took some time and many repeated discussions to understand that “Nana” is my “real”… Read more »

Chelsi Leigh
Guest

I’ve got tons of friends who’ve adopted, and I find myself saying stupid stuff ALL THE TIME. So I really appreciate it when people, like you, take the time to educate awkward friends like me.

As for Cal, that girl is pretty incredible.

Dawn
Guest
Dawn

I love this SO much!

Isabel Kallman
Admin

me too!

Isabel Kallman
Admin

and thank you for the kind words. we always love to hear them. 😉

Michelle
Guest
Michelle

I truly love this post! Generally speaking, I don’t usually comment on the various blogs I read, but this is special – you see I’m 1 of 5 kids. 2 of my sisters and I are the ‘Cals’ in our family. We were blessed with and amazing step-father, though noone would ever know he is anything but our dad. I say blessed because without him my sisters and I would not have been complete. He is my daddy. He is who I cried to he first time I was dumped. He is who walked me down the aisle. He is… Read more »

Kat
Guest
Kat

Such a great post. I was adopted by a generous and loving aunt and uncle when it was apparent that my biological father was no longer able to raise me. They mean the world to me, and treat me just like a daughter, despite taking me in a little later (16). They are now my son’s favorite people, and the only grandparents he knows from my family. Thanks to their love and support, I now have a happy little family of my own, and am so proud to call them my parents – it’s not always who “had you”, it’s… Read more »

Kristin Shaw (Two Cannoli)
Guest

What a gorgeous post! So much love. My aunt was adopted by my grandparents when she was 5, and I’m so lucky that we have her in our family.

Víctor
Guest
Víctor

Reallly love it reading this lines again and again…
😀