My good friend (my #BFFL) Sarah over at Journeys of the Zoo just shared a draft with me of a post she’s working on for Adoption Awareness Month. As I was reading it I was actually not surprised at how similar her thoughts on this topic are to my own. You see not only are we best friends but we are also both adopted. In fact our birthdays are just days apart and I occasionally joke that we might actually be long lost twins.
I knew from a young age that I was adopted. I think I was around 9 or 10 years old when my parents told me. I remember that day very well. It was life altering – but it wasn’t my life that was altered that day. What I remember, more than anything, was the response this news created for my older brother. He was devastated. And it wasn’t because he felt he had lost something. I was still his sister and he knew that. But he couldn’t quite wrap his head around what it meant. He was filled with guilt. Guilt about every single mean thing he had ever done to me. Like somehow I was suddenly more fragile and not the younger but bigger sister that could easily kick his butt. He feared that if he continued to be mean to me (and he wasn’t really that mean in those days, we were just kids) that my “real parents” would come and take me away. It was a tough day for him. But he managed to get over it pretty quickly and we resumed life exactly as it was before the “news”.
How did this information affect me? Well, to be frank, it didn’t affect me. At least not much. Just like many other adoptees I occasionally used that information as a way to try and lash out at my mother during heated arguments as a teenager. She took it in stride, at least outwardly she did. I didn’t spend much time thinking about family that I never knew. I can’t say I NEVER thought about it growing up but it certainly didn’t occupy much of my time. In fact it wasn’t until I was in my mid 20s that I went through the process of finding out information about my birth family. And when I was 30 I actually found my birth mother. She decided to not acknowledge my existence. Of course that stung and I have been trying for some time now to locate my two half siblings – with no luck. But as much as it sucked that she decided to completely ignore me it didn’t change anything. It wasn’t a life altering moment. Rejection from my mother was nothing new to me.
So it sounds like I might have a story to tell after all. Maybe, a short one. Here is it. I had a horrible relationship with my mother. When I say mother I mean the mother that raised me. I think we did ok when I was very young but right around those teenage years things started to go sour and they never really got better. I am now 42 and haven’t talked to her (expect at funerals and weddings) in about 5 years. Kind of sad I suppose. But the thing is that story has nothing to do with me being adopted. Well, at least to me it doesn’t. I certainly can’t get into her head and say that with any certainty. Maybe to her it is a factor. I’d be willing to bet if it is she doesn’t even realize it. But there is a really, really good chance that even if it had been her that gave birth to me our relationship would have turned out exactly the same as it is now. Sometimes things just go that way. Sometimes people just aren’t the best parents and that has nothing to do with adoption.
The bottom line is that I am ok. Being adopted didn’t scar me. It didn’t create this everlasting emotional baggage that means people have to walk on eggshells around me. I’m just a person that was once a kid raised by parents that maybe did their best but maybe their best just wasn’t quite up to par. End of story. Yet people throughout the years always wanted to make me feel that being adopted is a big deal. And, frankly, I don’t get that. Why would you want to take a reasonably functional kid and try and make them feel different from everyone around them? The last thing this redheaded nerd needed was to feel different. Being adopted didn’t make my any more important than any other kid. It didn’t mean my parents loved me more because they “picked” me. They didn’t pick me. I was a baby. They didn’t know how I was going to turn out. Just like any other parent has no idea. I am neither ashamed nor do I feel accomplished for being adopted. It just is. Just like my eyes are blue.
So I will continue to search for my siblings, because, well, I just think it would be really cool to meet them. I will continue to refer to my parents, the ones who raised me, even though we no longer have a relationship, as my parents because, well, that’s what they are. And it’s really not any more complicated than that. At least for me. I know this isn’t every adoptees story, there are so many different circumstances and factors. But this is my story and it’s actually a story that could be told (maybe minus the estranged parents part) by many others like me.