I wrote once before about one of my favorite childhood sitcoms that I used to watch, “I Dream Of Jeannie.” I referred to an episode where she discovered that she did not know her actual birthday, and the many questions that brought up. It led to her slumping into despair, to the point, that she was fading away, little by little, because she was so sad about that fact.
It was an incident with my daughters and a class assignment that prompted that post. And though I do not recall how long ago it was, it has been more than five years ago. Sadly, it happened again.
I try not to be over sensitive to ignorance about adoption, especially international adoption, and generally only react when it is racist in intent. But once again, another assignment, has provoked a sickening pit in my stomach. My daughter is to interview her parents on what it was like for them to experience my daughter’s birth.
My daughters both know they are adopted, duh. Although there is an inside joke, that even they partake in, that they have my eyes and hair, coincidence of course as I am not Asian, but have the feature of almond-shaped eyes. They do not shy away from the fact they are adopted, but they do not dwell on it either. My daughters have a father and mother. They experience things just like other kids. While they are aware of their culture, they immerse themselves as much as they wish, or not. So, both of my daughters pretty much go through life, like everyone else, not giving it any thought. They are who they are.
In full disclosure, the particular daughter who got this assignment, does not give it much thought when someone asks an ignorant question or makes an inappropriate comment. So, yes, it is me, the parent making the big deal. Because some day, someone saying the wrong thing, the wrong day, will make a difference to her. And really, it should not be this big a deal to handle differently. In fact, she has actually taken upon it herself.
As we reviewed the set of questions that she is supposed to ask me about her birth and our experience, since it is her paper and not mine, she will not need to submit my answers to the eight questions, which all are the same reply, “I was adopted. My parents do not know what it is like.” Take that.
Now, if you are bothered by that answer, do not blame me. That is the truth to questions that were being asked. It would not be the essay that her teacher would be looking for, but she would at least be answering the questions honestly, and if it shocks or hurts her teacher’s feelings, who cares? Her teacher did not care in assigning those questions.
Fortunately, my daughter is a bit more thoughtful. She also took is taking the assignment in a different direction, while still answering the questions, something the teacher could have done.
In the past, we have talked with each other, about the “why” my daughters were adopted, and the “how” the experiences were to us. I explained that the only difference between adoption and actual birthing to becoming a parent, is the physical process itself. Emotionally, the experiences are very similar.
It is because of those prior discussions, she has re-written her questions, so that she does not have to ask her parents anything about what it was like to be pregnant and experience childbirth, yet still explain what it was like to become parents. Because honestly, this type of assignment could trigger any number of issues emotionally for my daughters.
But my daughter will have answers to questions like “did you know your gender before you were born?” (we actually did not know if we were adopting a daughter or son until we were informed)or “how did your parents prepare for your arrival?” (we decorated the nursery and child-proofed the house just like everybody else, oh, we did have travel arrangements to make) or “what was that moment like when I was placed in your arms?” (an unbelievable sense of joy). Do you see how easy it is to ask a question, neutral to either biological parenting or adoption? My teenage daughter figured it out, why can’t a college educated teacher, or Ph. D’s in the curriculum department figure that out.
It is not about not realizing there is actual blood on the other side of the world. They both know that they have biological parents, somewhere. And when the time comes, I have promised them, that we would do a heritage trip, if they wished, to visit where they are from, and quite possibly, meet people who took care of them in the earliest of their days. And yes, if they desired to seek out their birth parents, I would help them.
You see? It is not the fact that their being adopted is the problem, it is that there are still to many who see this of having no value or importance, whether intentionally, or by ignorance. I have allowed them to ask as much as they want, learn as much as they want. But at no point, will I ever make them feel any less, just because they did not come from my blood. Make no mistake, my daughters are my world. And this world is a better place because they are in it. It does not matter how, but at least be aware there is more than one option.