Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Adoption and "Real" Families

I was adopted as an infant, brought home when I was nine weeks old on a day full of vivid images—my mom’s nervousness, the drive down to Los Angeles, their first impressions of me—not my own memories, of course, but the story as it was told to me many times.  As a child, I thought the adoption agency was like a big grocery store, where my parents walked down the aisles, looking for just the right baby.  It never made me feel anything but special and this is entirely to their credit. 

November, aside from being National Novel Writing Month (go fellow nanowrimos! and yes, I’ve got my word count done for the day), is also National Adoption Month.  Here’s the official proclamation from the president.  I think it’s beautifully stated.

It’s an issue near and dear to my heart, and I thought I’d give some helpful advice as you navigate through the month. 

First, although it is indeed a special process, children procured through adoption aren’t, eventually, any different from any others.  They don’t have to be referred to at parties as “the Smith’s adopted daughter.”  If the Smiths have shown up with a previously unknown twelve-year-old, maybe some introductions are in order but really, otherwise it doesn’t matter.  And this applies, I would think, especially to cases where the child in question is obviously not a dropping from the family apple tree, genetically speaking.  If you are genuinely curious about the adoption, by all means—ask.  But after some time, not as an introduction. 

Another item:  someone’s “real” mother is the one who provided the clothing and food, the hugs and encouragement, the punishment and direction.  You know, the one who loves you no matter what an ass you can be at times.  If you have a relationship with your other mom, the one who was brave enough to offer you a better life than what she could offer at the time…well, that person is the “biological” mother.

These are just my opinions.  After all, it’s my blog.  Adoption has been an important aspect of my life.  I wrote my first novel based on my experiences of finding my biological family, and being chosen in this special way has given me an appreciation for all real families, built however people choose to build them.  If you’re an adoptee and curious, you can start here, as I did.  But there are countless online resources available now.  On the political side, you can learn about the efforts to unseal adoption records in California here


  1. Good post, Mary.

    I agree with what you say about "real". I have two dads - a step-dad, who arrived when I was two, and a biological one who was there before that. I spend time with both but don't ever refer to the man who raised me as "step-dad" - he's just "dad".

    Confuses other people for me to talk about my dad and my dad... ha ha... but *I* know which one I mean at any given point!

    A bit less emphasis on biological equating to "real" can only be a good thing if it lessens the perception of some that for those unable to have their own kids biologically, everything else is somehow a second-best option.

  2. Adopting - it's such an awkward term for a welcomed child. You're expressing what matters. The post made me think of Khalil Gibran's words ... Your children are not your children. They are the sons and daughters of Life's longing for itself. They come through you but not from you. And though they are with you yet they belong not to you ...

  3. We have a beautiful picture book with those words of Gibran's. This reminded me to take another look at it.


"As soon as we express something, we devalue it strangely. We believe ourselves to have dived down into the depths of the abyss, and when we once again reach the surface, the drops of water on our pale fingertips no longer resemble the ocean from which they came...Nevertheless, the treasure shimmers in the darkness unchanged." ---Franz Kafka