I got a text from a friend who saw us in the parent drop-off line. She was saying how they were looking at our Star Wars stick family on the back of the van and naming the kids. Antwan had slipped their mind. She also mentioned that her daughter had asked if we had any “real” kids. (Thud.) She went on to say that she embarked on a pre-drop off life lesson speech and reminded her that she, herself, was in a “real” family.
Now, since I had changed cell phones and not saved my contacts, I was confused. And sad. I was sad that this child innocently saw my kids as not real, in a way. That’s when I started writing a blog post in my head! 😉 And, I was confused by her reference to her own family. But, her follow-up response cleared it up.
The text was from, as I call her, the other transracial adopter in our area. She and I are very different people. I doubt that I’d drag her to a sci-fi convention in a costume, but I definitely like her. And, it sure is nice to have someone else around here who gets it.
So, I then understood why she reminded her daughter that her family was “real.” But, I also realized that, on some level, this little girl was defining herself that way. And, that breaks my heart.
Why do adoptive families/adoptees get sensitive about terminology? That’s why. It’s sad and frustrating that society perceives adopted families as less than real. It’s horrible that a child would think of herself that way.
So, what is real?
Well, google says….
adjective: real; comparative adjective: realer; superlative adjective: realest
actually existing as a thing or occurring in fact; not imagined or supposed.
“Julius Caesar was a real person”
used to emphasize the significance or seriousness of a situation or circumstance.
“there is a real danger of civil war”
relating to something as it is, not merely as it may be described or distinguished.
(of a substance or thing) not imitation or artificial; genuine.
“the earring was presumably real gold”
true or actual.
“his real name is James”
(of a person or thing) rightly so called; proper.
“he’s my idea of a real man”
“my head hurts real bad”
Well, “my head hurt real bad,” this morning, when Antwan and Lizzie talked loudly and excitedly when I stumbled out of my bedroom. That was definitely real. I didn’t imagine that.
We live together, love together, fight together, and thrive together. (I know, that was a little cheesy, but you get the idea.)
We are a real family. We are “actually existing as a thing or occurring in fact; not imagined or supposed.”
A judge slammed his gavel after we filled out a lot of paperwork, got finger prints, and impressed case workers. He made us legal family. He gave us the same legal rights that other families have. He made their names “Parker.” And, he assured us that nobody could come and take them away because they decided that another living situation might be better for them. He gave me the right to authorize whatever medical treatment that I saw fit for my kids without having to show a red folder or explain who I was. But, did he make us a real family? Not really.
That just is.
What’s a real family? Is it shared biology or shared blood and DNA? Yes and no. If I slit my wrist and slit my children’s wrists and tied them together like they do in a traditional Scottish wedding (Yes, I’ve been watching too much “Outlander.”), we’d be sharing more blood than we are now. Would it be more real? Not really, I’d just be in a lot of legal trouble… 😉
Is it carrying a child inside you and experiencing the miracle of, but not altogether pleasant, experience of childbirth? Yes and no.
Is it unconditional love? Loyalty? Security? Permanent? Is it a safe haven? A place to go home for the holidays? A place to be the real you? Yep!
There was even a time when it messed with my head a little. So, I can see why it would confuse others. The randomness of how we became a family. The fact that they are our kids because the judge said so is just bizarre, in a way. The idea that if a case worker didn’t happen to see our home study or didn’t like us or the boys didn’t like us, then we could have ended up with different kids; it’s weird. It’s real, but it’s random.
But, then I thought about it.
If you believe that it’s all random, then, sure, it really is confusing. But, if you believe that things happen for a reason like we do, then you’ll agree that it’s not random at all. You’ll agree that we are all supposed to be together. That the universe made sure that the judge slammed his gavel and that the case workers liked us. That the universe brought our kids to us as definitively as it brought biological children to their biological parents. Because we belong together and we are meant to be a real family.
On the day that we officially adopted William and Antwan, we had the opportunity to say a few words. When it was Brian’s turn to explain why we wanted to adopt them, he said many wonderful things. But, my favorite statement he made was “These are my sons, to the exclusion of any others.” Meaning, it’s not random at all. They are supposed to be ours. They were always supposed to be ours.
So, to my friend’s daughter who might have thought of herself as less than real, in some moments; you are wrong. (But, in the best way, possible.) You are their real daughter and you are part of a real family. It is “genuine.” It is “true.” It is real. Please, believe that. And, in answer to your question, we do have real kids and their names are Kaleb, William, Antwan, and Elizabeth. We are their real parents and they are really lovable, exhausting, challenging, adorable, and ours. Really, really, ours.