Saturday, August 20, 2011

Adoption Vocabulary

I heard a story the other day from a man who was promoting genealogical work. The story referred to a man who was adopted at birth and was now over 70 years old. This man attended a genealogical workshop where he was able to use new FamilySearch programs to locate the information for his birth family. The man telling the story concluded with, “can you imagine how amazing it was for this man to finally find the information for his REAL family?” I was stunned.

I am soon to be the mother of three adopted children. I have never met the birth parents of my children but I think of them often. I hope to one day meet them. I want to thank them for the immeasurable gift that they gave me and our family. They brought our precious children into this world. Our children carry their DNA and therefore have physical characteristics that undoubtedly resemble those of their birth parents. I think that my children are perfectly beautiful and I am grateful for these genetic contributions. In a world where abortion is so prevalent, I am grateful that our children’s birth parents chose to give our children life. I have all the admiration in the world for birth parents. Without them many families would be incomplete. Ours is one of those families.

With all of the appreciation, admiration, and gratitude that I have for birth parents, I cringe when someone refers to birth parents as “real parents.” I agree that these individuals play an irreplaceable role in the lives of adopted children. However, are the parents who sacrifice on a daily basis in the caring and rearing of a child not “REAL” parents? Is the couple who prays and pleads to the Lord for a child and then is willing to subject themselves to the financial and emotional difficulties in adopting a child not considered “real” parents? Is the mother who feeds, cleans, educates, chauffeurs, and plays with a child everyday not a “real” mother? Is the father who works to provide a home, food, medical care, toys, and schooling for a child not a “real” father? Is the couple who raised the man in the story through to adulthood and then continued to love and support for an additional 50 years not his “real” parents? Of course they are.

Adopted children have two sets of parents. They have “birth” parents and they have “adoptive” parents. Many children who are adopted struggle with identity issues especially in their teenage years. Many, although not all, adopted children have questions about their birth parents and their biological ancestors. Adoptive families and adopted children need the support of family, friends, and others in the community during these times of questioning.

One of the easiest ways to offer this support is to use correct vocabulary. When an adopted child hears someone refer to their birth parents as their “real” parents, they are confused and feel like others do not see them as a vital and “real” part of their family. It is my plea, as an adoptive mother, that everyone use a vocabulary that allows adopted children and adoptive families to feel the forever bond that they have. It is truly time, love, sacrifice and commitment that make a “real” family.

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