I don’t think I noticed how many idiots are walking around until I adopted a child. I’m Jewish, so I’m familiar with people assuming and spewing ridiculous things about that, but adoption idiots didn’t start popping up until we adopted — or maybe I just didn’t notice them.
Either way, they’re out there.
One of my most memorable adoption conversations, something you should never say to an adoptive parent, was with a total stranger. I was running errands with my baby (adopted only a few months earlier) and I was “blah blah blah” with her as we strolled the aisles.
A friendly stranger started responding to me since my baby wasn’t, and before I knew it, we were trading witty remarks and making jokes about some of the products I had in my cart. The man seemed genuinely interested in conversing with us (and I’ll talk to pretty much anyone), so we hung out with him for a bit.
It didn’t take long before we established the baby I was holding was adopted. He asked a few harmless questions, I answered them, and then things got weird. He started to argue the genuineness of the bond between my adopted baby and me as he said: “She’s not your real kid.”
I was taken aback.
Me: What are you talking about? She looks pretty real to me.
Him: But you didn’t give birth to her.
Me: Do you have kids?
Me: Did you birth them?
I thought we were done. But we weren’t, because then he said: “I didn’t give birth to either of my kids, but I contributed.”
And that’s where he got me.
He was right. I didn’t birth my adopted child. I didn’t contribute in the making or the baking, I didn’t feel the labor pains, and I didn’t push her out. But my husband and I were the ones who showed up to take home the finished product, and that’s when the parenting starts.
And when the parenting starts, everything gets real.
It’s been several years since that incident in the store, and I now have two children: one is adopted and one is biological. During my time as their mother, I’ve learned quite a bit about what it means to be a parent. When they hurt, I hurt. When they’re happy, I’m happy. When they’re annoying, I’m annoyed. Those are real feelings only a real parent would know.
The subject of “real” parents and kids came up again just recently, during the 2016 Olympics. A sports commentator named Al Trautwig got a bit of attention for suggesting that Simone Biles’(American artistic gymnast and 2016 Olympic individual all-around, vault and floor gold medalist) adoptive parents are NOT her parents, but instead her grandparents.
Semantics? Maybe. But Ron and Nellie Biles adopted Simone and her younger sister, Adria, in 2001. That makes them the parents, the real parents. Period.
Al Trautwig’s twitter profile labels him as a “talker,” but that doesn’t mean he always knows what he’s talking about. He should have known saying something as idiotic as that wouldn’t land well, but maybe he didn’t…?
Maybe he’s just never been educated. He doesn’t know the adoption language. That’s not unusual. Unless he adopted a child himself or is close with someone who has, how would he? People who don’t know better are going to say ignorant things. We can either get offended by those things, or we can help educate.
When people say “She’s not your real kid,” or “You’re not her real parent,” I think the word they’re actually looking for is “biological.”
They aren’t our biological kids, and we aren’t their biological parents. But we are the ones holding them when they cry and encouraging them as they grow. We are their cheerleaders and their wardens. We are the ones who love them, teach them, and raise them to be valued, productive members of society as they strive to reach their potential.
And last I checked, it doesn’t get any realer than that.