Thursday, April 30, 2015

Adopted: Just Another Adjective

I've had many moments in my 11-year "career" as a mother that I'm not proud of, and there have been many moments when I’ve been less than proud of my daughter (Can you say infuriated? How about mortified?) but perhaps my proudest moment as her mother came one afternoon last year. We were at the park and I was sitting on a bench while she was on the swings a few feet away talking to a younger girl she had just met.  It came up that G was adopted, and her new friend basically gave her an "Oh, that's too bad" reaction, and G proceeded to set her straight and explain adoption from her particular 10-year-old point of view.  You don't need a transcript of the conversation, you just need to know that it ended with: "I don't want you to think being adopted is a bad thing. It's not. It's a great thing."  I was positively beaming.  (And trust me, I’m not a beamer.)

When G was a baby, I told everyone she was adopted. I loved telling our story, especially right after they would tell me that my daughter looked JUST like me.  I think even as a baby G was hearing our excitement and pride and the warm, fuzzy feelings attached to her adoption and it really did penetrate.  She heard the word adoption a lot, something I knew was important from all of those books I read and seminars I went to.  (You never want a child to remember The Day They Were Told They Were Adopted, all the experts cautioned. It’s supposed to just be something they’ve always known.) 

So I proudly shared our story often in those early years, but as she’s grown older, I've begun to respect her privacy and share much less.  I stopped telling strangers or casual acquaintances she was adopted without her permission. Yet on several occasions I've had her classmates approach me, asking for confirmation that she's adopted because she's told them herself and they don't believe it.  She regularly and comfortably shares it with people, something very gratifying to me. (Since we, the general population have not come quite as far as I think we have in this area. There is still the occasional person who will ask me if my daughter herself knows she’s adopted.  Really?  I don’t mean to sound like an Adoption Snob, but geez. )

It's an interesting time, these tween years. With the increasing consciousness of her body and its changes, she is somehow becoming more AND less self-confident all at once.  The hormonal age has arrived.  An age I’ve been dreading pretty much ever since she could talk (back!).  But with all that I'm dreading, I thank God that I'm not worried about adoption issues on top of all of that. I give myself credit for that and I also give a lot of credit to my amazing support group.  We started out as a few hopeful adoptive parents-to-be and we’re now a group of twenty or so thriving adoptive families. (It was the “parent group” so to speak, of the group that hosts this website, as a matter of fact.)  Support groups are so invaluable, and ours is no different. Not only have we parents had each other to lean on all these years, from pre-placement until now, but our children have grown up with each other.  I always say that our group has helped "normalize" adoption for our kids, certainly for my own daughter, when they might have otherwise felt isolated and different. As our kids have grown, it's become harder to get together regularly; yet when we do, we are like family who doesn't miss a beat and we just pick up where we left off.  It's the best.  

But I digress.  

My daughter is one of those strong-willed types. For years I’ve said and heard that adjective to describe her and I definitely need some new ones. What I currently have on my hands is a prepubescent button pusher to the nth degree. We bicker daily about everything from what she's wearing to what she's eating.  Or not eating.  Or not wearing. (Already, yes.  Last week we almost got out of Target spat-free, but thanks to the Juniors bathing suits right by the exits -- all those too-skimpy-for-tweens two-pieces – the ride home was pretty much silent.) We yell, we laugh, we cry, just like every other mother and daughter.

It's interesting … Very often, when I vent about my parenting struggles to another mom, and during the course of the conversation I mention that she's adopted, the other person will say something along the lines of: “Well, you could have a biological ‘strong-willed’ child too, you know."  As in ..."It’s not necessarily because she's adopted."  I’m here to tell you that I can absolutely confirm that, and that the fact that my daughter is adopted is the least of our problems. It's just another adjective in a long list:  Confident.  Sassy.  Passionate.  Sloppy.  Headstrong. Hilarious.  And oh yeah, adopted. 

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