An insider’s perspective into the mind and heart of a young adult explaining the beauty and terminology of adoption.
Being an adoptive child is one of the greatest blessings that I could have ever had.
I feel really wanted and fortunate that my parents wanted a child so badly that they spent a whole year doing paperwork, social worker visits, psychological screening, home studies through the state, and getting tests from doctors that said they were healthy enough to care for a child.
And then they had to do it again to get my sister.
But she came to us much quicker; it only took about three months.
Keep in mind that this was a little over 20 years ago.
Now it can take even longer for parents to receive their child.
Notice I keep referring to these caregivers as parents and I referred to my sister as my sister?
Well, that’s because they are MY parents and she is MY sister.
Being adopted brings up many interesting questions from curious individuals who don’t totally know what they are saying or how to phrase it the right way.
Here are seven common questions that people ask my family and I quite often.
1.) “Do you know your real parents?”
And to this I want to playfully say, “Of course I do. They are at work right now but they’ll be home at 5 for family dinner.”
My “real” parents are my parents.
They are the ones who feed me.
They are the ones who kissed my boo-boo’s when I fell down.
They are the ones who have cared for me and loved me since the day they met me when I was 3 weeks old.
What they are really meaning to ask is, “Do you know your birth parents?” or “Have you ever met your birth parents?”
And for many adoptive children the answer to this is no.
Many are in orphanages or lived with missionaries, like my sister and I did, before our birth parents and our parents came to get us.
As far as I am concerned my birth parents gave the two cells that make a baby and then my birth mother carried me in her womb for nine or so months, and that’s all.
As soon as she handed me over to the missionary who took care of me, she forfeited her right to be my mother.
2.) “So your sister isn’t your real sister, right?”
To this I say, “Oh no, she definitely is. We steal each other’s sweatshirts all the time.”
She followed me around when we were little, pushed me down hills and broke my toys.
That is what makes a sister.
My parents adopted her when she was about 3 months old and at that very moment I started loving her, and that’s what sisters do.
They love each other, no matter how many nail polishes they steal from each other.
We may not be blood related, but that doesn’t mean she’s not mine.
3.) “When did your parents tell you (that you were adopted)?”
And I think to myself, “You must not have seen my parents before because they are blonde.”
My dad has blonde hair and blue eyes and my mom has blonde hair and brown eyes and both my sister and I were adopted from South America and we are very obviously Hispanic.
As with many adopted children we just always knew.
We didn’t talk about it all the time, but we all talked about it fairly often.
We asked our parents questions about where we were from because they remember it and experienced the culture for quite some time while they were in our cities to adopt us.
My dad even made up stories about my being an Inca princess because the last Inca king, Atahualpa, was killed by Francisco Pizarro in the city I was born in and it is rumored that many of Atahualpa’s descendants still live there.
It has always been up for discussion and we have always known.
4.) One of the unique and frequent questions my parents were asked 20-plus years ago when they were adopting me was: “Will she speak Spanish?”
And mom’s response to this was always, “Yeah, if I teach her. … She’s a baby.”
Languages are learned so, no, she won’t be speaking Spanish. No Espanol.
5.) “Are you going to have your own kids or adopt too?”
If I were to adopt they would be my “own” kids as soon as they are placed into my arms.
But also I don’t know. I’m still in school.
I’m not thinking about kids of any kind right now.
I do think that it would be very exciting to adopt, but it would also be quite an experience to be pregnant.
And that wouldn’t be solely my discussion either.
It would be a discussion to have with my husband when the time comes.
Especially, if my husband and I have a fertility issue, which is a huge reason why people adopt in the first place because they physically can’t have a baby. If that were the case, then it would be a definite option and one that I would definitely like to do.
6.) My personal favorite: “How much did you cost?”
To this question I laugh to myself and lightheartedly say, “I didn’t cost anything. That would be slavery.”
What they are really asking is, “What were your expenses that your parents had for your adoption process?”
But for any adoption you have to fill out papers for the state, get a psychological evaluation, tests from the doctor to say that you are physically healthy to take care of a child, social services home visits, and traveling to get your child or the expense of your child to come to you if you adopt internationally.
All of these things can be very expensive.
But a child itself doesn’t cost a thing.
They are priceless.
7.) “I heard you have to bring presents to the judge, and some other people when you go to these other countries, is that like a bribe?”
No, this is not a bribe. You don’t bribe the judge to grant you custody of your child.
That would be illegal and probably very insulting.
These presents that you give to people who are involved in the process of getting your child is more like a thank you gift.
Many of these cities are poor and the people have nothing, so it’s nice to give the people who have taken care of your child a gift.
And giving presents to the judge and other people who need to sign your papers is a sign of respect.
It shows that you have money to care for the child and will give your new child the best life that you can.
That’s all it means.
8.) And finally: “Do you mind when people ask you about this stuff?”
No, of course I don’t.
I want you to learn and I want answer any questions that you may have.
Please, ask away.
Even though you may not ask it the way you probably should, I would love to gently correct you and tell you the right vocabulary to use because all these terms are very significant to people who have been adopted.
This way you know how to address these questions in the future.
And it is important to keep in mind that these answers are very common with all types of adoption, and particularly with international adoption.
This is something my mother has said many times before: “A family is the people you grew up with and you love. Blood doesn’t mean anything.”
Families come in many different colors, shapes and sizes, but they are all real and they all love each other.
That’s what makes a family.