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The Merriam-Webster.com definition of adoption is (partially):
“1: to take by choice into a relationship; especially: to take voluntarily (a child of other parents) as one’s own child. . .
5. to sponsor the care and maintenance of // adopt a highway. . ."
Examples of adopt in a Sentence
“They were unable to have children of their own, so they decided to adopt.”
Though the Merriam-Webster.com adoption definition does not include the adoption of pets, that is another immediate thought people have when the word adoption is mentioned.
I have to say, one of the most confusing concepts I experienced as an adopted person was the idea that my parents could not have children “of their own.” So many times, people would introduce my brother and I as our parents’ children and then, for some unknown reason, would feel the need to qualify this by saying, usually in hushed or whispered tones, that we were adopted because our parents could not have children of their own. So, you can imagine, a child may wonder, ‘if I am not my mom and dad’s child; well, whose child am I?’
When my mom would parent me, she would often say ‘do this’, or ‘stop doing that’, usually qualified with the explanation of “because I said so, and/or because I am your mother and I said to stop that” (those of you who have heard these types of expressions, feel free to roll your eyes here). I am pretty confident that there was a clear expectation of compliance solely based on our mother-child relationship. Or, when my mom would say, “go ask your father”, I was convinced that she meant the guy in the living room who was also raising me, supporting me, and loving me; just like a father would do, and like other kids’ fathers were doing. So, if I was not their own daughter, whose daughter, was I?
I mean, everyone in my life called them my parents, and even when they qualified it with the whispered statement of, “she was adopted because they couldn’t have children of their own.” they still referred to them as my parents. To further complicate things, I had to speculate that since my poor brother wasn’t able to have a “sister of his own” he was stuck with me.
I must admit that the notion that my parents couldn’t have “children of their own” came in handy when I learned how babies were conceived. At least I knew that my parents were innocent of such behaviour. I could hold my head high among my friends whose parents had done that deed; evidenced by the fact that my non-adopted friends had been born to their parents. Oh, how embarrassing for them! I remember when I was in grade 8 (or around there) my classmate’s mother became pregnant. I am ashamed at how we teased that poor girl, we teased and we teased her about what her parents had been up to in order to have made that baby Finally she snapped, looked at all of us and yelled, “Oh yeah? Well, YOUR parents do ‘IT’ too!” It was my moment to shine as I fired back, “My parents never do “IT” . . . I’m adopted!” I sincerely apologize to that classmate now, if I never did before.
So, to add another layer to this dilemma, my birth mother could have a child “of her own”, did so, but did not claim to be a mother. Yet people would refer to her as my “real mother”?! While my mom, who could not have a child “of her own”, was signing all my consent forms on the line that said, “Mother or Parent.” She even behaved like I think a “real mother” was expected to behave. As a child, the lesson I learned from this was that the words are just titles (e.g., mother, father); but that the individuals’ actions define the role and relationship. I was never confused about who my mother or father were, even though I often wondered who my birth parents were. I knew in my heart whose actual child I was, and I believed that this is what my birth mother wanted for me when she chose an adoption plan.
Before I leave you, I want to circle back to .5 of the Merriam-Webster.com definition of adoption; “to sponsor the care and maintenance of // adopt a highway. . .” I remember in the 1980s, when Adopting Highways became a thing; as I would pass “Adopt A Highway” signs I would ironically wonder where Ontario actually got their highways if they couldn’t have highways of their own?