A lot of people ask me what it was like to find out I was adopted. I know why they’re asking. They want to understand what it was like to learn that you aren’t really who you thought you were.
My adoptive parents told me I was adopted when I was about 11. Honestly I might have been 10. I know I was still in elementary school that much I know for sure. Anyways I thought it was awesome. For me being adopted meant that I was different, I had something to brag about at school. I don’t recall that other classmates were adopted, but given that this was in the 70s and adoption had been quite prevalent for three plus decades, I find that hard to believe. Maybe their parents hadn’t let them know just yet.
I love my adoptive parents deeply, even though I was not born to them. I am as every bit a part of this family as anyone else. As I like to say, “The blood may be different but the heart still works the same.” You may have different genes but you still love your family madly.
One thing I am so thankful for is my parents’ honesty. For my younger adopted sister and I the adoption conversation is one we had with our parents fairly frequently. We often would discuss how my sister and I ended up with my parents – and what a gift that was for all of us. They also talked with us about searching and the pros and cons of finding our birth families. Regardless, they were always supportive of us doing a search.
Parents of young adopted children often ask me how they should handle the conversation with their children. My advice is to be honest. Be transparent. Be supportive. Lead with love.
I hear these horror stories of parents who never told their children, as they didn’t want them to leave for their birth families. It makes my skin crawl. To me, it’s contrary to all that is humanity and love to do that. More to the point, today one has many means to learn about their genetic lineage. I used Ancestry.com to find mine and with every passing day, more and more distant cousins keep appearing in my DNA profile on Ancestry. Anyone who takes a DNA test can quickly learn who his or her actual biological families are. It’s better to come clean early nowadays.
My advice is to be open with your adoptee children. Discuss with them what a gift it is to be together. Support their needs as adoptees; many of those can be complicated and hard to articulate. In my experience, the more I could talk about it with my sister and parents, the better I felt. Being adopted was nothing to be ashamed of, it was acknowledged and celebrated (at least in our home).