Dear Adoptive Parents,
I was adopted in 1959. This past week my adoptive mother passed away. I had the honor of taking care of her the last few days of her life. It’s a sad truth (and human flaw) that we seldom reflect on what we love about our parents until they’re gone. I’m no exception.
Like most kids, I often asked about my birth story. What was I like as a baby? Those stories always started with, “When we got you…” My adoption and my brother’s were never hidden from us. They were a fact we grew up knowing and understanding. Of course, that led to many more questions, and my parents answered them as truthfully as they could. I’m thankful for that.
While in the hospital last Christmas, my mother bragged to the nurse that it was the first time in her 88 years of life that she had ever been hospitalized.
The nurse, asked with a smile, “How did you manage that with having kids?”
“I adopted my children.”
“Oh, you took the painless route,” the nurse teased.
“No. There was plenty of pain.”
She wasn’t joking. She didn’t get two angels. She took two flawed human beings into her home and heart to raise as her own. She was in it for the long haul.
As an adopted child, I can tell you with all sincerity that my adoptive parents were my parents. Period. I don’t remember how I got into my mother’s arms any more than the children I gave birth to remember how they got into mine. This is important. You will need to remember this when they ask about their birth mother. It’s not about you.
Although I never went looking for my birth mother, I did struggle with a sense of rejection. Remember, a child’s need to know about her birth mother is not a judgment on your mothering or love. It’s about his or her need to understand who they are.
I don’t look like my adoptive mother. She was tall and slender all her life, and I … well, I’m not. Her Smith family features were very distinct. So, I delight in seeing my own facial features and family traits in my own children and now grandchildren. The Robinson blue eyes, cleft chin, and artistic traits make my heart smile. I love seeing my husband’s and my reflection in another generation.
My mother did, however, pass on her “DNA” in other ways. Here are three family traits she passed on to me.
Contentment: Born in 1928 and raising her family in the ’60s and 70s she knew both poverty and prosperity. Never did she long for more. She worked hard, saved well, and was content with what she earned.
Determination: As a child I often asked her what she wanted me to be when I grew up. Her answer was always the same. “You can be whatever you set your mind to be.” She said it so often I believed her.
Fierce Love of Family: While my generation was “seen and not heard,” we were the world to our parents, but not the center of their universe. Her love for family extended to caring for two siblings with Alzheimer’s and her ninety-six-year-old father.
Your children do not have to pass through you to carry your DNA. Understand that one day, they will look in the mirror and see your family traits that run far deeper than eye color.
With Love and Admiration,