At yesterday’s child care family picnic an educator asked a mother when her new baby had “arrived”. The mother responded with a quizzical look on her face, “About six months ago”. The educator looked surprised & stated, “You must have got him young!” “Yes” said the mother with a knowing smile, “Right from when I birthed him”. She smiled & looked at her older adopted son. The educator offered, “You must be a great big brother”.
I smiled to myself at this beautiful, respectful exchange, acknowledging both her children. The biological new baby & adopted older sibling as family & brothers. Contrast this was an experience I had a few weeks ago. A question posed to me caught me off guard. “Are you your father’s real daughter?”
To which I retorted, “If you’re asking if I’m adopted yes, and assure you I am quite real.”
Really angry & really hurt is what my inside voice was screaming. Instead I heard my nine year old self giving up all my defensive statements in rapid succession. Statements about how about how my voice & my sisters sound alike, how I look like, act & have many habits of my adopted father, and that I can understand the Dutch language. It didn’t matter. The woman who asked wasn’t listening. I am an adult woman & that single question brought back so many questions & vulnerabilities. All of them difficult & emotional.
That one statement seemed to try to push me out to of “the circle” – that circle – like a wrestling circle. Step over the line & you’re out. Or like a huddle. If you’re not in it, you’re not part of the team: the Dutch Christian heritage circle.
I have been reflecting & sharing my thoughts with colleagues & friends. They have helped me narrow my thoughts to one essential question “What is family”? My parents & extended family didn’t just pretend to accept, like & love me. They did so to such an extent I wondered if I was adopted. It was just normal.
What makes up the family circle? Is it blood? That’s part of it. Over the past few years I’ve connected with my biological family. The pull to know where I came from was strong. Blood is one circle & if you’re lucky, you get to build relationships. It’s more than just sharing genes, they can evolve like the best circles of all; ones that are held together by kinship & love.
Love makes up the family circle. We see all kinds of families at the child care. Grandparents taking care of little ones because mom’s or dad’s are unable. Children with a single parent filling both roles. Children with both parents in their day to day life. The common factor all families share – is love. Love.
As educators we must honour & respect the family and their love for each other. It is not how we are raised or how we come into our family or how we grow into our family’s values & beliefs. It is this: the family circle is the foundation of our society. We are in duty bound to celebrate it & hold it in the highest of esteem.
One of my greatest joys is seeing my circles growing as I age. I have many circles. Some of my best friends have become like family because I love them, and now I also love their siblings. My own family of six has grown to nine, as my three adult children now all have partners, one getting married this fall.
When you get blindsided by a thoughtless question you always think of a great retort later. I wouldn’t change my answer except to say, “Yes, I am adopted, I am real & love makes my family real”.