Parents are Parents, Not Adoptive Parents

Sports shows have been bothering me with the way they refer to Colin Kaepernick's parents.

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I don’t know if Rick and Teresa Kaepernick are mad, but I’m mad for them. They are the parents of San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick. If you watch ESPN or almost any of the other sports outlets, you know that Colin is adopted. You know this because every story about Colin that mentions his parents refer to them as his adoptive parents. It’s unnecessary. They are his parents. No adjective needed.

Kaepernick is best known as an underrated high school player with only one college scholarship offer who, in his second year in the NFL, set the record for most rushing yards by a quarterback in a game before leading the 49ers to the Super Bowl. As the spotlight shines brighter with Colin’s success, people become more interested in his story. Adoption is part of his story, of course. He has talked openly about it. He was five weeks old when he was adopted by the Kaepernicks, who also have two more children that are biological. He is the biracial son of white parents and the brother of two siblings.

Pictures of this 6’4″ biracial man with his shorter white parents do make people curious. But not every story is accompanied by a picture. Most of the stories that label Rick and Teresa as adoptive parents aren’t about his childhood at all. I’ve been watching sports for a long time, and I don’t remember any athlete’s relationship with his parents being repeatedly defined the way that Colin and his parents have been.

As the white mother of a biracial child who is adopted and to a white child who is biological, I may be more sensitive to this than most people, but no one has ever called me an adoptive parent. At least not to my face.

The adjective defining how Colin became part of his family gives the impression that Rick and Teresa’s relationship with him is different than their two other children. It isn’t. Referring to a child as the “adopted child” is like saying “invitro baby” or “one night without protection baby.” How a child became part of the family is not central to every conversation about that child. At some point, a child who is adopted is a child just like any other child and the parents are just plain old parents. Even when he is a grown man playing in the NFL.

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