My son was adopted at birth and is now a silly, playful, always-on-the-go, 8-month-old baby boy who is loved beyond words by many people. Even though strangers claim he looks just like my husband and his half-brother, and we have a wonderful relationship with my son’s birth parents, I know at some point he’ll have questions, and possibly struggles, about being adopted. That people may ask him, or us, difficult questions about his adoption. To help answer those questions, here are 5 things people might not get about my adopted child.

1.  He is my real child.

“Real” doesn’t equal “biological.” Just because I didn’t give birth to him doesn’t mean he’s not every single bit of my child as if I had. I do everything for him any mom does with her kids, and he does (and will do) every adorable and challenging thing any kid does with his mom. It’s a parent-child relationship, regardless of how each one of us came to have that title. When we’re in a room full of strangers, he knows who Mommy and Daddy are, and he always comes back to us for comfort.  As far as wonderful kids go, he’s about as real as they get.

2.  He will know his birth parents.

My son’s birth parents are already such an important part of his life and my family’s lives. They gave him life, and they gave us life, and as far as I’m concerned, that’s pretty darn important! They trust us with the most precious gift ever given them; I think the least we can do is to allow him to have a relationship with them. The relationship will be able to answer many questions he has, not only about his heritage but about his adoption as well. All of us will work together to make sure he’s completely loved, cared for, and always knows what a gift he is to both my husband and me and his birthparents.

3.  His adoption will not be the thing that defines him.

Yes, he was adopted. No, that’s not the most important fact about him. What’s more important about him? Well, that will probably change as he grows, but right now what’s important about him is how he uses whatever he can to pull himself up to a standing position, how he claps his little hands because it’s the newest trick he’s learned with them, and how he mimics your facial expressions whenever you’re chewing your food. All of these are important, none of them have to do with the fact he was adopted. Adoption certainly is a big part of his life, but he’s so much more than just “an adopted kid”.

4.  He was not “given up” by anyone.

If you’re reading this article, chances are good you’re already privy to the adoption positive language, but just in case you aren’t, the term “given up” for adoption isn’t used anymore. Instead, you say the child was “placed” for adoption. My son’s birth parents made a plan during their pregnancy out of pure, unselfish love for their baby to place him in a home better suited for parenting a child. “Given up” has a negative connotation meaning “unwanted,” but in an adoption situation the child is so very wanted by both sets of parents. Wanted to have the best life possible. Wanted to grow up to be the best version of himself.

5.  Adoption is not the “easy way out.”

There’s nothing easy about adoption. Except maybe loving the child. Otherwise it’s a long, sometimes complicated road filled with complex emotional situations you’re never quite prepared to handle. I struggle to find words important enough to describe the emotional roller coaster that comes with making an adoption plan to following through with it to possibly second-guessing your choices to understanding and acceptance and everything in between. The only thing I can think of to say is to repeat my first sentence: There’s nothing easy about adoption.

People directly affected by adoption know and understand it’s a many-layered situation, but other people might not get it. That’s when we need to be tactful advocates for our children, giving adoption positive answers to any questions we might be asked, helping people peel back some of the emotional layers and understand the beautiful complexity of adoption.