When I was a teenager, I taught piano part time. A number of families had hired me to come to their homes to teach private lessons to their children. One family happened to be a trans-racial family and I taught both of their daughters. The older daughter was Caucasian, like her parents, and the younger daughter was African American. I had assumed she was adopted, but I never mentioned it or asked about it. Frankly, it was none of my business; I was there to teach piano, not interrogate the family about how they came together.
The younger girl was quite shy and took a number of weeks to warm up to me, but she dutifully practiced each week to learn the songs and technique we worked on at our lessons. As time passed, we got to know each other, sharing stories and laughter during our lessons. A few months into our lessons, she looked up at me with her beautiful, dark eyes and said, “Megan, I have a secret to tell you.” She paused, I leaned in closer, and she said, “I’m adopted!!!”
A huge smile broke onto both of our faces. She was feeling comfortable enough with me to share a piece of her personal story. I was so happy that she trusted me, and I adored that in her mind, her physical differences from the rest of her family did not give away her secret. It was hers to reveal as she saw fit to whomever she saw fit.
At the time, I had no idea that years later, I would become a mother through adoption. I think back to this story, and it still makes me smile. I may have been the teacher that day, but I was the one that was taught a valuable, life-changing lesson: I don’t have to tell everyone and anyone that our family came together via adoption!
When my son was very young, I didn’t know how to handle situations where someone would ask me why I chose to formula feed (I didn’t have a choice!), or when someone would tell me that I looked great for someone who had just had a child (I was never pregnant!), or a stranger asked me how we chose my son’s name (we didn’t!). I would feel caught off-guard and end up telling complete strangers that my son was adopted! I might as well have been wearing a t-shirt that proclaimed, “JUST IN CASE YOU WERE WONDERING, I ADOPTED MY SON!”
Thinking back to my student all those years ago, I remembered that her adoption was a private part of her personal story that she only shared with me when she became comfortable enough to do so. It reminded me that adoption is a personal journey, which should only be shared at the discretion of the individuals involved. I don’t owe anyone an explanation, and that revelation has been really freeing.