We live in a world where we have grown accustomed to labels.  We are inundated daily with labels. These can include where you live, the car you drive, your political persuasion, favorite sports team, or how you view yourself or others.  Labels can be a brand name or something that lasts a season. Labels can be seen as good, or they can be seen as destructive. Even though we may say that we don’t like to be “labeled” or we desire to change the label, we cannot necessarily escape certain labels.

As I write this, I think about our three precious children.  Yep, I said precious children and did not include the label adopted.  Don’t get me wrong, I am not embarrassed nor ashamed with the label; it is just not something that is “a big deal” for me or my wife.  I don’t begrudge anyone who uses the label “adopted” or even the phrase “forever family.” I use it because we have adopted three beautiful children, they have adopted us as their parents, and as a result, we are a family that is forever.

My three children don’t look the same. The two oldest are very similar.  They are tall, slender, have brown hair and brown eyes. They look similar to my wife and me in hair color and eye color.  On the other hand, our youngest son, who is 15 is tall, is slender, blond-haired, and has blue eyes. Though they may not look quite the same, they are our children, and their physical differences are not what is important.

I do not believe that we have ever introduced ourselves to anyone in public as a forever family nor have we ever made it known that we adopted our children.  It would be quite awkward anyway to greet someone and say that we are the Johnson family and these are our three adopted children. Of course not. Simply put, we are the Johnson family.

So since our children are not biologically ours, we have been asked if we view them as ours or as adopted?  Briefly, our children came to us to be fostered when they were 10, 7, and 4 respectively. They were adopted five years later, and we have been a forever family for over five years.  Back to the question asked: the answer after ten years is no.

Initially, we did view our children as adopted when the adoption became final. But after a short period of time, we were just a family.  My wife and I see us as no different than any parents with their own biological children. We rarely are asked about whether we adopted our kids.  Sometimes, we are asked when we are out in public, but it is rare. In fact, we have had more compliments from people telling us about how good looking our kids are and that we made pretty children. I joke and say that their looks come from my gorgeous wife.

Though my wife and I don’t view our kids as adopted, we remain cognizant of their background and history.  Their past is vague and incomplete, and so finding an answer that may assist them as they become adults and have families of their own is important.  Not knowing a detailed history of their family health, mental health, or related issues, we do what we can to prepare ourselves and them for the present and the future. Even with court documents, incomplete medical documentation, DNA tests, and our children’s memories, there are still questions to be answered.

Our youngest son, some three years ago, was diagnosed with adolescent idiopathic scoliosis.  When filling out medical questionnaires (my wife is a physician assistant) and talking with doctors and surgeons, we provided them what we know and also with what we speculate.  With scoliosis there is no understanding if this is hereditary. When it comes to health issues like diabetes, heart conditions, strokes, and other common ailments, we are not quite sure what they may have inherited from their biological parents.

Additionally, we have even cautioned our two older children who are adults to not dabble in alcohol, tobacco, or drugs.  Again, we don’t know the family history of let’s say alcoholism, but we can only speculate from court documents and what the children remember.  It is important for them to be made aware of what can transpire if they open these doors. But, as adults they now make the decisions with their lives.

Yes, though we see our children as our own, we do recognize that there are gaps in their lives that cannot give us definitive answers concerning their ancestry.  Speaking of ancestry, our children received DNA kits for Christmas, and boy that was a surprise. We were told that our older two children were Native American by court documents and from a family member who assured us that they were associated with a nation.  With the DNA test results, there was no indication of any of our children being considered Native American.

As a family with adopted children, my wife and I are blessed with three special children. They will tell you that we are their parents. Yes, parents. Not adopted parents, but parents. The reason is simple.  It is because we as a family have been committed to loving one another, supporting one another, and being there for one another. We as a family are like every other family. We have the same hopes and dreams and desires as a family with their own biological children. We enjoy eating pizza, some don’t like fruits and vegetables, and we have varied interest.  We see one another as just a family and not something weird, odd, or different.

I believe our children would say the same thing.