As a woman who became a mother through kinship-foster adoption (Traevin’s birth father is my husband’s brother), I am no stranger to emotional moments. I brace myself for the times when someone asks me a question about where his “real” parents are or whether I want to have a “child of my own.” I’ve felt uncomfortable as a stranger told me how much my son looks like me, unaware that he and I don’t share DNA. I’ve felt a sting when someone asks me where he got a particular feature after they’ve realized it couldn’t have come from my genetic pool. I can all too easily recall the sensation of my heart pounding in my chest as my lips betrayed me with their silence the first few times I was caught off-guard by these questions.
During the 21 months since my son was born, I’ve come up with rehearsed responses to many of these questions, attempting to respect the person asking as well as our adoption experience. It’s pretty rare for me to get overly rattled by a stranger’s comments or questions about my family these days, but from time to time, I still get blind-sided.
Recently, my family took a trip to the coast to visit my sister-in-law. While we were there, she took us to a beautiful local farmers’ market. Adoption was the last thing on my mind. We were walking from booth to booth, admiring the gorgeous fresh produce and hand-crafted toys. Traevin’s auntie was soaking up the cuddles while carrying him around on her hip. We approached a stand where a woman was selling homemade jams, and the woman looked up at my sister-in-law snuggling Traevin saying to her, “Your son is sooooo cute!” I smiled and I turned to look at the two of them when it hit me: My son looks just like his auntie! My son doesn’t just look like his birth parents; he looks like all of my in-laws. He looks more like his auntie than he does like me!
I felt my cheeks flush and suddenly found myself simultaneously feeling both hurt and guilty. The emotional side of me was sad and jealous. The logical side of me was shocked that it had taken 21 months for me to come to this realization, and I was angry with myself for feeling hurt. “Of course my son looks more like his biological relatives than he does like me!” I scolded myself. My mind was swirling with internal conflict.
A few minutes later we left the farmers market, and I continued to chastise myself for my feelings. I really needed to shake it off, so I started to remind myself of all the reasons kinship adoption can be a beautiful thing, despite the complex emotions it brings:
1. Traevin didn’t have to bounce through a bunch of foster homes after his apprehension. He was placed with us mere hours after being taken from the hospital and has been with us ever since. And while may not look like me, we’ve been together since he was 2 days old, so we share many mannerisms, personality traits and SO much love!
2. My son has an amazing connection to his birth family because they’re also our family! This means he will never have to search to find where he came from, and he will grow up knowing and loving not just his birth parents, but his birth grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins.
3. Traevin has a large number of people in his life that know and love both his birth parents and us. He can reach out to all of us to ask questions about his adoption, and he will get different perspectives from lots of people who love him.
While this unexpected experience brought a strange set of emotions that I didn’t particularly enjoy, it was an important lesson that I can’t be prepared for every situation and that emotions aren’t always logical. It was a reminder that I need to be kind to myself and to remember these feelings so that when my son begins to express complex feelings about his adoption, I can listen and be there for him.
Have you ever been caught off-guard by a stranger’s comments? How did you work through the emotions? I’d love to hear about it in the comments!