There is one experience that sticks out in my mind more than any other when I try to explain how I felt as a “half-adopted” (AKA step-parent adopted) child growing up.
I lived on a quiet suburban street in Sandy, Utah growing up. It was a development where new houses were still being built, and the community was tight because there weren’t a lot of us. That being said, all us kids knew each other and played in the concrete foundations and newly framed houses surrounding us.
On one such day of playing, a friend’s older brother yelled out to me, “HA HA, YOU’RE ADOPTED!” I didn’t remember telling this dude anything about my adoption, mostly because I was only 8 or 9, and I didn’t fully understand it myself. As I stood there, with all the neighborhood kids staring at me, it hit me like a brick to the face. I WAS DIFFERENT. Quickly I made a beeline for home, praying my friends didn’t see the tears streaming down my face.
I don’t remember what happened after I got home or if any actions were taken against my offender. I don’t remember if my parents soothed me or if I hid in my room and smothered the emotions so no one would ever know I was hurt (This seems to be my coping strategy still, 20 years later.) This was when the fact that I was adopted became an enemy to my identity. I did not want anyone to know I was adopted. I did not even personally want to know I was adopted. I remember thinking about how I wish my parents had just kept it a secret and planned to take that secret to their grave. I was embarrassed and I was ashamed.
This makes me so sad because if only I had been taught from a young age that being adopted made me unique, special, and strong, I would have been able to explain to that young man that there was nothing wrong with how I became part of my family. However, because of this experience, I now know how I want to raise my son whom I adopted when he was 14 months old. He is a smart kid at only 4-1/2, and he understands, to the degree a 4-1/2-year-old can, that he is adopted. He knows that his birth mother, birth father, and birth families love him, that his mommy and daddy love him, waited and prayed for him, and want him to be happy. I never want my son to feel embarrassed or ashamed about his path to our family. Sure, there might come a time when he does feel this way, in spite of my best efforts, but my own experiences will help me guide him through his feelings of uncertainty and sadness.
Some experiences hurt, but they come back to bless us later. My experiences with growing up adopted will allow me to help my son navigate similar experiences and feelings. Worth it.