Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Are they "Real"?

Yesterday, my grandma made a comment that has really been bothering me. She is 94 years old, and so I understand that she has different views on things than me at times, but her comment was near and dear to my heart. My dad is one of five, two biological and two adopted siblings, exactly the same make-up as our family. One of his brothers had called to talk to him….and my grandma’s comment was, “you know, that isn’t his REAL brother, does he ever talk to his real brothers?”. Luckily, I wasn’t present when she made this comment, but she said it to my mom who shared it with me. This rocked me to my core, because I look at all five of my children the same. I love them all very deeply. There is no difference in the love I feel for any of my children.

Interestingly, this same grandma has a close relationship with one of my girls, one of the children who joined our family by adoption. Her comment has made me think deeply about how she views all of our children. I am still processing this comment and my feelings around how others view families that include children through adoption.

Have you had close family members make shocking comments about your adoption? Do members of your family treat any of your children different and if so, how do you handle it? Do you think that more people from this older generation view adoption differently?

Karen LWB


  1. I think it's a generation thing. My grandparents adopted a boy about 45 years ago. They still always refer to him as their "adopted" son. My grandfather was an OB/GYN, and knew the birth mother. They thought it would be "fun" to bring the baby home and try him out for a while to decide if they wanted to keep him! Unbelievably easy to adopt back then. Many people tried to hide the fact some children were adopted, like it was shameful or something. I'm just so glad people are so much more accepting of adoption today. I hope I'm right about this! I'd love to hear from others.

  2. I am sorry Karen, that must have been hard to process and grasp.

    I have been trying very hard as of late, to honor the actions and not the choice of words. Especially when it is someone who has had totally different life experiences than I. I would think that verbage is something that just sticks with a person and they may not understand the sting of the words-or implications of them.

    It is very hard and something that I am as I say working on. In the past I would have taken granny to task for such comments-but today a week after my own father's death a man who by all accounts could have been labled by todays standards a racist, I am much more softened to others choices. My father adored his grandchildren, every last one of them. It made no difference to him where they came from, he even said they changed his thoughts, and he admitted he did not understand all the lingo that we live by-but he would have given his life for these kids and came to near blows with a friend that used a racial slur about Asians...yet he would still use orientals as a term, he would still crack polish jokes and he still had issues with other ethnic races-but never around my kids and his actions to my children were pure love and respect and he loved them equally if not more...he just could never seem to get the words right.

    I am not at all sure how I would handle the "real" comment from a relative...I know how I respond to strangers and friends of my kids-but boy that is a tough one.

  3. From a family member:

    "You know, if you adopt you won't have as much money for your real children, and when you die your adopted child will get an inheritance that should go to your real children."


    Husband answers: "They will ALL be our 'real' children.

    Family Member: "Well, you know what I mean."

    Husband: "Yes, I do, and that is why I am telling you that they will ALL be our R-E-A-L children."

    The irony is that this family member is now NUTS about both of our daughters from China. Interesting....and a good thing or there would be no relationship.

  4. Yeah this can be tough, but your right its so important to be open and address these issues out front. Adoption is a beautiful way of adding children to your family. We might need to kindly remind family members that we are adopted children in God's family, and he calls us his own, not THE ADOPTED ONE....but honestly I do think its the generation gap too, my grandmother(who passed away a year ago) would make my skin crawl when she used the improper terminology for Africian Americans. No matter how often we scolded her she would say it. I do not think she meant it viscously, it was just something that was habit for her time period? I think all you can do is address it when you cool off a little and gather your thoughts. Express how important it is for her to understand your children are REAL no matter how they come into your family....Good Luck

  5. I don't think it is always the generation gap. I was sitting with my niece, in her 30s, with my two daughters (who were adopted from China). She was moaning about how since her husband left her she will be too old to have babies by the time she marries again. I smiled and said, nodding at my girls, "There's always adoption." She said, "Oh I would NEVER do that!" Maybe not quite in a tone of horror but not far from it - right in front of the (at the time) 10-yo girls who adore her. I was so shocked and then so upset I chose not to respond at that moment lest I start something irrevocable but it made me very, very sad. Because she has seen how much I adore my girls and how wonderful they are. NO ONE could ask for more wonderful children. She should be so blessed! And this is just one instance out of many similar from other family members.

  6. I grew up with comments like this all of the time. It still hurts but it makes me appreciate and I think better relate to my children, ALL of them:) I've had all ages of people say these comments but it is mostly from the older generation. I never forget them no matter how much I wish I could. My mother says I should "forgive and forget" but she wasn't the adopted child impacted by the comments, I was.

  7. Hi Karen,

    Oh yes...this goes on in my family as well and it is extremely hurtful. My MIL will only send a b-day card to our bio son...not to our 3 adopted girls. I have praying about how to tell her how hurtful it is. I know the older generations are more about blood being thicker than water. But I think that love is thicker than blood.


  8. I just love all of your comments. Bottom line, I think that we need to do and say what we need to so that our children know how we feel and that we don't believe these comments. Heather, your comments have really made me feel that this is the most important thing we can do for our children.

    Thank you all for sharing your thoughts!

  9. I have 8 adopted kids and my two sisters have biological and adopted kids. One of my adopted daughters was my Mom's all time favorite gandkid. My mother used to say before she died "I always wondered if you could love an adopted one as much." : - ) So cute when she favored the adopted one so much.