I have always known, from the time I could talk, that I was adopted. I mean, it was a little hard to hide since my parents look VERY different from myself. My parents always told me that they didn't choose me, but that I chose them - which, to a preschooler is pretty darn cool. The one thing my parents didn't tell me, either because they wanted to shield me or due to their own naivety, was that the word "adoption" is not taught to everyone. It is difficult for a 4-year-old to understand that while her family is normal - to her - it is very ABnormal to everyone else. Well, school was going to teach me that lesson the hard way.
When I think about the times that I tried to explain my home situation, my mind goes back to elementary and middle schools. My first day of Kindergarten does not stand out in my head...the day I was made fun of for being adopted, does. I was on the playground with a hop-scotch group when one of the girls asked why my mommy an daddy looked different than me. With excitement I began to explain how my family-unit came to be...yet, as soon as I mentioned "adoption" everyone froze. Try as I might, my abilities to explain the word just didn't suffice. I got confused looks, befuddled comments and some even ignored me. Soon enough we all forgot and went about our business. That day went by like any other day at school. I finished my game during recess, sang during music, colored during art and got on the bus to go home.
The next day was quite a different story. I found myself back outside at recess, with my same play group, playing hop-scotch after lunch. The tone, however, was quite different than from the day before. Suddenly, one girl (whom I thought was a dear friend, but what did I know at 4-years old?!) looked at me and said, "Your mommy and daddy aren't your real parents." I'm sorry, what?! What do you MEAN they aren't my real parents?! They take care of me, feed me when I'm hungry, comfort me when I cry, fix my bo-bo's when I get hurt...isn't that what real parents do?? The concept of my parents not REALLY being my parents was very foreign to me. The girl then proceeds to say, "Your real mommy and daddy didn't love you...so they decided to give you up to another mommy and daddy." WHOA!!! I had never thought of it like that before. Thoughts were swirling through my head - thoughts that I had never thought before. The hop-scotch game quickly ended when the girl said, "Ha-ha...you're parents don't love you," and then threw a rock at me.
That night, with tears in my eyes, I went to my parents to inquire as to whether or not they loved me. My parents were, of course, taken aback by my questions and asked where they were coming from. I told them about my experience at school and explained what the girl in my class had said to me. My mom began crying. I'm sure she knew the topic would come up at some point, but I don't think she was quite ready to explain it to my 5-year-old mind.
She started by saying that she and my father loved me very much. In fact, they loved me even MORE because they thought of me as a gift from God. She explained that, for one reason or another, she and my father couldn't have a baby together. While my parents were trying to have a baby, they went to many doctor visits to figure out why they weren't having children. Then, one day, a good friend went to my parents and said that she knew of a woman who had gotten pregnant by accident. This woman didn't have the means or resources to take care of a child, but she didn't want to get rid of it. Finding a happy home for her child was her only option - and she choose my parents. It all made sense after my mom explained everything and I was glad that .
I saw my family with new eyes after that night. I know it sounds heavy and, for a 5-year-old, it really was deeper than any Kindergartener should have to understand. The next day at school, when that mean little girl came up to me at recess, I was able to look her in the face and say - with confidence - that my mommy and daddy probably loved me MORE than her mommy and daddy loved her. Now, I know that probably wasn't true, but it sounded good as it came out of my mouth. Seeing her run away crying also instilled a sense of "gotcha." From that point on, I had the whole story to tell - just in case any OTHER kid wanted to tell me that my mommy and daddy didn't love me...to the contrary, they loved me more than words could describe.