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Adoption Blog: My Paperwork Pregnancies

Hip Hip Hooray—But Not for DNA!

Nearly every day, I listen to The Adam Carolla Show, a podcast hosted by comedian Adam Carolla. Hearing Carolla's gruff rants about everything under the sun always makes me smile. Not long ago, he had Olympian Dan O'Brien on as his guest. O'Brien shared his personal journey of becoming one of the world's best decathletes. His story began with his telling Carolla that he was adopted as an infant. Carolla asked him something along the lines of, "Do you think your parents were as proud of your athletic abilities as they could have been? Do you think they cheered a tad less because you were adopted?" O'Brien quickly responded that his parents were extremely proud of him and were always in the stands cheering him on. Carolla went on to explain himself by saying that, when he was playing football, his father would proudly boast, "Those are MY genes that make him such a good player." With adoption, you don't have that biological claim to your child’s talents.
Carolla continued on to say that he has always been jealous of adoptees. This is because it's obvious to those children that their parents really wanted them. They weren't just accidents. Adoptive parents have to go an extra mile or two to bring a child into their home. Carolla said he imagined that knowledge would be so comforting for a child.
I was taken aback by hearing adoption discussed on this comedy podcast. At first, I was a bit offended by Carolla's question about O'Brien's parents not being as proud as they could be. I then remembered that Carolla is always blunt with his words. And odds are that, if he said them, there are many other people out there who are thinking the same thing. That's why he's always at the top of the most downloaded podcasts. He says what others wish they could.
So, could it be that some people see me cheering on my daughter during her soccer games and think, "Well, she'd be cheering a lot louder if it were her genes that gave her daughter that super-hard kick." Or when I boast that my son got a near perfect score on his geometry test, are people thinking, "Well, I'm not sure why she sounds so proud -- he didn't get his math skills from her!"
I would like to think that the majority of people with whom I surround myself and my family would never have these thoughts. And if they did, they know better than to mention them to me, in fear of a verbal assault. But do people outside my bubble of friends and family think this? Looking back on my childhood, I'd like to think that my parents were cheering at my sporting events because they were proud of me, and not my genetic make-up. In fact, I would have been offended to find out that my parents were proud of themselves, by way of their genes, when I was the one practicing every day and playing out on the athletic field.
Carolla's comment is one that I'll keep in the back of my mind whenever I tell my children that I'm proud of their accomplishments. I will make it clear that the pride I feel is for whatever they succeed in and the work they put in, and that I don't care if it was due to genetics.
So far, I have been fascinated to see certain talents and interests emerge from my three children. It's obvious when I hear my daughter sing on-key, or see my son do flips off the monkey bars, that they are products of genes that aren't my own. I am just fine with that, as long as my children are happy and successful.
As for Carolla's other comment, about being jealous of adoptees because they were "wanted"? Well, I can't speak as an adoptee or as someone who has had that thought about adoptees. However, as an adoptive mother, I completely agree with his comment. I tell my children often how much I wanted them and how hard we worked to adopt them. If they translate that into being more special than others, that's fine by me. In my eyes, they always will be.

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You know, DH and I joke privately about nature versus nurture. When DD does something adorable, that’s nurture of course! I’d say it’s much akin to how my parents used to joke good naturedly (YOUR daughter flushed legos down the toilet today. MY daughter got an A+ on her spelling test…) It’s entertaining to us now while we watch her grow and change and succeed every day. But it’s not something we should continue that’s for sure and your column has given me pause to think about that. Nature has given DD many gifts; nuture has given her others. She’ll be who she is based on both her genetics and her environment… and I believe both factors will contribute to her being the most excellent self she can be. Great column. Agreed that Carolla is funny and filterless. I think you heard exactly what other people might be thinking deeping in the recesses of their minds. Interesting!

By yesimln on Thursday, July 19, 2012 at 5:39 pm.

As an adoptee, this is a double edged sword for me. Yes, I was wanted by my adoptive parents & family but the shine is taken off that by the fact that I wasn’t wanted by my biological parents. While I don’t dwell on that fact, it has definitely shaped my identity & behaviour. Being rejected by your biological family can make a person think they need to try extra hard & never do anything wrong so they don’t get rejected again. It can actually be pretty stifling.
I think the nature vs nurture comments become problematic when an adopted child is told that their failures are because of bad genes, or when they are discouraged from pursuing their natural talents. I would hope that most adoptive parents realise these days that adoptees are not blank slates so chances are they won’t have a knack for the family specialty. I have at least 2 friends who were discouraged by their adoptive parents when they wanted to pursue a musical career simply because their adoptive parents weren’t musical. Both of them managed to stay strong & follow their hearts & are successful music teachers but it doesn’t always work out that way.

By EriSycamore on Monday, July 23, 2012 at 1:31 am.

When we made the decision to adopt, I took a different position than Adam Corolla.  If your child shares your genes, then it’s natural to expect that he or she might have similar strengths and weaknesses (I’m good at art, so they should be too).  But when I imagined what my future children might be like, the possibilities were wide open.  Maybe my kid will be interested in chemistry (my worst subject!) or be good at sports. There was no limit to what I could expect from my future children and I was ready to be a soccer mom or help facilitate whatever my kids wanted to do.  That said, it’s scary how similar each of my now teens is to me (despite the fact that my younger daughter is into science and math) !  How often did I shake my head and declare in awe, “she’s her mother’s daughter”?! Hopefully all parents, whether by adoption or birth, will help their children grow and develop their individual strengths and talents. And cheer them on…

By matilda on Tuesday, July 24, 2012 at 9:59 pm.

Being proud of genes is so odd to me—you didn’t earn them or work for them—they were just given to you by the process of reproduction. 

What people should be proud of is working hard at something, or for the parents, that you’ve laid the ground work for a hard-working persevering child. Or that you care enough about them realizing their potential that you sideline everything else—your own interests and also sacrifice material things in order to pay for those lessons/classes, etc. 

In my experience of growing up in a biological family, I had talents that came out of seemingly nowhere and weren’t supported or encouraged.  The same of my siblings. We are all unique people, who should be cherished for that reason not because we are supposed to be DNA copies of our parents. 

There are similar personality traits in my family, and I can’t say they always endear us to each other. wink  And I can’t say I always enjoy some of my mannerisms that I share with my mother.  Makes me not like myself as much sometimes.

By MamaForTrees on Monday, November 04, 2013 at 7:44 pm.

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Danielle Pennel

Danielle Pennel


I have recently adopted or am adopting from...
U.S. Newborn, U.S. Newborn

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