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It’s not a far stretch to assume that everyone has heard of the word “real.” So why is this word used incorrectly in so many of the questions directed at my adoptive family?
What Does “Real” Even Mean?
A quick check in a dictionary confirms that while there are many meanings for the word “real”—some of these include “actual rather than imaginary, ideal, or fictitious,” “being an actual thing; having objective existence; not imaginary,” “genuine,” and “not counterfeit, artificial, or imitation”—none of the definitions I come across mention “sharing of DNA.”
Yet, it seems as if the questions people ask about the “realness” of my family assume that this is the only definition.
I have learned how to handle most questions with dignity and am always in the process of teaching my children to do the same. Most comments, I understand, result from not being properly educated about adoption. I, myself, was clueless about many aspects of adoption—and how to talk about them—up until I walked into my first adoption support group meeting, started reading books on the topic, and became a full-fledged family formed through adoption. Yet, when people I don’t know use the word “real” in regards to adoptive families it strikes a nerve in me.
Strangers—whether a cashier, another parent on a playground, or even a hairdresser who sees me with my children—will ask if I’m my children’s “real mom” quite often. Even though I knew this would happen when we chose to adopt, and especially when we chose to adopt transracially, I am usually taken aback.
Since my adoptions are transracial, I look nothing like my children, so I think it’s pretty obvious there is no genetic connection. So why do they use the word “real”? Do they think I am the children’s nanny? Could I really be some counterfeit mom while the other one is getting her nails done? I know these people just want to know if my children are adopted, but don’t feel comfortable asking directly, but it’s the way they ask that I find troubling. And it doesn’t help that this kind of question always seems to come on the days where I am ready to rip my hair out from being worn out by being such a “real” mom.
Answering Tough Adoption Questions
How I respond truly depends on my mood, and if my children are with me. If I am in an unpleasant mood, I might say, “Let’s see, I change their dirty diapers and wipe their runny noses day in and day out. It certainly seems like I’m ‘real.’” If I am in a nicer mood, I may reply, “I am an adoptive parent, so yes, I am their ‘real mom.’”
Answering Tough Adoption Questions—in Front of Your Kids
What angers some adoptive parents I have spoken to on this topic, is when their children overhear strangers question whether their mom is “real.” To a child, if something is not “real,” then it’s fake. Never should a child doubt that the parent who cares for them day in and day out is a fake parent. Imagine what doubts that could place in their minds regarding their security.
Putting the “Real Mom” Debate to Rest
Honestly, I feel that all of my children have two “real” mothers. One of us nurtured my child for their first months in utero and the other has nurtured them since. Both of us “really” have held or are holding an important role and should be rightly insulted by strangers who imply one of us is fake. Without their real birth mother and their real daily mom (me) my children would not be who they are today.
Top Adoption Myths—Debunked
- Adopting Does Not Improve Fertility
- Adoption Failures vs. Infertility: By the Numbers
- Adoptive Children Aren’t the Only "Lucky" Ones
- Do You Love Her Like Your Own?
Related Posts on AdoptiveFamiliesCircle
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- The Brave Ones
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I have recently adopted or am adopting from...
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