"Wearing the Adoption Cape"

In this personal essay, one mom describes her journey from adoption advocate to just plain mom.

On the day that my son Will was scheduled for his six-year checkup, he awoke with a high fever. I thought we were fortunate to already have an appointment scheduled; this way, we could make the most of the visit.

As part of the checkup, Will had to pee in a cup. He perked up at the mention of this task. He aimed, fired, and proudly handed his full cup to the nurse. After a few minutes, the doctor came in and told me there was sugar in his urine. She explained that it could be caused by the fever, or it might be a sign of juvenile diabetes. We were going to have to come back in a week, and Will would have to pee in a cup again. This was met with excitement from Will—and with angst from me.

I called my husband on the way home and told him that our son may be diabetic. Jeff replied, “Well, it wouldn’t be surprising. After all, your mom is diabetic.” Under most circumstances, that comment would make perfect sense. But since Will was adopted, it was silly, sweet, and totally irrelevant.

What was relevant was how we thought about our children. Jeff wasn’t thinking like an “adoptive” parent. Jeff was thinking like a parent, plain and simple. Will’s genetic makeup wasn’t in Jeff’s consciousness. He knew that diabetes runs in our family, and Will, being in our family, may have a propensity for it.

It’s a Family Thing

As it turns out, Will is fine. My mom’s genes had no effect, and he is not diabetic. He has inherited a few things from my mom, like a love of shopping for Nike shoes and wandering through the Art Institute at a snail’s pace. Like his father, he has a sly smile and a smart sense of humor, and doesn’t mind being alone. Like me, he enjoys painting, is sensitive to other people’s feelings, and is creative. Like every other family, we see our own strengths and weaknesses in our kids, regardless of how they entered our lives.

Adoption is just one part of our family’s history. It is always with us, as I will always be of Russian descent and my husband will always be a mutt. This does not mean that our children’s adoptions have been forgotten or ignored. We talk about adoption often. Will writes letters to his birth parents at the holidays, and his brother, James, often mentions his birth mother by name. We live in a diverse area, go to a multicultural church, and seek out friends of color. We talk about racism and black history, and we visit African-American museums and establishments. We talk about how to stay safe as a black male, as our boys’ age. And as our family has grown, our focus on adoption itself has waned.

This was not the case when Will was younger. Until he was about eight, our lives were adoption-centric. We talked about adoption all the time, among ourselves and with others. When Will was six months old, I started an adoption playgroup and I met with these friends over 10 years, stopping only because we moved across the country. If Will even looked at me funny, I was sure it was an adoption issue.

We read every adoption parenting book written for adults or children. Will couldn’t just like Elmer the Elephant. He liked it because Elmer looked different from all the other elephants. He could relate to Elmer. (There is the possibility that three-year-old Will just liked elephants, but we’ll never know.) We wrote letters to production companies about movies that perpetuated negative adoption stereotypes, and chastised any company or zoo that had an “adoption program.” Faster than someone can ask, Is he yours?, and more powerful than a nasty retort, I leapt to another subject in a single bound, I was Super Adoption Mom.

Taking a break

Then things changed. I am not sure when, exactly, but I hung up my cape and never put it on again. The minutiae of life needed my attention, and global issues were relegated to the back burner. Nowadays, I am simply trying to muddle through the tween years, juggle four kids’ baseball and ballet schedules, maintain a marriage, and earn a living. I am tired. My taking a break from trying to be Supermom has helped me, and it probably does my children some good, too. But maybe, when they’re older and leave the nest, I will don my cape again.


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