While I knew I was adopted, we didn't talk about it much while I was growing up. My parents' approach to the outside world was to pretend that I was not adopted. This made me anxious, because I was always afraid that someone would find out and I would have to explain. The fact that my adoptive parents are Jewish, and have dark curly hair, brown eyes, and olive complexions, while I am of Scandinavian descent and have blonde hair, blue eyes, and fair skin, complicated my feelings.
Even though we didn't look alike, people often commented on how similar my parents and I were in other ways. My father would react to such comments by winking at me, as though we were sharing a sweet and delicious secret. That felt good; we were in on the secret together. Unfortunately, the secrecy also made me feel as though I were strange, somehow not quite as good as a child born into a family. As an adult, I realized my parents were trying to protect me from the negative adoption attitudes of others. Unfortunately, the strategy backfired and made me feel as though I had a dangerous secret which could hurt me if anyone found out.
I wish my parents had given me more information about my adoption and more power over the information. I wish they had done more to reassure me that, although our family was different, it was a good family. Like most kids, I had a great need to belong and fit in.
It would have helped me to practice responses to these questions together, and to discuss which answers work the best. This would have had the added effect of drawing us closer as a family, to share this important family responsibility. Together, we could have rehearsed responses such as, "We may not look alike, but we have the same sense of humor."
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