Why I'm Grateful for My Parents -- All Four of Them

11/21/2014 10:17 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

In honor of National Adoption Month, we're sharing the stories of adopted teens. Do you have a story to tell? Email teen@huffingtonpost.com.

One of my earliest memories of my mom is her telling me about my mother. She didn't know any more than I did about this mysterious woman, yet she often expressed her deep-rooted appreciation towards my biological mother. My mom always, always made sure that I knew my mother loved me; wherever she was, whatever she was doing, she had to have loved me very much. I wouldn't be here if she didn't. I wouldn't have lived the life I've lived; I wouldn't have been blessed with the family I've been blessed with; I wouldn't know the things that I know. Without my mother's love, I may very well have become a different person than the one I am now.

leo sheng

When I was a child, my mom taught me a nursery rhyme to recite whenever I saw the moon: on car rides, in an airplane, walking on a trail, wherever I was, all I had to do was look up and repeat that soft tune... "I see the moon and the moon sees me; the moon sees the somebody I want to see; so God-bless the moon and God-bless me, and God-bless the somebody I want to see." That "somebody" was usually my birth mother. We were at opposite ends of the globe, and yet, the moon smiled at both of us, as if reassuring us that the other was safe. I didn't realize it at the time, but she was the one person I'd never met and always wanted to know. Before I transitioned, I often wondered if I looked like her. I wondered if I had her hair or her eyes, her laugh or her smile. I wondered what her voice sounded like and if she could cook. I just assumed I took more after my mother than my father. I've always been curious about what having a dad would have been like, but it was the idea of my mother that seemed to tease me and pull me into fantastical daydreams. To be honest, I still wonder about those things. Whenever I see an Asian woman on the street, my immediate reaction is, "I wonder if she looks like her," never even considering that the woman is Chinese or not. I'm pretty sure I'll always do that.

I've never not been aware of the fact that my moms and I don't really look alike, not the way biological families tend to do. When I was younger, it didn't matter so much. Kids don't see race the same way adults do; they don't understand the cultural significance. I had parents who loved me, cared for me, and supported me; that was all that mattered. As I grew older, my awareness slowly broadened and for a brief period, I started to become self-conscious of our differences. It was a, sort of, transitional phase into where I am now: I still notice the diversity of our family, but I was reminded that it's always been like that. My ethnicity hasn't changed, and neither had my parents'. While race is definitely an obvious component in our family, it is not, nor has it ever been the driving force behind our relationship towards one another. We don't love each other in spite of our differences; we love each other because of them.

leo sheng

I don't have any memories of my time in China. I was six months old when my mom became, well, my mom. All I've ever known is this: the home my parents created and upheld, and the years of nurturing that they have bestowed upon me. We talk about the possibility of my going to China to visit the Hunan province, the area that I was born in. We talk about the possibility of my locating my biological parents. And we still talk about my mother and father, guessing which traits I inherited from whom.

Throughout my primary and secondary school years, my mom sometimes thought out loud about my genetics. "You parents were really, really smart," she'd say. "And they were funny, and strong," she'd add with tears forming her eyes. Most, if not all, of the time, the conversations surrounding my mother and father ended in my mom getting misty. "If we ever meet them, we'd invite them to stay here with us. I'd thank them for everything." My mom has never been threatened by the prospect of me finding my biological family; if anything, she encourages it.

I guess what I'm getting at here, without going into the details of the last 18 years of my life, is that I love my family -- both of them. I love the lessons my moms have taught me, the manners they instilled in me, the freedoms they've allowed me and the affection they've passed onto me. We've had some incredible times together, some great memories I'll always cherish. My mom, who's quite an amazing artist, makes the best vegetable soup in the winter and my other mom is one of the funniest, hardest-working people I've ever met. I can't imagine not having them for parents. They're my biggest supporters and I am grateful to/for them every day that I wake up.

leo sheng

And, I love the family I have somewhere in China. I love the fact that my mother cared about me so much, she carried me for nine months knowing she'd eventually have to give me up -- give me the life she knew she couldn't provide herself. I love the lessons that they've taught me from afar and the dreams they've inspired over the years. They're the reason I exist; I find it hard not to love them. I may not know what they look like or what they sound like, but I do know that my mother and father are strong-willed, determined, creative and probably sometimes too stubborn for their own good. I like to think that I have my mother's eyes and my father's nose, but really, any combination is okay with me.

I always say that my mother and father gave me life. But, it was my moms who taught me how to live it. And I wouldn't have it any other way. Here's to you, guys. All four of you. Happy Adoption Month.