01/28/2014 11:02 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Is Adoption Better or Worse Than a Real Family?

Is adoption better or worse than a real family? Okay, I admit it. It was a trick question. What is the fixation with the word "real?" Who are the "real" parents, first parents or adoptive parents? Of course I have heard the holier-than-thou explanation that the "real" parents are the ones who care for the child. I have also heard the claim that the word "real" belongs to people, who through no talent of their own, are able to temporarily assemble compatible body parts with the result being a reaction that begins the creation of a human being. Spare me. I hear people try to justify the exclusive right to use that word for their own position no matter which side of the adoption fence they pitch their tent on. Frankly, I'm going to have a "real" conniption fit if people don't quit arguing about that stupid word. Trust me, I know what a "real" conniption fit is, and so will you if you just keep watching me while people continue to obsess over who has the right to use the word "real."

The worst part is what adult arguing does to children who are still trying to figure out semantics and the games that we who are supposed to be more intelligent can play with them. My adopted children have struggled with the word "real," though it has never been used to describe any aspect of family, first-family-related, or otherwise, in our home.

Our first job with people who have suffered the tragedy of a
first family that didn't survive, is to help that person to heal.

My 14-year-old daughter came home from school the other day, confused. I only made matters worse. Sarah: "My friend asked me why I don't live with my real family anymore." Me: "What did you tell her?" Sarah: "I just said I don't know." Me: "You don't know why; or you don't know who your real parents are?" Sarah; "I don't know." Me: "Who gave birth to you?" Sarah: "Mama Oksana." Me: "So, is she your real mom?" Sarah: "I guess so. I think so..." becoming frustrated, "I don't know!" Me: "Who was your dad in Russia?" Sarah: "Papa Anatole." Me: "Who is the dad in our family?" Sarah: "You are." Me: "So which one of us is your real dad?" Sarah: "I don't know! Stop it, Dad!" Me: "Can you only have one real dad?" Sarah: "I don't know. I guess not?" Me: "Can you only have one real mom?" Sarah: "Um... no?" Me: "Can you only have one real family?" Sarah: "No. Wait. What am I supposed to tell my friend?" Me: "Look, Sarah; your friend just wants to know why you don't live with your Russian family anymore and she doesn't know which words to use. Does it really matter?" Sarah: "I guess not?" Me: "So the next time someone asks you why you don't live with your real family anymore, you can just say, 'I don't live with my Russian family anymore because I wasn't safe, there.' Just because someone else uses the word "real" doesn't mean you need to use it too." Sarah: "Thanks, Dad! I love you!" Me: "I love you too, Princess."

It's not Sarah's naïve friend that bothers me. It's not her parents, who may be just as confused about proper adoption jargon. Honestly, I really don't even care to educate the masses while preaching from the pulpit of political correctness. Who was it that decided we should all be politicians, anyway? What frustrates me to no end are the people who do know about adoption, and perhaps, all too well. Every one of us on that mountain knows that our first job with people who have suffered the tragedy of a first family that didn't survive, is to help that person to heal, and then to assist them in dealing with the scar tissue.

If you're the "real" parent of someone who experienced being adopted, then help them, no matter which real side of the fence you are on. If you still want to play loyalty games, buy yourself a Cocker Spaniel.


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