And though I've fielded the question, or one dang close too it, dozens of times, it still caught me off-guard as I stood there, disbelieving that it had reared it's ugly head again and frantically searching my mind for the "right way" to respond.
Instead of finding the calm, gentle, I-know-you-mean-no-harm words I used to be able to produce in such awkward circumstances, however, I sort of shut down.
I was right back in that place. . .the one where I want to gather my kids up and shield them from any pain or grief or lie the world tries to throw at them. The one where I wish this kind of question was never even thought to be asked.
"It must have been a relief to finally have a "real" child," the lady at the ballpark said, when she learned that my first biological child appeared after three adoptions were complete.
I wanted to cry. I wanted to turn and walk away. I wanted to shout at her: "THEY'RE ALL MY REAL KIDS AND I'M THEIR REAL MOTHER AND WE'RE A REAL FAMILY!!!!!"
And I felt grief and frustration and even stupidity at my own emotional reaction. I know that this woman only meant 'biological' instead of 'real.' I know she couldn't possibly understand that we CHOSE adoption. . .it wasn't our last resort in our attempts to become parents, nor was our son's birth the point at which we felt our parenting began.
So why did it still hurt?
Maybe because I'm still worried that my kids will feel the way this lady implied--not quite 'real.' I couldn't give a blamed hecky-darn about what other people think about how our family was made. But I do care, deeply, that my beautiful, chosen, non-biological kids know that they aren't second class citizens in the realm of our family. That they couldn't be more, MEAN more to me if I had carried them for nine months inside me.
So I hope they don't hear these kinds of questions being asked of me. And I hope they don't get asked them, either. Oh, it's perfectly find to ask them how they feel about adoption, their biological families, or those kinds of things. But to imply that the family that has loved and cared for and treasured them since very young isn't "real?" Please don't.
“Real isn't how you are made,' said the Skin Horse. 'It's a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real.'
'Does it hurt?' asked the Rabbit.
'Sometimes,' said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. 'When you are Real you don't mind being hurt.'
'Does it happen all at once, like being wound up,' he asked, 'or bit by bit?'
'It doesn't happen all at once,' said the Skin Horse. 'You become. It takes a long time. That's why it doesn't happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don't matter at all, because once you are Real you can't be ugly, except to people who don't understand.”
― Margery Williams, The Velveteen Rabbit
(Photo Courtesy of Publicdomainpictures.net and can be found here)