We Are Family

I grew up in a very traditional nuclear family. So did my parents. So did my grandparents. And so on, and so on. I remember thinking nothing of it.

Today all the folks we consider kinfolk has expanded dramatically. Adoption, marriage, babies, step kids…I often joke that we have duct taped and stapled folks to our family tree.

And that’s a good thing for all of us.

Over spring break we visited Hope’s side of the family. Previous visits were short,this one had us in the area for 3 days. It was worth all the driving and all the angst.

I’ve always known this but I see and know it more than ever now: There is something about being with your people that is incredibly powerful. Nature means folks look like you and sound like you, act like you. Hope’s biological relationship with her kinfolk is undeniable; she looks just like them.

We learned a lot about Hope’s family on this trip. I better understand why kinship adoption wasn’t the best fit and how that truth has nothing to do with love. I wish that things had been different for Hope and for them, but we can only look forward. On this trip I learned what it feels like to also be grafted into a family tree. I imagine that this isn’t quite what Hope felt, but maybe something along a parallel track.

This is the family visit when it all came together.

Well it did for me anyway. I think Hope is still trying to figure it all out. For us adults, we have life skills and emotional intelligence to make this work more easily. I see their love for my daughter; they see my love for their daughter. There doesn’t need to be any drama; we are a family and we’ll do what we have to in order to make it work for Hope because that’s what sensible grown folks do.

Hope still has some work to do in this area. She has quickly become territorial about aspects of the experience and even the chocolate cake her grandmother made because she knows I love cake. Hope isn’t a big fan of cake. It will likely go uneaten because I decided to just let it be her cake, which I know she will not eat (more on the cake in a separate post).

It is a strange thing for all the adults in a room brought together by the love of a child to get it together only to watch the child struggle.

My daughter was frustrated by the family desire to talk about her parents; she quietly complained that she didn’t want to talk about them unless they came up in conversation, but they did, a lot. My inner monologue also was running and said, “Well why the hell are we here if not to be around your family who will no doubt talk a lot about your parents???” I knew better than to ask that question out loud.

I relished in getting pictures of my daughter as a little girl with her parents, while she alternated between balking and sobbing at the imagery and demanding copies of everything. Mid-trip we talked about what it felt like to sit up at night and intensely study the pictures looking for resemblance and connection.

While I’m happy to have taken this trip, now that we are home I’m realizing the real emotional cost. It is hurts to know that my daughter doesn’t understand that there is enough love and loyalty to go around. There will be more questions, there will be more trips. I feel grafted into the family, but I’ve still got lots of questions and curiosity from my own biological family about “them.” If history is predictive, there will be big emotions. There will be clingyness. There will be pulling away. There will be anger. There will be just a lot of stuff. It exhausts me thinking about it.

But I would do it again. How could I deny Hope her family? How in good conscious could I do that? My emotional output is minimal compared to the opportunity to reconnect with family. To see her family delight in seeing her again, getting reacquainted, to have the chance to share childhood stories of her lost parent, to see themselves in her…it is a beautiful thing to witness.  This isn’t just for Hope; it’s for all of them.

We’ll visit again and again. I look forward to inviting them to visit, to graduations, to a wedding, to birthday parties and other events.

We are family.


About AdoptiveBlackMom

I'm a single Black professional woman living in the DC area. I adopted my now adult daughter in 2014, and this blog chronicles my journey. Feel free to contact me at adoptiveblackmom@gmail.com, on Facebook at Adoptive Black Mom, and on Twitter @adoptiveblkmom. ©www.AdoptiveBlackMom.com, 2013-2022. All rights reserved. (Don't copy my ish without credit!) View all posts by AdoptiveBlackMom

6 responses to “We Are Family

  • thecollectivesystem

    HI. I read this with tears springing into my eyes. I am very impressed with your love and dedication to your daughter. I wrote a comment on your last post explaining how, in some ways, I can relate to Hope. All the triggers, the EQ being much younger than the chronological age, memory difficulties, education and social issues, etc. This post made me cry because it touched a place in me that I don’t usually allow myself to go. When I went into foster care I lost my entire family. I haven’t seem my mother in over 34 years, I lost all contact with siblings, cousins, everyone. I had no family and will never have that. The trauma was bad enough, but the loss of everyone I knew, and the loss of who I was – was too much. It seemed to me that everyone around me wanted me to pretend all was okay, to act like them (whoever they were. I was in 12 foster homes in 2 years), to forget the past and move on. You love her enough to know that connections to her family is important. And you love her in ways that shows her it does not threaten you or the relationship you want with her. I hope you guys rent the movie “Secret Lives of Bees” – the idea that mothers dont have to be blood, bonds dont need to begin at birth, and there can be loving relationships even after trauma, etc. Anyway, long reply here. Sorry if it doesn’t make much sense. I also hope she shares her cake with you. _lora

    • AdoptiveBlackMom

      It all makes perfect sense. It’s not easy and I try to remember that this is especially challenging for my daughter. It’s taken us a few years to get here; I am glad we have. There were moments when I really had to reassure her family that her emotions were ok, to just roll with it. My daughter was in 7 homes over a 4 year period with most having the same expectations you described. I am trying my best to help her heal and help her rebuild relationships in a healthy way. Thank you for sharing; it helps me a lot. It’s important to understand how adoptees think about these things. ❤ More on the cake tomorrow. 🙂

  • HerdingChickens

    I love that you are so willing to put her needs first. I remember hearing another foster parent talk about bio family visits. They said just because it hurts, doesn’t mean it’s bad for them. You are making the right choices for her. I hope to someday have the opportunity to do the same for my children.

  • Sammie Mendez

    I hope to get to this place one day. I have a lot of resentment and pent up anger towards Mariah’s family. It’s hard to let that stuff go sometimes, especially when you know how much it’s affected your baby. So I’m listening, friend. I’m watching and learning. Thank you for this!

  • The Gap | AdoptiveBlackMom

    […] happy to be in contact with her extended family, but she still hasn’t unpacked a lot of her feelings about all that happened or figure out what kind of consistent contact, if any, she wants or how to […]

  • “There’s a gap. It may be there forever. I hope not, but it might be there for a long, long time.” – Riddle from the Middle

    […] happy to be in contact with her extended family, but she still hasn’t unpacked a lot of her feelings about all that happened or figure out what kind of consistent contact, if any, she wants or how to […]

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