Through the Eyes of an Adoptee

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Hi!  My name is Carianne.  If, you know me, you are automatically visualizing what I look like.  Short.  Black hair.  Awesome squinty eyes.  Maybe you don’t know me, but you’ve heard the song “hey Carrie Anne, what’s your game now, can anybody play.”  I still remember the Vice Principal of the high school I attended singing that Hollies’ song every time he saw me in the halls.  Or, maybe you’ve thought of Carrie Ann on Dancing with the Stars or Poltergeist’s Carol Ann . . . I’ve heard it all.

Now, add this fact:  I’m adopted.  Different associations now emerge, usually taking the form of questions.  I’ll provide some answers:  I’m from Korea, South that is.  I came to the US when I was 18 months old.  No, I don’t know anything about my birth parents.  And, nope, I don’t speak of lick of Korean.  Instead, I’ve been graced with a Southern accent straight from the backwoods of Mississippi because that’s where my family calls home.Recently I ran across an article that sums up adoption from my perception as an adoptee.  It’s a little lengthy, but I would like to share it below.  What I have come to discover is that there are always questions.  These questions sometimes come from within and sometimes they come from others.  The reality, however, is that everyone deals with questions.  While the questions might appear different because of wording, they are all the same in nature.  In the end, they are all attempts at understanding “why are you different from me?”

Being Adopted, and Being Me

By:  Adam Wolfington, age 16

Being adopted is different. It can be confusing to the adopted kid and to other people (especially if you are a transracial adoptee, because they spot the difference and then want answers). So, adoption to me is black – and my family is white.

How is being adopted different? Well, I don’t know who my birth parents are. I wonder about that. Not because it makes me sad, but because I just wonder. Well, maybe it makes me a little sad. It’s kind of like a missing piece of me. My mom told me my birth parents were not married and were very young, so if I ever wanted to track someone down it would be her – my birth mom. I’m not sure if I want to do that or not. She was white. He was black. How much does all that matter? I don’t know now.

Maybe not all adoptive parents are great, but mine are — pretty much. More than anything else, I love to play music and my parents support me in that all the way. I have an older brother and sister. My mom calls them “home-mades” because she and my dad are their birth parents. I am the “gourmet take-out,” in her words. When people ask if she is my “real mother,” she asks, “What do I look like, a hologram?” I just don’t like it when my parents make me study and I get grounded for not doing what I am supposed to. But I guess that’s what parents who care do. Anyhow, that’s what they tell me.

I get into trouble sometimes because too often I don’t do my schoolwork. Right now I am grounded for ten days! This is a hard lesson and punishment. I am allowed to do my music and community service and go to school. And that’s all. I hate this. But I know it is my fault. And I know my parents are not happy about it either. They say they care enough to make me do what is right. Grrrrr. It still stinks.

My first memory of realizing “I was different” was when I was in kindergarten. People looked at us (my mom, dad, sister and me) funny. Some asked questions. Some said nothing at all and just stared. I finally understood they were trying to figure out our family. And I think that’s when I began to wonder, too.

My mom keeps a journal and tells me she wrote about a time when I was 6 years old and in pee-wee ice hockey. She says, “You were the only tan on the squad.” Some kid came up to me, looked at my mom, then back at me and said, “That’s your Mom?” I said, “Yeah.” And he said, “How come?”

My mom wrote in her journal that I just looked at him and said, “Different strokes for different folks.” The kid just shrugged and walked away. (I do remember watching a TV show called “Different Strokes.” That’s probably how I came up with my answer.) Anyhow, it worked and no one there asked that again.

Another time, on my ninth birthday, Mom wrote, I asked her, “Do you still have the phone number for that nice lady?” When she asked which one, I said, “The one that carried me in her belly.”

Mom’s notes say:

“You mean your birth mother?”

“Uh huh.”

“Why? Is there something you want to say to her?”

“Yeah.”

“What would you like to say to her?”

“Oh, I’d just tell her what a nice kid I am and that I’m O.K.”

When I was about 10 years old I remember kids saying stuff that really upset me, like, “At least I know who my real parents are.” Or, “You’re so bad even a black family didn’t want to adopt you.” Some days I came home and just cried.

But my Mom helped me work out answers. She asked me, “What does a real mother do?” When I gave a list of things she asked if I knew anyone who did those things for me. “Yeah,” I said. “You do.” Same for my dad. So Mom and I sat down and I told her the ten worst things people said to me. She wrote them down. Then I made up answers that were funny but not mean. (Mom’s rule is to never make someone feel bad just to get back at them.) Mom wrote these down too. I then memorized the list. Next time it happened I was ready. It felt great! I wasn’t so scared, or hurt (as much), or embarrassed by those questions again.

My friends’ parents welcome me as their own, the way my parents treat my friends. No different. People say I am just like my father because I act like him. I know both of us like to get the last word in, no matter what. Also our sense of humor is similar. Sometimes a little off. It can even be a little … am I allowed to say “vulgar”?

Like my mom I like hats. I always look up words I don’t understand because she uses big words so I have had to keep on trying to figure out what she is saying. When I was younger this was a real problem because she talks fast. A lot of the time I had no idea what she was saying to me. Also, we both love music. I’m a good singer (she thinks she is, too). But I play a mean electric heavy metal guitar and she can’t.

Sometimes I think people are looking at me, feeling sorry for me because my birth parents let me go. I’m not sure why. But I know I am really loved. Still, sometimes I wonder if there was something wrong with me? My birth mom placed me with my parents even before I was born so it’s not like she didn’t like me. Still, I wonder.

Sometimes I am sad. Sometimes I feel lonely. Sometimes I feel empty. Mostly I feel happy. Lots of times I get mad at my parents for being on my back. Then again, I am 16 years old. My friends feel the same way and none of them are adopted. So, maybe I’m just sort of normal.

It has not been easy, being me and being adopted and being in a racially different family. My parents and I have gone through lots of therapy. But you know what? It’s not bad either. I am happy, have a fun life and am loved. I am safe and secure and, yes, forced to be accountable (don’t like that at all). My family cares about me … forever.

Being adopted is different. It can be confusing trying to go back and figure out “why me.” On the other hand … “lucky me.” I am different from my brother and sister. But I am the same as them in lots of other ways that matter and will be their brother forever. Best of all I am loved for who I am. Period.

Having a family that cares about you is awesome. I have some “home-made” friends that don’t have the kind of love and acceptance I have. Adoption is about me and my family and how lucky we all are to have each other. So, to kids waiting to be matched, I say get the best possible match and then work at it. Nothing is perfect. But having a forever family is the best.

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