Family — More than people

I was adopted. That is not too interesting these days. Many people have adoption stories. They are adopted, or have a sibling who is adopted, have other relatives who are adopted… you get the point.

My adoption story relates to the death of my adoptive father. He died only six weeks after I was born. This happens to families. Spouses die. When my dad died, my mom considerately contacted the adoption agency, simply, to let them know of my dad’s death, and that they would, obviously, not be adopting additional children. A few days later she received a call that they would be by “to pick up the child.”

My mom could have given into her grief, and given me back to the adoption agency to be re-placed into a new two-parent home. But she couldn’t imagine giving this little girl back. She stood up, found help, and fought.

It took 18 months, but this case set precedent. No authority would ever take a child away from a naturally born family, simply because a spouse died. Therefore, they can’t do it simply because a spouse died in an adopted household.

Today, people are still trying to legislate what a “family” is when it comes to adoption. I find that sad.

I was lucky. I had a family that, despite missing a father, kept a roof over our head, food in our stomachs, and kept our needs met. No childhood is perfect, but as I get older, I am actually grateful for not having two parents, or being a child of divorce.

Being raised by a single-mom was not too bad. This woman worked hard every day to keep food on the table. Luckily, she was stubborn beyond words and wasn’t going to let anyone tell her she couldn’t do it. As a parent, we couldn’t play one off the other. So, we didn’t learn the fine art of manipulation. We learned that when mom made a decision, even one we didn’t like, it was the decision we were stuck with. Having a single mom made us resourceful too. We learned how to figure things out when we didn’t always have all the information. We learned how to get things done. We learned how to make do.

Sure there are benefits to the nuclear family, but every family has their strengths and their weaknesses. Just because a family is “traditional” doesn’t make it better than one that is not. Over the years I have had the opportunity to meet some amazing people who came from some wild family units, and others whom I would rather not know that were reared in a traditional family.

I remember one day in seventh grade I stopped into a friend’s home where their mom was a stay at home mom and at three in the afternoon you could smell dinner cooking on the stove. To this day, I don’t know why, but I couldn’t stay in that house. I had to leave. There was something in the air in that house that said to me that this was not a safe place, when all evidence was to the contrary. I never went to that house again. I don’t even remember who that friend was.

My point is family is more than the people who make up its parts. Family is the people who are willing to fight to keep together. Not because of a need to control those in it, but because we love them and truly want them in our lives.

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