Summer 2005 (13.2)
Embracing Our Adoptive Family
Left: Lucas and Rachel Shryock with their
parents Kathleen and Jim. In 2001, Shryocks were among the first
couples to adopt children from Azerbaijan. It's been nearly four
years that they have been together as a family.
Shryock, mother of two handsome children from Azerbaijan, recently
launched her career as a freelance writer. One of her first achievements
was getting her story about intrusive questions related to adoption
into the largest general family magazine published in the United
Family Circle is published by Gruner and Jahr in New York City.
Their circulation is listed as 5 million. This article is reprinted
with permission of Family Circle in the May 2005 issue, page
yours?" the man at the garden center had asked. Several
months had passed since the arrival of our children. My husband
Jim and I were on an outing with our son Lucas and daughter Rachel
choosing a new tree for our backyard to commemorate the formation
of our family - the planting of new roots.
After spending the majority of the previous few months close
to home, we were venturing out into the world. It was spring,
a new beginning. The sun warmed me, but I found that I was also
basking in the glow of motherhood - a special something that
had eluded me for so long but now warmed me from deep within.
"Are they yours?" the man repeated. I was only too
aware of the implication of his question. With shiny dark hair
and deep chocolate-brown eyes, our children looked absolutely
nothing like us; they must not be "ours."
They was the first of countless questions we have been asked
since our children arrived home from Baku, Azerbaijan, more than
three years ago. Since then we have been questioned by grocery
store clerks, educators, friends, nurses and even other adoptive
I must admit that although I was adopted as an infant and considered
myself prepared to deal with adoption-related issues, I have
been repeatedly shocked at the boldness of others in asking about
my children's personal history.
I am not thin-skinned. I do not assume people are being purposefully
rude, and I do not think that adoption should be secret. I simply
believe that my children's story belongs to them and that they
have a right to privacy just like anyone else. I also believe
that my children should not be defined solely by their adoption.
But most important, I believe my children are, without question,
my real children.
Left: Lucas and Rachel Shryock
life's lessons have influenced me. I had parents who shared my
adoption story with me at an early age, and I cannot recall a
time when I did not know that I was adopted. As a result, being
adopted was always part of me, like having blond hair or being
partial to strawberry ice cream.
As a child I learned that being adopted was only one of many
characteristics that made me who I was. Above all, I learned
that the realness of family did not come from bearing a resemblance
to my mother and father.
was in daily acts of love. It was my father being there to patch
up skinned knees as I learned to ride a bike, my mother sitting
in the audience at every concert beaming with pride even though
I could not carry a tune in a bucket. It was their teaching of
family values and a strong work ethic. Recently, it was my father's
glowing face when I got off the plane holding his first grandchildren.
At that moment I recalled how right he was when he told me that
it takes about five seconds after you hold your child for that
baby to become "yours".
Where does all this leave me when intrusive questions come my
way? At first I was angry, but that didn't solve anything and
definitely did not set a good example for my children. Responding
with sarcastic one-liners was not a skill that I would be proud
to teach them. Instead, it is my responsibility to help my children
become equipped to deal with adoption-related issues productively.
By treating others with kindness, they will learn that they are
deserving of that same consideration. They will discover that
their own personal information belongs only to them and that
they will be the ones who have the right to share this information.
They will learn that they have many characteristics other than,
and including, adoption that make them special, unique people.
They will learn what is real.
So now, when asked if my children are mine, I smile and simply
answer. "Yes," Nothing more.
Kathleen Wilson Shryock is a freelance writer and mother of two.
They live in Kansas. Other articles by Kathleen published in
Azerbaijan International include: "Preserving Adoption Memories
- Memory Books", AI 10.3 (Autumn 2002) and "Celebrating
Our Families: Second Reunion of Azerbaijan Adoptee Families"
which she and her husband co-hosted in Kansas City. AI 11.3 (Autumn
2003). Search at AZER.com.
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2005). Copyright Azerbaijan International
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