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Modern Parenthood

National Adoption Day: My son tells it his way

National Adoption Day: For this National Adoption Day, one mother celebrates the individual that her son has become as he has grown old enough to define himself as more than an adoptee or a "lucky boy" into the person he is meant to be.

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That desire shines forth in Jill Krementz’s 1996 classic, “How It Feels to Be Adopted.” She interviewed 19 young adoptees, many close to my son’s age, and the book presents their first-person stories. Krementz refers to the big questions adoptees have – for instance, “Do I have any brothers and sisters I don’t know about?” or “Are my parents happy they adopted me?” – questions that are the stuff of storytelling. More important, though, they’re the questions adoptees contemplate on their own, no matter how supportive their adoptive family is.

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Guest Blogger

Martha Nichols is editor in chief of Talking Writing, an online literary magazine. She lives in Cambridge, Mass., with her husband and 11-year-old son. She blogs at Athena’s Head.

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Even in 2013, two decades beyond Krementz’s interviews, with more public awareness about adoption and acceptance of birthparent searches, these stories remain as fresh as ever. Take twelve-year old Carla, who was in foster care until about age three, when she was adopted. Carla says she doesn’t think about adoption “all that much.” But then:

“There is one time when I do always think about my biological mother, and that’s on my birthday. I’ve never skipped a year without wondering, How does she feel on this day? Does she think of me, or does she just pretend that I was never born and it’s any other day? Is she sad, or is she happy?” 

Such basic questions are like pearls, hidden within the growing self, worthy of polishing over time and preserving. They eventually become the stories that give anyone’s life meaning.

I can hazard guesses about the stories hidden on our family laptop. Once, my son admitted to compiling a page of forbidden curse words. Another time, he joked with both his dad and me about the many-paged “Parent Agreement” he was drafting, following the lead of oddball physicist Sheldon Cooper on “The Big Bang Theory.”

But here’s the only thing I know for sure, as a writer: Reality isn’t simply whatever we wish it to be, yet there’s magic in the connections we create ourselves. As an adoptive mom, I’ve found, to my joyful surprise, that my son and I share a passion for words. It’s not genetic. But it’s a form of kinship, as mysterious in its way as love.

I can’t claim I’ll never peek at those secret files without his permission, because I don’t know what future challenges we’ll face. Still, my son is old enough now to define himself as more than an adoptee or a “lucky boy” or the kid we think he is. As melancholy as this sometimes makes me – who knows what a child born of another woman’s body will discover as he writes his own way into being? – my sadness is mixed with sweet awareness. He’s becoming exactly who he’s meant to be.

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