“Dad, please tell Emily I’m adopted”

Barney Rush,
Chevy Chase, MD.

Ours is an adopted family: my wife and I have two daughters, both of whom are Caucasian, as we are. We adopted them through agencies, the older when we lived in New York; the younger when we lived in Florida. After living six years in Europe, we returned to the United States in 2002, when our daughters were 14 and 8 years old. We had always told them that they were adopted, and so grew up never considering this fact to be a secret, or something that made them materially different from their friends, and certainly not something of which they might be ashamed. So it wasn’t surprising that our younger daughter, now in 5th grade at our local elementary school, would mention to her new friends that she was adopted. What surprised her was that her friends were surprised, and disbelieving. Hence her request to me when she brought a friend home after school. Why the disbelief? It wasn’t because her friends were unaware, or uncomfortable with adoption. To the contrary: there were plenty of adopted children in the school. What was different, I think, is that most of these adopted children were Asian or from Central America. So the idea that a child could be adopted who was Caucasian – THAT didn’t compute. And perhaps there was a deeper thought: “You look just like me; how could your “real” Mom have given you up?” I wonder about that; but I don’t know.

 

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