Being “Different” is Beautiful
Growing up, I never knew I was “different.” I didn’t know that my brothers were “different.” I didn’t know that our family was “different.” You see, to me, we were just family. I knew that my parents didn’t give birth to me, but they were all I knew, and to me they were just mom and dad. I knew that my brothers and I didn’t look alike, but I knew they picked on me like a little sister, I knew they protected me like a little sister, and to me they were just my brothers. I didn’t know I was “different” until I started talking about adoption to my classmates and friends, and they would react in a sympathetic way… as if they felt bad for me and they were trying to understand. To this day, nearly 38 years later, when I tell people I’m adopted, I still get that sympathetic nod or an “I’m sorry, I didn’t know.” But why did they feel bad for me? I wasn’t different… My family wasn’t different…
Some of my earliest memories are of me and my brother being tucked into bed and my mom telling me our adoption stories as our bedtime stories. I knew exactly where I came from and why my birth mother chose to give me up and how my parents came to get me and adopt me. I knew that my story was different from my brothers’ stories. I knew we all came from different families with different backgrounds and different reasons. But I knew we all had one common bond, and that was our parents.
First came my oldest brother. He was born in jail, so he wasn’t allowed to stay with his mom. He spent the first five years of his life being passed off from family member to family member, all of whom failed him. He was allegedly physically abused, sexually abused, neglected, and sodomized. By the time he was removed from his biological family, he was labeled as “damaged,” a “trouble maker,” and had “problems.” The only “suitable place for a kid like that” was a boys orphanage. He happened to be passing through a pediatrician’s office getting his check-up before going into the group home, when the new pediatrician who had just opened his office in the area was assigned to do the child’s physical. This pediatrician and his wife had been actively trying to have kids of their own, but weren’t able. The pediatrician called his wife and told him about this 5-year old little boy who had the same red hair as the pediatrician. The wife wasn’t too sure at first, as they wanted a baby and not a troublesome little boy. But the pediatrician knew they had a lot of love to give, and so they decided to start the process…
Their first experience with foster and adoption didn’t come easy. This little boy did have a lot of mental health issues with his background. He was incredibly smart, but also incredibly devious. He lied a lot, he threw tantrums, he had night terrors, he would steal, he had nightmares so bad that he would rip not only through his sheets, but his mattress. But the pediatrician and his wife knew that the one thing this boy had never had was stability, and they weren’t willing to give up. So they made it official and adopted this little boy. Thus the pediatrician and his wife became parents.
Next came a beautiful baby girl. She was tiny, and she was ready to be adopted. Her biological parents were in no position to be able to care for an infant newborn. They wanted to give her a good life, and the new parents of the 5-year old wanted to provide it for her. But months after having her, one document that would have made the process complete was forgotten, which opened the door for the biological mother to come back in and claim rights to the child. The new parents didn’t want to put her through a drawn-out court case and risk her aging in an unsure future, so they voluntarily gave her back.
Next came the middle brother. He was perfect and came straight from the hospital. His mom was too young to be able to care for him and he was left in the hospital. He had olive skin and a head of blonde hair. He was cuddly and sweet, and that older rebellious boy, whom the now more seasoned parents, had already adopted was excited and proud to have a little brother to take care of. But there was still one thing missing…
That little girl that they had to give back, they wanted to replace. So finally came me. I was born addicted to different opiates. Both my biological mother and father had histories of daily drug and/or alcohol abuse. My mom was young, but she had been adopted herself, and she knew that foster/adoption could provide you a good life. She wanted to go back to school and make something of herself and wanted to give her child the same opportunity. So she gave me up. And my parents were there to receive me on Easter weekend of 1981. Their family was finally complete.
But foster and adoption didn’t come without its hardships. Throughout the years my parents had to navigate having three children with three different backgrounds and mental health needs. They had to learn first-hand, before there was research or studies released, about what it was like to have children who are born to addicts and the long-term ramifications it can have on their brain functioning and behavior. They had to watch the children struggle with attachment disorders, be prone to addiction themselves (as they were not aware in the kids’ infancies that addiction is hereditary), and make hard choices about what was best to help each child in their individual struggles. They had to make the choice to send one child away to get help in order to ultimately protect the other two children they had in the home. They had to endure legal problems another child had for years. They had to be the strength for another child after they were able to admit that they didn’t drink like normal people and needed help stopping before it killed them, and they loved that child back to life when they forgot how to love themselves. But these hardships didn’t change the fact that these “kids”, though now grown, would always be their children.
So when people act as if they feel bad for me, or think that I am “different,” I realize it’s because they don’t understand. They don’t understand that family isn’t blood. Family isn’t a group of people who all look the same or have similar characteristics. Family, as defined, is “the basic unit in society of two parents who are rearing children.” Family is a parent who loves you unconditionally, who holds your hand when you’re scared, who tucks you in at night, who sits with you when you wake up from a bad dream, who wipes away the tear from your eye and the blood on your knee when you fall, who sits with you when you’re sick, who stands by you if you’re in trouble (even though they may not condone your actions), who get you help when you need it most but can’t admit it, who love you when you can’t love yourself. Family is people who support you, nurture you, cheer you on, and tell you when you’re wrong, point you in the right direction, and are always at the finish line to congratulate you when you’ve accomplished something. So maybe I’m not “different,” I’m just not traditional. I’m proud to be a family that is the product of foster and adoption. And if that’s your idea of “different,” then being different is beautiful.
– Samantha Scott
Site Director for Northern Kentucky