After a play date at our home recently, one of my daughter’s neighborhood friends complained to her mother, “Why didn’t you tell me that she was adopted?” I found it curious that she was so upset with her mother that she hadn’t pointed out that piece of background information before she spent time with my daughter that day and on several previous occasions. I had to ask myself, “Does it matter?” which got me thinking about whether or not my daughter’s other friends treat her differently because she was adopted. I had always thought not.
Apparently, it was an important factor for this young girl who found out my daughter was adopted in casual conversation with her. What about other children? My daughter has never felt different from her friends in any way. I doubt most of them know she was adopted. It doesn’t seem to matter to them, or her. She is happy and well-adjusted to her family and community, which she has been a part of since birth. I never got a good answer from my daughter’s neighborhood friend explaining why it mattered to her so much. The good news is that they like each other a lot and the revelation about adoption hasn’t affected their friendship at all.
Another one my daughter’s friends, a boy, was not adopted but his parents used IVF (in-vitro fertilization) to get pregnant. Recently, his mother asked me when I thought she needed to tell him about the IVF procedure that led to his birth. I asked her “Does it matter?” In this case, there were no other people involved in his genetics, aside from his parents, but his mother clearly thought he needed to know why he was different from other children. But he’s not different in any way to himself or to his friends. Why would it help a child to know how he was conceived?
I’m sure the science of fertility will advance over the next few decades and procedures like IVF will become even more commonplace than today. Statistics indicate that infertility rates will continue to grow, and so will the number of adopted and scientifically-assisted children. A child needs to know about being adopted, in case of health-related issues among other reasons, but is it important to disclose IVF-related information to our children as well? My friend will eventually tell her son. Will that information affect him in any way and will his friends feel differently about him if they know?
Often, international adoptions indicate a child’s origin before anyone even asks the parents a question. Friends realize the child is adopted at a glance or when they speak to the child. But again, does it matter? Those families (including one family that is part of my extended in-laws) display an abundance of loving, tolerant, and happy parenting; the same as all the biological families I know. Friends of those families are unaffected by knowing about a child’s country of origin. Parents of adopted children, both domestic and international, love those children as much as if they were their biological children and care for them the same way. I make every effort to treat all my children, two biological and one adopted, exactly the same and the “difference” between them has never mattered to anyone in our family or amongst our friends.
I give credit to my now ten-year-old daughter for the good friends she has made and her positive approach to being adopted. She claims that none of her friends, other than the neighborhood girlfriend, ever talk about or wonder about her adoption. When I first told her about being adopted at the age of five, she just shrugged her shoulders and moved on to the next topic of conversation (her bedtime story). I wasn’t even sure she understood what I had told her, until a week later when she informed one of her babysitters of the news. Clearly, to her it was just a part of who she was, like having green eyes.
There are differences between all of us that either existed at birth or have developed over the years from education, illness, or accident. The effort parents make to educate their children about tolerance and embracing the differences among us is critical to a future of well-adjusted, peaceful communities throughout the world.