“Does This Mean I Have a ‘Real’ Dad?”

What a shocker it was to hear this yesterday, especially considering we’d had conversations about these types of comments with both Prasad and Sky in the past. Of course, we weren’t too upset; mainly thrown for a loop. It’s one thing to have an adult ask something like “Do you have any kids of ‘your own’,” or a classmate asking “Do you know anything about your ‘real’ family?” But how are parents supposed to respond to these types of comments when they come from their own children? I honestly think it was a case of Sky being so completely ‘thrown for a loop’ himself that he just wasn’t thinking. Whatever the case, it was tough… especially on Daniel.

From the moment we started the adoption process, I was broken in as a mom. By that, I mean that with each child there was so much talk of the biological mothers, so much referencing them, and so much acknowledging them that I think as moms we have a chance to overcome any feelings of insecurity about being the “adoptive mom”. I have always revered the birth mothers of my children, and have the utmost respect for them and the unimaginably difficult choices they had to make. We acknowledge them the Sunday before Mother’s Day with a candle, and talk about them frequently. For some reason, biological dads seem to get the short end of the stick. Granted, we know for certain Sky and Prasad’s had a less active role in the relinquishment process. And of course, a nine month pregnancy and delivery can be handled by the birth mother alone, and was by Sky and Prasad’s. Those are some reasons the male part of the equation gets left out, but we’re realizing it’s at the expense of ourselves and our kids.

To make this story short, I wrote up a two-page explanation about Sky’s medication and two diagnoses. Because of a comment he made two days prior, “No one in my class takes medicine, but me”, I decided it was high time Sky had ALL the facts in writing so he could see that he is one in a sea of millions who takes medication, and I wrote up exactly what the medicines are for, and why they are so important. It sounds elaborate, I know, but he is a great reader with a strong vocabulary and comprehension for his age. He was the only kid in his class to receive a “Super Reader” certificate this semester, and he’s in a gifted reading group. So, I put it ALL in there for him, respecting his intelligence and ability to understand what his medication is for.

It helped him a lot. Part of the information answered why people have the conditions he does. I gave several reasons, and one explained about the genetic factor; that most of the time they can be linked to one or both of the biological parents. The word “both” grabbed him. He took a long while to read it all, and then got up smiling. He walked over to Daniel, grinning and beaming with light, saying “So this means I have a ‘real dad’?!” My first impulse was to respond “Well, you’re looking at him, silly! He’s as real as can be!” but I didn’t. There was an awkward pause from the both of us as we just stood in the kitchen, staring at him. We never expected to hear such a phrase from any of our kids, and that was probably naive as can be. We also couldn’t believe that after all this talk of his birth mother he never considered the fact that someone got her pregnant! I could see a slight hurt on Daniel’s face, and then he responded “I think you know a woman can’t get pregnant without a man, right?” Sky knodded, then Daniel continued, “Well, then yes you have what’s called a ‘biological’ or ‘birth’ father. I’m your ‘real’ father.” He said that last sentence with a smile, and Sky smiled back, “Yeah, I know.” Despite Sky’s acknowledgment, we could see his fascinated, happy and excited wheels turning. He was thrilled with the idea of actually having a guy out there who was his ‘real dad’, and he still felt that way. Of course, we’re not implying that the birth father isn’t a ‘real’ human being who had a very ‘real’ role in getting the birth mother pregnant. It’s just that beyond the sex act, there has been no ‘fathering’ taking place.

We let the topic go after that, and Daniel and I talked a bit alone. I payed attention to my own feelings, and noticed an inner voice saying to Sky, “If you consider yourself to have a ‘real dad’ somewhere else, then you must consider me, your mom, fake, too!” There were many emotions and thoughts whirling around inside me, but for Daniel it was very new. With men, there is so little talk of the bio dads so they rarely have to look at these feelings. We imagined Sky discussing this at school with a friend or two, saying “My real parents in Guatemala…..” which just perpetuates ignorance surrounding adoptions. We were relieved to learn that Sky didn’t even know he had a biological father. We later spoke to him, and told him we even have his bio father’s full name in his adoption papers. He lit up again, but followed up by saying “Oh, but he and my ‘belly mom’ might both be dead by now.” We have no idea why he thinks that. We kept our follow up talk at a minimum, adding that by saying “real mom” or “real dad” makes his forever family seem “fake”. We asked him what makes a dad a dad, and he seemed to know. Still, it’s tough… being very open about the adoptions with our kids is the ONLY way to go, but it is challenging at times.

Total honesty and transparency created another difficult aspect to Sky’s discovery. It was his idea that the birth father couldn’t afford to take care of him either, and loved him enough to let him go to a family that could. He placed the very same situation that his birth mother experienced onto his birth father, which couldn’t have been farther from the truth. I won’t go into the details online, but we had to tell him a few things to set it straight. I know it’s controversial in the adoption world, but we don’t believe in embellishing things with our kids, and having them carry around false beliefs about their past. Sky is 9 years old, with the comprehension level of a 12 year old and we knew he could handle it. He was fine, and because of our openness I think he will trust us more. Surprisingly, he’s getting close to an age where I think he could even thumb through some of his own adoption file. A child’s past, their history, where they came from, and exactly what happened surrounding their adoption are critical keys to help them form identities as they get older. He knows we’d like to take him to Guatemala one day, and for his sake I’m praying one or both birth parents are still living.

After all was said and done yesterday, I was touched by the reminder that Daniel and I are in the position of receiving Sky’s love every day. We are showered with it day in and out, and I always think about that and send the love back to his birth family in Guatemala. He loves and values us, and that’s all we ever need to feel secure as parents. I walked into the sun room last night where Sky was sitting, and he just looked at me in the most loving way. I smiled, and he meekly said “Mama, I love you more than anything in this world, I really, really do.” It was very sweet and full of feeling. He ended it with humor saying, “No, I actually Lurrve you (that’s a step beyond love in our family). No, I actually BEYOND LURRRVE you!” There is something so beyond the biological, genetic, physical connection humans value way too much. The physical is real, and anything we cannot see or touch, or link to the physical doesn’t exist… an idea so, so far from reality; a sham, a delusion. I am equally bonded and connected to both my bio & non-bio kids, and that has taught me so much. Bodies get in the way… only love is real.

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This entry was posted in Adoption, Daniel, Parenting, Sky Bear. Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to “Does This Mean I Have a ‘Real’ Dad?”

  1. Violet has used the real mom term too. Mostly, though, she just talks about her mom or her Ethiopia mom (her dad is just her dad since there isn’t a dad in our family). Once, she clarified, “my real, real mom…you know, the one I came from.” I really think that’s what most kids mean when they say it and not so much that you’re less of a mom.

    Just my .02…

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