ARTICLE

My Family And Adoption

Joelle Caipang

“What’s your family like?”

 

I pause. The question is simple, a conversation starter which should be easy enough to answer, but for me, the question sparks a sudden uncertainty. I know I could just say I have a mom, a dad, two brothers, a sister-in-law, a nephew and niece, and relatives on both sides. But I also know it’s not that simple.

 

 

Becoming family

 

When I was young, our family had modelled fostering with three other kids.

 

By modelled, I mean it was not a formal process. They weren’t in a foster system or adoption center. We all lived separately, had separate families, separate lives joined together by a Sunday youth service at church. Every other day, we spent time together, celebrating birthdays, fighting like siblings, helping with homework. Three more people sat at the dining table, three more people slept over in a cramped children’s bedroom, three more voices called my parents Ma and Pa. I’m not really sure how it started, but slowly and surely, it was as if they had always been a part of our family.

 

 

A history of adoption

 

I myself have been a product of generations of adoption, of people of different last names, parents, backgrounds, coming together. I look back to my parents, who were adopted as children.

 

My mother was adopted by a close aunt at a young age after the death of her own mother. The family had dissolved, scattered, leaving her longing for security and searching for the pieces that would give her a complete family. Despite the less than ideal circumstances, she became more conscious of the love and understanding that children need. Searching for the mother she lost eventually made her one who could accept and love readily, leading her to give birth to three and become Ma to six.

 

On the other hand, my father was raised in a relatively normal childhood with two siblings, only learning about his adoption when he had grown a little older. Yet knowing that his father was his stepfather and his brother and sister were half-siblings did not change the definition of family for him. Adoption had not only given him a chance at a stable loving life but spared him the trauma and guilt of being a child out of wedlock. The knowledge that he had been embraced, even if he was not of their own blood, nurtured a profound appreciation and compassion for other children who didn’t have families or who sought the love and attention they needed.

 

Once my parents had gotten married, their shared experiences of adoption made them beacons of warmth and love. People who had known the struggles of not having a complete family, who knew what it was like to be accepted and loved, have done the same to those who needed it.

 

Now with children of their own, my foster siblings continue this culture of belonging to one family whenever they return to our home with their families and their children. Much like their parents, this next generation enjoys spending time together, celebrating birthdays, fighting like siblings, and eventually helping each other with homework. More people now sit at the dining table, sleepover in a cramped children’s bedroom, and call my parents Grandpa and Nana.

 

The impact of adoption

 

In its different shapes and forms, adoption didn’t just change my parents’ lives, but also the generations and families that followed. It triggered a chain of events that seems to gain momentum with each generation and isn’t likely to ever stop. To me, the concept of family has been extended and stretched, encompassing the siblings and grandparents I have now.

 

Even now as a teenager, I know in my heart that this new generation of children who share none of my DNA, are my family. This realization has made me think back on the generations that made this possible and gave me a family connected by love and time and choice. A family that will continue for generations to grow past blood, DNA, or birth.

That’s what my family’s like.

 

 

How has adoption changed your family? Share your story with us!
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