As I returned home from work the other day, I turned up our street and saw a neighbor’s youngest son. Gosh, he looks so much like his mother, I thought. The large eyes, the dark hair, the shape of the face. Then I caught sight of the older son – and he looks exactly like his father.
When I thought about it a bit more, I realized my sister’s kids look like her and her husband. Other friends’ kids, too, look like their parents. Of course they do, they’re biologically related. But in our circle of friends, so many of the children aren’t blood-related to their parents at all. I don’t even try to look for resemblances.
Different features, different hair color and in many cases different races too. Despite our adoption agency’s pledge to place children with parents of the same race, my Caucasian self and even whiter partner became adoptive parents to a mixed-race boy. And with his addition to our family, we were then classified as a mixed-race family, which made the adoption of our mixed-race daughter a few years later a lot easier.
As I was growing up and thinking of having children, I always wondered what my kids would look like – my biological kids, if or when I had them. Would they inherit my eye color, my hair color? Which parts of my DNA would my kids end up with? At one point, I thought that a blood line was important to create a connection with offspring, but then I realized bonding and attachment is so much more than passing on genes.
My partner and I chose adoption to create our family, so our children’s DNA does not include ours. They have their own unique features, their own inherited possibilities and also risks in their chromosomes.
But, funny, the strangers I meet who declare seeing a resemblance between me and my children. It’s not possible, but people search for it all the same.
On the other hand, there are the people who don’t see any connection at all and worry.
Last weekend I was in a grocery store with my daughter. She moved off a few steps to pick something out, not far enough for me to be concerned about. Yet a woman came up to her and said, “Is a parent here with you?”
My daughter pointed at me and said, “That’s my daddy.”
The woman turned to me and looked at me a moment. She said, “You’re her daddy?” Obviously there was still some doubt.
Did she want the short answer or the longer answer?
Am I a parent to the little girl we brought home when she was 10 months old, for whom I woke in the middle of the night to feed her when she was small;
who now wakes and screams out “I CAN’T FIND MY BUNNY!”
The girl who I try to praise not for being pretty or smart, but for being nice and working hard;
who I registered for ballet then later realized it would have been a heck of a lot cheaper just to buy her the lavender uniform skirt;
who I encourage to wear something more than just pink or purple;
who I am working with as she learns to read, even though she struggles and wants to give up;
who I make sure gets her fruits and veggies and a little treat now and then too;
who I encourage to try everything at least once;
for whom we threw a princess birthday party last summer because that’s what she wanted;
who I comfort when she trips over her own feet and falls down and scrapes her hands;
for whom I have a towel ready in case she gets shampoo in her eyes;
for whom I learned to do both Elsa and Anna braids depending on her mood each day;
the little girl who I allow to listen to “Shake It Off” on repeat in the car;
to whom I listen attentively as she imitates her teacher and reads us books and shows us the pictures;
actually, to whom I listen – All. Day. Long.
who puts on hip hop music and keeps up dancing beside her brother and when he takes off his shirt because he’s hot, she does too because girls should be 100 percent equal;
who I can still snap out of a little funk with a few tickles or with some over-the-top pretend pouting of my own;
who I try to convince that 14 lip balms are enough;
who is a bit shy but determined nonetheless to approach women in high heels to say to them, “I like your shoes”;
who says, when I get dressed up for work, “Why do you look so handsome today?”
to whom I snuggle up in bed to read and to whom I sing “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” every night even though I have no pitch but still she thinks I’m the best singer in the world;
Is she my daughter? Short answer or long?
“Yes, she is.”