This post was written by Inspire Chief Strategist Chris Bogus.
It’s tricky to describe adoption to people not personally connected to the experience. It’s often difficult to talk about what it means to be adopted. For many people, it seems like an anomaly. For me, on the other hand, it’s all I’ve known.
Over the years, I’ve been asked numerous questions, most revolving around events and people that I don’t know. I’m asked questions about the circumstances or the identity of my birth parents. I don’t have the answers, and yes, I am curious. I’ve spent nearly my entire life only knowing bits and pieces because of the laws in Arizona, where I was born. I’ve been frustrated at times about it, but I’ve also learned that there are many parts to my story, and many people who have helped make it a success.
Foremost among them is the woman from a Phoenix-based Catholic adoption agency who worked on my case. Then there are my parents, who I don’t refer to as my adopted parents because they are the parents I’ve known and ultimately chose to love a three-week-old child with less than 24-hours to prep. My sister, also adopted, supported and helped assure me that I wasn’t alone. My extended family, grandparents, cousins and godmother all made me feel loved and accepted. All of these people helped me know that being adopted didn’t make me different; it just gave me a different, chosen story — the story of these people who chose to love me.
At the center of this are my parents. By no means perfect, they did the most perfect thing they could: they taught me what it was to feel unconditionally loved. They have often told me that they were the lucky ones to have me as a son. The truth is, I’m the lucky one.
Growing up aware of my adoption didn’t change the fact that I was unequivocally my parents’ child. While there may have been biological differences, when asked about the importance of nature vs nurture, I won’t even let them finish their question before I answer “nurture.” My parents, imperfect as they were (I can hear them reading this and reacting as if they’re appalled to see me write this… they’re not really), perfected the art of loving my sister and me. They found a way to learn from every source they could: experience, magazine articles, doctors, and of course from friends and family. They were always intentional, not necessarily planning every step, but having a reason for why and what they did.
Now a parent myself, I find myself going back to them at times, apologizing for the way I acted (partly serious and partly tongue in cheek). This is especially true when teaching my teenager Algebra. When my dad did the same for me, I was sure I knew more than him —a man who has bachelor’s and master’s engineering degrees from the Ohio State University and Stanford University. My mom, a savvy negotiator, taught me not to underestimate the business acumen of an Italian woman. Fair warning to car dealerships to not underestimate her in their sales office.
These aspects of how I grew up don’t seem to differ from stories I hear from friends who aren’t adopted. My parents were some of the most compassionate people when it came to understanding not only being an adoptive parent, but also birth mothers who gave their children up for adoption and the circumstances they faced.
Making these connections isn’t quick or easy. It takes a lot of love, compassion, forgiveness, intentionality and work. Some people may have a great understanding from experience. Others may need more guidance. What I’ve learned working with an organization like Chosen is that whether you only need a little guidance or a lot, there’s nothing accidental about forging relationships like the one I have with my parents. And everybody benefits from some support, guidance and someone to talk to during the adoption process.