What It Feels Like Being Adopted
The subject of adoption seems to have hit a particular chord with many readers out there, and I have written at length about it in several of my other writings, but one thing I have never written about is what it feels like to be adopted. I am willing to bet there are quite a few out there who share these same feelings so now is as good a time as any to test that theory and toss a few reflections your way.
HOW IT ALL STARTED
Well, obviously, there had to be a sexual union between a man and a woman, but since I don’t know the details of that intermingling I’ll move on to those things I do know something about. I was born October 13, 1948 and as far as I can tell I was immediately placed under the care of Catholic Youth Services in Tacoma, Washington. The reasons are un-important at this late date and I choose not to dwell on them; the fact is that for the next nine months I was shuttled from one foster home to the next, nine in total, until I was finally adopted for good by Dale and Evelyn Holland.
At the time that I was adopted I still could not see. The doctors explained that I had “Failure To Thrive Syndrome,” a rather common occurrence with babies who have not been held regularly or nurtured in a natural way. Within three days of being adopted I gained my sight and the rest, as they say, is history.
AND THE BLIND SHALL SEE
I have no recollection of when my parents told me that I was adopted and not their natural-born son. I have no memory of “the talk” when I was told the facts of life as pertained to my origins. It seems like I have always known. Obviously at some point in my early childhood Dale and Evelyn sat down with their son and explained it all to him but the details or date of that talk escape me. To their credit they must have shown incredible compassion and handled it just right because I have no recall of a traumatic experience nor do I have any deep-seated animosity over the fact. I knew two things: I was adopted and my adopted parents loved me as though I were their biological son. End of story!
THE GOOD SHIP LOLLIPOP
In truth a child could not ask for a better upbringing than I had in the Holland household. I have always believed, based on family history I am now aware of, that I was the glue that held the family together, that there was some serious dysfunction in my family before I arrived and I was meant to be the “solution” to that dysfunction. Whatever the case may be I was generously loved by all and given a solid foundation with which to start my teenage years and ensuing adult life.
All of that is introductory in nature so that we can get to the meat of this article.
BOY, YOU SURE LOOK DIFFERENT
Now we are getting down to the nitty gritty. It is just plain weird growing up in a family that you do not physically resemble in any way. The men on my dad’s side of the family were all stocky, broad-shouldered men; I was thin as a rail and was taller than my dad by freshman year in high school. I did not have the same coloring, the same hair, the same nose, eyes, mouth, you name it, I did not have it. We would have family gatherings about once a month and there would be fifteen, twenty family members, and I was obviously the pick of a different litter. I’m not sure how to describe how that made me feel, but I can say without a doubt that I felt displaced and the odd man out. I certainly was treated at all times like one of the family but I never really felt like I was.
BOY, YOU SURE ACT DIFFERENTLY
I could not have been more different had I tried. Whereas the men of the Holland family were gregarious by nature, instinctively funny, flirtatious and bold, I was painfully shy, quiet as a church mouse and bordering on meek...If you had been standing on the sidelines at one of those gatherings and been asked to pick out the one who was adopted, nine times out of ten your finger would have pointed at me. It was that obvious, and consequently it only enhanced the feelings that were growing inside of me, that I was in fact different, an outsider playing a game without knowing the rules.
BOY, YOU SURE THINK DIFFERENTLY
I was a reader at an early age, a quiet introvert who favored deep introspection over loud, boisterous behavior. I was more comfortable around girls at an early age, sensing a kinship with them in that they were more sensitive, more caring and more honest. My dad was a WWII veteran who was easily angered and more than willing to fight when words failed him. I was the diplomat, not particularly afraid to fight but just not seeing the sense in it when words were much more effective.
COME ON BILL, GET WITH THE PROGRAM
That was just the problem: I couldn’t get with the program. No matter how hard I tried I could not shake the feeling of being different from the rest of my family, and although I knew of course that I was adopted it was still difficult to be the odd duck at every single family function. While everyone else was laughing and playing games I was under a tree reading a book. After awhile you begin to adopt the belief that you just don’t fit in and never will.
BUT EVERYONE LOVED YOU BILL
Yes, they did, and God bless them for the love they gave me. Still, there was a strange transition that took place as I got older. It was as though the realization finally hit the rest of the family that I was, indeed, a strange one. I often felt that all eyes were on me, judging me, wondering what other bizarre thing I was going to do. I don’t believe my mom or dad ever did figure me out and I imagine quite a few nights of tossing and turning in bed as they wondered when I was going to start acting like a Holland.
BOTTOM LINE BILL; GET TO THE POINT
The point, dear readers, is that for many adopted kids there is an almost inherent sense of not belonging, and before any of you say that maybe it would be better if the child was never told they were adopted I say that is complete nonsense. It would be infinitely worse to wonder all of those years, convinced that something is wrong but not knowing what it is, only to find out in your teen years or as an adult that you had been lied to all of those years. No, the child needs to know and needs to be told in a loving, straight-forward manner when they are old enough to understand. Do not hide this fact; the damage done by hiding it will be irreparable.
I do not have a psychology degree so I speak only from the heart. I know from my own experience that what I say is true; these are not feelings that only I have felt. An adopted child has a feeling of not being connected to their adopted family. There is no fault, no blame and no shame in that; it just is.
It seems to me that this is a matter of acceptance. From the family’s standpoint these feelings must be accepted as valid. From the child’s standpoint these feelings must be accepted as natural and valid. There is absolutely nothing wrong with being adopted. We adoptees did not choose to have this life but we can choose to get on with life and be happy. That choice is ours and ours alone. Happiness truly is a choice.
To my adopted brothers and sisters out there….I wish for you happiness!
2012 William D. Holland (aka billybuc)
To purchase my book about adoption on Kindle go to:
- Adoption: A Letter To My Birth Mother Who I Never Knew
Adoption for birth mothers is a difficult decision; in the case of this author, it was the right decision made by his birht mother.
- Adoption: A Message To Adopted Kids Everywhere: Stand Proud!
This message to adopted kids focuses on the natural feelings of abandonment and rejection that many feel. To all of you who were adopted I say to you stand proud!