Sometimes it’s the differences that count…

by Michele FriedBy Michele Fried

My family is different though sometimes I forget. I am often asked which are kids are my own. I don’t even think anymore when responding. “They’re all my own,” I automatically say. Then they stumble and often explain that’s not what they mean, they just want to know which of my kids are adopted and which I gave birth too.

When asked the same question about her many children, I remember Marie Osmond answering, “You know, I can’t remember.” I would like to say that. Sometimes I do, but often I find myself repeating strongly that every one of those beautiful children is my very own.

I couldn’t love them any more if I gave birth to them and any adoptive parent will tell you that. Why am I asked this question? Several possibilities, we have many children (9!) and that is not so common with couples today. Our children range from ages 3 ½ (okay, 4 years old!) to 16 years old and they are of different sizes, abilities and ethnicities. More than half of our children joined our family by way of adoption and the other four were born to us. Why it’s important for people to know who I birthed and who I adopted is strange to me. The differences between the two still result in family.

Other adoptive families or birth families rarely ask such questions. I guess because they in their own ways are different too. They often remark how beautiful our children are. They don’t inquire about their histories or linkage to us. In fact if anything is said regarding adoption it is often how much my oldest son looks like me! Now that might not sound odd to you, but Zack, my 16-year-old son is a very gorgeous African American young man and I am a short white woman! How odd that comment might sound to others, yet it is a compliment only an adoptive mom can understand. This child made me a mom and his every milestone still is so exciting to me… Even obtaining his driver’s permit…Though I have yet to let him drive! Forgive me, he is my first child.

When our first birth child was born I was thrown into a tizzy – how can I have a white baby when my first baby is Black? How can I raise a birth and adopted child together? How is this fair to Zack? Jordan is adorable and just one of those kids everyone likes. I can laugh with him for hours. But how can he be so different from me when he came from my body? Rarely does one remark that this short white boy looks anything like me. How funny life is!

Now that half my kids are teenagers, excitement bounds everyday at the Fried household. Who said diapers were hard? Honestly though, I am truly blessed. One of my favorite times with my children are when we find ourselves in the kitchen (yes, doing dishes!) and talking. Really talking. We can talk politics, religion, adoption, school, even sex.

A few nights ago when my husband was out of town and the kids and I were eating dinner we began talking about the democratic candidates and everyone gave their opinion. Like I said, my family is different and so are their opinions! When discussing a current and hot democratic versus republican issue, I played devils advocate while Zack held his own in the debate. I was impressed by his tenacity and his passion for what he believed in. This political conversation led to a discussion about Hollywood stars and whether they have a right to privacy and then it led all the way to Zack sharing his personal future dreams for himself. He laughed when he tried to figure out how the conversation turned.

I sat listening to my son and was so impressed by him yet at the same time felt the urge to protect and guide. I learned that he wishes to be somebody, to make a difference in this world. What an incredible and familiar adolescent dream. How does he wish to go about it? He isn’t sure he answers me, but continues to say that he isn’t intimidated by what others say even if it’s unsupportive of him or his beliefs. He went on talking and as if it was a neon sign, I heard him say, “I like being different…” It was just a few words in a long breathless description of his future plans yet they were so powerful that without thinking I repeated those words aloud. He laughed and as if I asked him a question, he answered, “yes.

“Wow,” I said, “For being a Black baby boy who was placed with white parents, we could have been in this very kitchen, sixteen years later, with you telling me that you hate being different. I find it incredible that you are not intimidated by being different.”

He looked at me a bit oddly but I kept on talking, “I remember when you were such a little boy introducing you to the word different and even singing you a song about it and telling you that different isn’t bad, that it’s beautiful.” “Yes,” he nodded, “I know. I guess that’s why I feel the way I do.”

I am so passionately proud of this young man! I don’t doubt for a moment that he will make a difference in this world… because he certainly has in my life.