Where I Belong

Where I Belong

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Be The Best You Can Be

Where I Belong

We should not be asking who this child belongs to, but who belongs to this child.

~Jim Gritter

“Why didn’t your parents want you? How does that make you feel?” “Is your real family dead?” “Will you have to go back someday?”

It wasn’t easy being adopted — especially being a brown girl from Central America, with two white parents. Until seventh grade, it hadn’t been too much of an issue for me. I’d gone to a small church school with the same people I pretty much saw seven days a week. We all knew each other as well as if we were related, and we’d grown up together from babyhood. Everyone knew I was adopted, and it was no big deal.

But when I was twelve, I left my safe cocoon for a bigger, public middle school. Like my elementary school, the new school was mostly white. I was used to that. What I wasn’t used to were all the questions.

Now, I know — from the statistics — that there were probably as many as three or four other adopted kids in my class. But they were the same color as their parents, so nobody had to know their private business. I, on the other hand, couldn’t hide.

It wasn’t so bad when my mom came alone to help out at school or attend a meeting. When kids saw her, they just assumed I had a Latino dad. There were other mixed-race students in my class and, just like I’d grown up with the same group of kids at my elementary school, these kids had all grown up together, too. They were used to mixed marriages.

At first, I didn’t want anybody to know. I just hoped and prayed only one parent would show up to things. Then, for all anyone knew, I could just be another biracial kid. But, all too soon, people found out, and I had to start answering questions.

Of course, a lot of people didn’t care either way. But when you’re twelve and you feel very different, it really seems like everybody is staring and whispering — when in actuality, they aren’t even paying any attention to you at all.

Some kids were just innocently curious. Others were downright mean about it. They were the kind of kids that tell their younger brother or sister, “You’re adopted” — like it’s a bad thing — even when they aren’t.

At first, it felt as if I was defending myself. Maybe it was none of their business, but brushing them off would only have made things worse. I had to admit I was adopted. I had to explain why I was adopted, and what that meant.

It was frustrating a lot of the time. People just didn’t get it. They couldn’t understand why somebody wouldn’t be living with their “real” parents. They couldn’t imagine what it would be like, living with “strangers.”

It drove me crazy. What did “real” mean, anyway? My adoptive parents were as real as anybody else’s. I was their “real” kid. We sure weren’t artificial. And after twelve years together, we were anything but strangers.

As time went by, I made true friends. They came over to our house and hung out. My mom or dad drove us to the mall or the movies. My friends were soon as comfortable with my family as the kids I’d grown up with.

But some of the other kids still didn’t get it. It was as if they thought adoption was wrong or scary. I guess I could have kept trying to get through to them, but finally I realized they would probably never understand — and that was not my problem.

Adopted kids are just like any other kids. When we get in trouble, we get grounded. Our parents clean up our messes and stay with us when we’re sick. They yell at us when they get mad. They’re proud when we do well. Sometimes, they hurt our feelings or don’t understand us, or they let us down. And sometimes they stand up for us, or they sit and listen when we are sad or worried. Adoptive families are forever, and we are just like anyone else.

It wasn’t till I got a little older that I realized how lucky I really was, and that adoption was something that made our family even more special. I had friends with parents who were in jail or had just disappeared. One girl lived in a group foster home. Some kids were failing out or school or doing drugs, and their parents didn’t even seem to care.

I am blessed to have a home and a family that cares about me. I know, too, that I’m blessed to have a birth family that loved me enough to let me be adopted when they weren’t able to provide for me. A lot of people aren’t so lucky. I am where I belong.

~Marcela Dario Fuentes

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