On a typical afternoon, the three kids downstairs, aged 2, 4 and 5 and their two companions, both 5, who stay here after school, come running up to us yelling “Baby Theo; Baby Theo!” like he’s the second coming. We laugh that he’ll be 75, and they’ll still call him Baby Theo.
When one of the girls, aged 5, asked me out of the blue where Baby Theo’s “real parents lived,” I was taken off guard. I felt the need to respond quickly but before I said anything, questions flipped through my head: “What exactly is she asking?” “ Am I going to have to explain the birds and the bees right here on the sidewalk?” “Does she understand how this adoption happened? “What have her parents told her about this and other adoptions?”
Well, I blurted, “We are his real parents, but his ‘birthparents’ live in another town.” I looked at her expectantly, waiting for her to ask for further explanation. But none came. She said “Oh,” and then scampered off to play hopscotch with the others.
I posted this response on another adoption blog and got an earful from a mother who said I was confusing the girl and his birthparents were his real parents and who the heck was I to lay claim to “realness.” A number of others responded in my defense.
I thought about it. In retrospect, I wish I’d said, “We are his parents” and avoided the “real.” His birthmom is real. She gave birth to him. His birthdad is real. They care about him, think about him and made the painful, grownup decision to place him with parents who were ready to raise a child. His birth grandparents are real. They have us all over for visits. They give him gifts at every turn. They treat all of us like family. We are also real. We feed our baby, clothe him, walk him, rock him, play with him, run after him, keep him out of danger, teach him, care for him and love him just like we will every day until he we die. We adore and love him.
We are all very real.