When your adopted child says “you’re not my parent”…

Both of my daughters have had adopted Chinese girls as best friends, and my youngest’s “bestie” has been at our house many, many times, and vice versa. I certainly know many adopted children and adults and two of my cousins were adopted, but my children are all the product of my genes (for better or worse, they’d quickly add!) so while intellectually I understand the concept of adoption, the practical experience of fathering an adopted child is one I’m curious about. To find out, I asked Kai, the father of my daughter’s best friend, Addie, what it was like the day that she, rather inevitably, raised the issue of him not being her biological father. Here’s his story…

Kai and his daughter AddisonIt was a beautiful fall Colorado afternoon when Addison raised the topic I had been expecting since the moment I first held her almost 11 years ago. We were in our backyard tending to the garden when she turned and said, “You’re not my real Papa”.

I had been preparing my response long before I even knew her name. My family and I attended many classes held by our local Denver adoption agency, CCAI, who brilliantly prepared us to be new parents. As I learned, words matter to children, especially when their past is unknown.

Addison looked up at me with her beautiful eyes and smiled, “You know you’re not my real Papa.” I paused, gazing back at her and slowly replied, “ Dear, I am your real Papa, I’m not your birth father but I’m truly your real Papa.” And then I added, “thanks again for choosing me.”

My wife, Linda, and I have 3 beautiful, incredible and kind children I attribute most of their success to my incredible wife of 25 years. Given that Addison’s birth parents weren’t able to take care of any more children and placed her in the care of a Chinese orphanage,and that her first 10 months were in the care of overworked nannies, I attribute her inner beauty to Linda’s caring touch and patience.

I adore Addison. If I can be honest with myself, I found a more intentional way to love this child then my first two. I made the commitment to her when seeing her face for the first time. I signed a contract with her birth parents that would honor their love and provide Addison with the love and guidance she deserved. I realized that commitment is showing up with intent and honesty. It still fills me with joy whenever Addison calls me Papa. Honestly, her presence generated a type of love I didn’t know capable.

She giggled some more and challenged my whole “you chose me” response. With that honest reply, she turned and continued to garden. I haven’t heard a single mention about being her real Papa since. Just as well. Now when she calls me Papa, my world feels all right.

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