Welcome to 30 Adoption Portraits in 30 Days, hosted by Portrait of an Adoption. This series will feature guest posts by people with widely varying adoption experiences and perspectives.
My Family Who Taught Me What Family Is
By Alissa Weece
For those of you who’ve seen Wonder Park, there’s a line in the movie that the little girl shouts: “I am the wonder in Wonderland!”
I’d imagine that my parents sometimes felt that way about me. I was a wonder to them. I sometimes made them wonder. I wondered about them. No matter what, they were there for me.
Three years ago, I lost my dad to cancer. It left a gaping hole in my heart, and that of my family. Where dad was my rock, my mom has now become my rock, and I think sometimes I’m hers. We talk on the phone at least three times a week, if not more, and text often. Now I’m left wondering: what did I ever do to deserve such amazing parents?
I knew from a young age that I was adopted. My parents had even bought a book Why Was I Adopted? By Carole Livingston. I still have it in my sons’ book bin.
My mom and dad didn’t think they could have children. They waited years to even adopt me. I’ve been told the story about my final adoption hearing -- I was about a year old and crawling all over the courtroom floor -- and my parents were worried that that judge would say “There’s no way I’m letting this kid go with you” at the last minute. Thankfully, he was good natured about it all.
Surprise, surprise! My brother followed shortly before I turned two, my sister two years after that! So we were a family of five and that was pretty awesome!
I was a bit of the odd-man out. Where I had blonde hair and blue eyes, my family all had brown hair and brown eyes. Where I was rambunctious and loud, my sister and brother were more reserved. Where I was the child most likely to cause trouble and be in trouble, my siblings enjoyed more freedoms, most likely because I laid the path of what they shouldn’t do.
Throughout my life, I was never the adoptive-daughter, or, –sister, or –niece, or –cousin, or –granddaughter. I was just the daughter, sister, niece, cousin, and granddaughter. I was never made to feel like I didn’t belong or that I wasn’t wanted. Quite the opposite. I was probably spoiled a bit more than most kids, and I was always told how much I was wanted, how hard I had been prayed for.
My teen years were tough. I was struggling with my identity, just like any other teen, but I felt like I had a chip on my shoulder, like the world owed me something, because I was adopted. I hadn’t been good enough for my biological family. At the time, that’s how my mind was processing it. To top it off, somewhere in my teen years, the agency I was adopted through called to let my parents know that my biological father had committed suicide. That event was a huge turning point for me and my life.
My poor parents listened to me rant and rave, completely change myself, hate the world, hate myself. There were times, I’m sure, when they couldn’t have possibly loved me and wondered what they had gotten themselves into with me. I frustrated them and I frustrated myself. I embarrassed my siblings with my behavior.
My family is big on sharing, so my aunts and uncles and cousins all knew what a mess I was becoming. My destructive behavior continued into my twenties, when I moved seven hundred miles from home. At several different points, my male cousins and my uncles were ready to drive to get me out of the abusive and crappy situation I had gotten myself into. I never let them.
I figured I deserved whatever I had coming to me. I deserved it for not being worthy enough to be kept in the beginning. I deserved it for being so awful to my parents. I wasn’t good enough for myself, how could I possibly be good enough for myself?
For decades, I let the fact that I was adopted define me. I let it control me. I would justify my actions and behavior in self-destructive ways. When I finally met my biological family, I would justify my actions by saying “See, I am like you.”
I worried my parents half to death, and my siblings. Yet they still loved me. They still called me all the time and checked in on me. They still made sure that I knew I was wanted and valued. It just took me some time to see that for myself.
The truth is, while I share some physical features of my biological family and I share some of their same interests and talents, I’m really not like them.
I am strong, like my mom. My mom, who has stood by my side from the very beginning, who stayed up late worried about me when I missed curfew (a lot), who cried over the nasty things I said and did, who made sure that I had the money to go on my trip to Europe with a music group, who is so thankful that I’ve found a really amazing husband that supports me and encourages me.
I am resilient like my dad. My dad, who I made cry more times that I want to admit, who taught me how to change a car tire and check the oil, who taught me how to pray – because that’s what farmers do – who never let me hang up the phone without saying “I love you Alissa.”
I am smart like my sister, but not as smart as her. My sister who has a bachelor’s degree in nutrition, whereas I didn’t even finish college, who has her finances straight, who has a beautiful home that I’m a little envious of, who decorated my backyard for my wedding.
I am talented like my brother. My brother who taught himself to play guitar and can jam out to Johnny Cash, who played trombone in school, and who has one of my most gorgeous baritone singing voices I’ve ever heard, who took my dad’s place and gave me away at my wedding. It’s truly a wonder that my family even talks to me for how horrible I was to them at times.
I have my own talents and strengths, but I got the best ones from my family. The family who has never let me down, even though I let them down hundreds of times. My family who taught me what family is.
I’m married now, with four great kids. My husband has been so patient with my ups and downs. He encourages me. He won’t let me define myself by just one thing and he definitely won’t let me define myself by something negative. He’s so incredibly talented in so many ways and teaches me everything I want to learn.
We pray for each other and with each other. We try to teach our kids right from wrong. I hope that, as they grow older, they won’t make me wonder and worry like I did to my parents.
I am a wonder.
Alissa Weece has fantastic career as the Advertising Coordinator for the High Plains Journal. She enjoys spending time with her new husband, Branddon, and their combined four children and their dog, Gypsy. In her spare time she enjoys reading, writing, photography, and new-found hobby, lampwork.
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Carrie Goldman is the host of Portrait of an Adoption. She is an award-winning author, speaker, and bullying prevention educator. Follow Carrie's blog Portrait of an Adoption on Facebook and Twitter
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