Today is World Adoption Day – a worldwide awareness campaign and celebration of adoption. It’s a day to celebrate the joy of adoption but also to remember the loss of first families and ‘honour the full range of experiences and feelings of adoptees’ (paraphrased quote from my friend and new Heart Mama, Erin Jegels).
I’m so keen to share this next adoption story – Geoffrey is a Durban-born Glenwood boy who was a student there when my husband was teaching back in the day which is how Geoffrey and I started chatting. And now we’re friends on Facebook which is legit. Geoffrey, thanks for sharing your personal story with us!
What is your definition of adoption?
To me adoption is when someone is accepted into a family as if they were born from that family. They take on the family name and characteristics and are included in all aspects of that particular family.
How do you feel about adoption in general?
Adoption is great. They say blood is thicker than water etc but I don’t always believe in that entirely because sometimes people are meant to be in each other lives for many unknown reasons and adoption allows that to happen. It was like that for me anyway.
Tell us a bit about yourself and your family
I am 25 years of age. I am completing my second year as a candidate attorney at a prestigious Law firm in Durban, Shepstone and Wylie, specialising in the maritime department (International Trade, Transport and Energy). I am a sports enthusiast and currently compete in Powerlifting. I have 3 sisters and one brother who are all much older than me. I am the only adopted child in the family. My parents played a huge role in raising a few of my cousins that live/ lived with us, so growing up there was always children my age around the house. At home now it’s just my mom, Brenda, my closest sister Michelle and my 14 year old cousin, Brian. My dad unfortunately passed on quite some time ago.
How do you feel about your parents?
Love my parents. That’s an easy one. I didn’t see as much as I would have liked of my father as he worked away from home a lot but I loved him, still do, miss him a lot, always respected the sacrifices he made to provide for his family and for me. I used to just sit and watch him, he wouldn’t always speak a lot but I learnt plenty from his actions and the wise things he did tell me. My mom, well she is just a gem. She is probably the only person that truly understands me, even emotionally, she’s my confidant, the number 1 lady in my life. We were meant to be in each other’s lives.
How do you feel about your biological parents?
I don’t know them. What I will say is that I am grateful that they allowed the adoption process to go through. I have never wanted to connect with my biological parents and family.
How were you told that you were adopted?
My parents made sure that I knew from day one as far back as I can remember, that I was adopted. What is important to note here is that my family also always told me how much they loved me and physically showed me so I never once felt like I was different. I grew up thinking that I was one of them, part of the family, I still think that way even though I’m brown.
Has race been an issue? Has race affected your friendships?
Yes race has affected friendships but the friends I have in my life now, the longest standing friends, have never seen it as an issue and so I am extremely lucky to have a close group of friends from various race groups.
What has been the hardest part of adoption for you?
Hardest part of adoption for me has been the way in which society have looked at my family and myself. Lots of people are happy when they find out I’m adopted but unfortunately the majority of people are still very anti especially when I tell them I can’t speak Zulu etc. It’s funny because if I wasn’t adopted I probably wouldn’t be alive today yet they want to criticize a family who in essence saved a life and gave an opportunity to better their future. Its sad how backwards most people are in their thinking. I learnt from a young age to accept being different and have a tough exterior which has made me the strong secure person I am today.
Hmmm language, well I am a bit different. I have never wanted to learn to speak zulu, that’s my own choice. It might be because all my life people have been telling me to learn it and that it’s my duty to know it as it’s my mother tongue etc but who are they to say what my mother tongue should be just because of my skin colour. I hate being told what to do haha so it’s probably why I do the opposite.
Do you wish you had been taught Zulu as a kid? How do you think white parents of adopted kids should negotiate language?
I feel that because I am black it doesn’t mean that I must speak Zulu. I think it’s very arrogant for people to think that. I am black but I could be from France or Scandinavia etc especially in today’s world.
So to answer your question I think have your child speak the language spoken in the family home. And then expose them to various languages and let your child decide what additional language they want to speak if any. I used France because I would probably want to learn French or even a Scandinavian language before I learn to speak zulu. It’s just my preference. People might say it’s crazy because you need to learn Zulu if you are living in South Africa but honestly English is fine and who says your child will want to stay in south Africa. The world is so big, you never know where they could venture off to.
Is there anything in particular your parents did really well? Anything they could have done differently?
My parents never forced anything and allowed things to happen naturally. They showed me love like any other parents would show their children and I therefore believe there is nothing different they could have done.
How can adoptive parents best equip their children to deal with the hard parts of being adopted cross culturally?
I would say love them. Let them know that they aren’t different, that we are all human. Show that particular child their beauty or strong points and help them focus on those points growing up while minimising any weaker flaws they might have, just as any person would have.
Are you treated differently by people of your birth culture when they discover that you are adopted by parents of another race?
Yes, most of the time I am treated negatively. I’ve reached a point now where I walk away from them while they are in mid sentence if they happen to be speaking to me negatively.
Was/is “belonging” and feeling like you belonged ever an issue?
Yes, when I was younger, never at home but with society before I ‘found myself’ and realised the type of person I am. The process that every young adolescent goes through while growing up.
What would you say to other kids who have been adopted?
I would tell them to embrace what’s inside of them. Tell them that they should never change to be accepted by others. They must stay true to themselves and let people know who they are.|
What should adoptive parents say to their adopted child?
Tell them that you love them, that you are their parents. More importantly it’s what you do. Show them the world and try to teach them to understand it and that people will have negative things to say but let them know that they are stronger than those people or bad situations. Tell them to be proud. Tell them to reach for the stars.
What not to say to your adopted child?
Things like: ” your parents hated you” and “that’s why we adopted you” or “nobody loved you” etc.
Would you ever consider adoption in your future?
Yes, I hope to someday if it is meant to be.