Saturday, March 16, 2013

Interview with an Adoptee: Dan

Continuing on with my interview series!

This interview is with a guy I used to work with, Daniel Anderson. Hearing bits and pieces of his adoption story is what made me want to start to interview people in the first place, so I'm really glad I got to sit down with him and get into the nitty gritty details!

He was adopted with his biological brother when he was 2 ½ years old in the state of Utah. He had a closed adoption and didn't know anything about his birth parents until his "accidental" reunion at the age of 28. He is bi-racial (half white/ half Tongan) and was transracially adopted into a white family - he and his biological brother were his adoptive parents' only children.

Dan with Kal at our interview. This picture makes me laugh! Kal was way past nap time.

The feeling I get from Dan is that adoption is a good thing, but it requires a lot of openness, forgiveness, and love from everyone involved in order to be successful.

On with the interview!


Alice Anne: Briefly describe your “adoption story.”

Dan: I was born in 1978 in Salt Lake City to a young couple – a guy who had come over with his family from Tonga and a girl he met here in high school. At some point I was born, and then my younger brother. They separated and my birth mother decided that she couldn't take care of us the way she thought we needed, so she started the process to put us up for adoption. I was 2 ½ and he would've been 1 ½.

Alice Anne: It was a voluntary relinquishment, not a foster care situation?

Dan: I don't know how it all worked out, but it was a voluntary relinquishment. She put us up for adoption and through a friend of a friend she was put in touch with my adoptive parents. I'm not sure if an agency was involved or not. I just know that she knew somebody who knew somebody who lived in my parents' neighborhood. And so at 2 ½ I was placed in my parents' home and 6 months later the adoption was finalized. I remember at that age – at 3 years of age – my parents going to a judge and having it finalized. I didn't go with them, but I remember them talking about it.

Alice Anne: Do you know anything about your birth father's decision-making in any of this?

Dan: The story I've been told is that at some point after they separated or divorced, he went back to Tonga to play in a rugby tournament. While he was gone she put us up for adoption, knowing he wouldn't be able to stop the process. Word wouldn't get to him in time. And so by the time he got back everything was said and done and finalized. And my understanding is that he tried to get custody again, but it was a done deal at that point.

Alice Anne: What do you think the reasons were for your birth mom to place you for adoption?

Dan: I know that she was struggling financially. There were family members helping on both sides – my understanding is that they would tend us quite a bit. I'm not sure what was worked out, but I know that the Tongan side was kind of kept out of the loop as far as the adoption went. On purpose. I believe my birth father had problems with the law as well, so he was in Tonga also to try and stay out of trouble. So it kind of helped her to keep it from him. Back to your original question, I think it's two-fold (and this is my own opinion, I've never been told one way or the other): one, because she did actually want a better life for us; and two, my suspicion is that she actually wanted to get back at my birth father a little bit. That's my own assessment of the situation.

Alice Anne: Did your birth mom and adoptive parents meet pre-adoption?

Dan: Yeah, she knew who my parents were. I'm not sure if they ever met personally. I think they did, but I don't know. It was a very closed adoption from my perspective because no information was ever shared with me, so whether my parents had contact or not I don't know. They were very apprehensive about my brother and I having any linkage to my birth parents.

Alice Anne: What motivated your parents to adopt?

Dan: They couldn't have kids. They'd actually tried to go through the adoption process before. They had a girl placed in their home for a week, during which time the birth mother decided that she wanted her daughter back. She was able to take her back and I'm sure that broke my parents' heart. I know very little about that. I just know her name was Andrea Elizabeth.

Alice Anne: Did they ever try to adopt again?

Dan: No, not that I know of. We were the adoption success story. They got us both on the same night, my brother and me. It was in January, late at night, when we were dropped off at our parents' house. I don't remember any of that. I'm sure I was thinking, “Who are these people?” I was old enough to know something was going on.

Alice Anne: Were your given names changed?

Dan: Mine wasn't, because I was 2 ½ when I was adopted. My brother's birth name was Jason and they changed it to Jake, thinking it was close enough that maybe it wouldn't be a big deal for him. It wasn't that they didn't like the name Jason, I think it was more of a psychological necessity. I think most parents want to name their kids and they felt like naming was a part of being parents that they really wanted to participate in.

Alice Anne: Did you grow up in Utah?

Dan: I've lived in Utah my whole life. I grew up in the neighborhood with the family that was the connection between my birth family and adoptive family. My parents always had a communication line to my birth mother if they wanted it. But if they were privy to any information, most of that was not relayed to my brother and me growing up.

Alice Anne: At what point in your life did you first start to understand that you were adopted?

Dan: I was about 6 or 7 at the time. I remember being at school one day and one of the kids said that they were adopted and I didn't know what that word meant. I remember my mom, my brother, and I were driving home from the grocery store. I was sitting in the front seat and my brother was in the backseat. And I asked my mom, “What does adoption mean?” And she said, “Oh that's probably a question we better ask your dad.” And I thought, “Well that's kinda weird.” So we drove home and I remember my parents sitting my brother and me down on the foot of their bed. They knelt down in front of us (and to this day I remember thinking, “This seems like a big deal.”) and they explained what adoption was. And then they said, “...And you're adopted.” … And I thought, “Okaaay.” I actually remember thinking, “Why are they making such a big deal out of this?” It still baffles me. I didn't understand it, but it was a big deal to them. I don't remember ever talking to my brother about that memory. The biggest thing that stood out to me was how they told us, “And you're adopted.” And I thought, “Okay... why didn't you just tell us?” Ha ha.

Alice Anne: Did your adoptive parents ever explain adoption to you again?

Dan: It was one talk and done. For my parents, I think because of all their insecurities, it was not a topic we talked about a lot. I've never questioned who my real parents are. For me it's just not even a question. But for them – for my parents, it was an issue that was always in the forefront of their minds. So we never talked about the adoption, because I could sense at a very early age that it was not a topic that my parents were comfortable with. My brother and I never asked any questions, because we both sensed that it was taboo.

Alice Anne: How exactly did they explain the adoption? Did you understand who your birth parents were?

Dan: Yeah, I understood that I had a mother and a father who had gone to the hospital – at that age you didn't understand how it all worked – but I understood they went to the hospital and I was born and at some point they gave me to my parents. It didn't sound like the big deal that they were making it out to be.

Alice Anne: Were your birth parents viewed in a positive or negative light in your household growing up?

Dan: They were viewed in a negative light. My parents normally wouldn't bring up our birth parents, but anytime they would it was negative. For my mom, because she wasn't able to have us naturally, I'm sure it confused her immensely to have another woman be willing to give her children up. I'm sure that for her it was easy to think that that woman was not a worthy woman. My birth father was always viewed very negatively as well. I was actually quite shocked when I met them to find out that they were pretty decent people. There's obviously some things that are questionable in the past, but right now they're pretty normal, average people that I feel comfortable having my children around. They're not the demons that they were made out to be.

Alice Anne: When you were young, did you imagine your birth parents a certain way?

Dan: Not really. I had questions. I don't think I had in my mind a picture of what/who they were. Specifically, I wanted to know why I was adopted. That was a big one. And did I have brothers and sisters? I just wondered mostly if I ever crossed their mind or if they ever wondered about how me and my brother were doing. And they did, of course. It would probably be silly to think that they wouldn't, but you always wonder.

Alice Anne: Would you classify your adoption as closed or semi-open? Because there was the possibility that they could've talked...

Dan: From my perspective, it was very closed. If there was some communication going on, I didn't know about it. In fact, I didn't even know I was half Tongan until I was in my 20s. I had no idea. I always knew we were partially another race, but I had no clue what it was. I would be whatever race was convenient for me at the time. Ha ha. I had several people tell me that I was Polynesian. They would say, “You're Polynesian.” And for whatever reason I never clued into that. My parents when we were younger told us that we were of French/Italian decent. They claim they don't remember telling us this, but I'm sure I wouldn't have made this up because French/Italian just doesn't make any sense to me. They claim they told us that we were Tongan, but I know they didn't. They were reluctant to tell us our race because the Polynesian culture is just so connected with each other. If we had ever known, it would've been just a matter of days or weeks before word would've gotten back to my Tongan family of where we were and what we were doing and all that.

Alice Anne: So it's safe to say that your adoptive parents didn't try to incorporate anything from your birth culture into your lives?

Dan: No, nothing whatsoever.

Alice Anne: Was it obvious to other people that you were a transracial family?

Dan: Because of our Polynesian backgrounds, we always had nice tans and my dad is super white. My mom isn't super white, but she's also not tan! Ha ha. They're both very Caucasian, so we were often asked by friends, “Why are you so dark?” I would explain that I was adopted and then the typical question of, “Have you ever met your real parents?” would come up. I'd explain, “Yeah... I grew up with them.” It was very annoying, but you know at some point I realized that people just don't understand, so I had to get over that. Most of the time, once I said, “I grew up with them, people clued in and said, “Oh yeah. That's right.” When you say it like that, it makes people feel stupid. In fact, my wife asked me the same question when we first met, and when I said that to her she later confided in me that she felt really stupid. As soon as she heard my answer, it made a lot of sense. I've always felt that way – I grew up with my “real” parents. I remember one day when I was 15 or 16 I had a fight with my dad, and I don't remember what we were fighting about, but I said to him, “Well I guess you're not my real dad!” … What I meant by that was “You've changed. You're not acting like the dad I know.” His interpretation was obviously, “You're not the man who conceived me. You can't be my real dad.” I'm sure it hurt him a lot, but that was not my intent with those words. My intent was, “I don't know who YOU are right now!” Obviously his interpretation was much different. It didn't come out the way I thought it would, because I've never questioned who my “real” parents are at all.

Alice Anne: Did you ever feel like the odd man odd?

Dan: This is gonna sound weird, but yes. But not because I was adopted. I felt like the odd man out between my parents and my brother, because they just always had a different relationship than I've had with them. But I feel like I would have felt like that whether I was adopted or not.

Alice Anne: Do you think having your brother with you the whole time made a difference in any way, negative or positive? Did it make it easier to be adopted?

Dan: I guess it had to have been easier knowing that I wasn't alone, you know... that he was my brother, but I don't know. I would have to assume it was easier. But like I said I don't think it was for me a big deal. I think everybody else thinks it's a big deal.

Alice Anne: It's a big deal, Dan! Ha ha. You're pretty comfortable with your adoption. Did you ever have any uncomfortable feelings about being adopted?

Dan: The only uncomfortable feelings I ever had were projected on me from my parents. I don't mind that I'm adopted. My parents were very uncomfortable with the fact that we were adopted and subsequently sometimes we were too, but not for good reason.

Alice Anne: You were so young when you were adopted - did you remember anything about your birth family before your reunion with them?

Dan: No, I can't really tell if any memories I have... Well, my mom and my birth mom actually look and act pretty similar. I don't know if they acted similarly back then, but they definitely act similarly now (which, by the way, would upset both of them to hear). Because of that, I'm not sure if I've melded the two in my mind and have mixed up memories or not because I think they're so similar.

Alice Anne: How did your reunion come about?

Dan: One day my wife called me up at work and told me that she may have found my sister. And I really didn't pay much attention to it, I was working at the time and distracted, so when I got home she said, “Well don't you want to know?!” We live a few houses down from a Tongan family. One of the daughters – Vanessa – was participating in a Polynesian cultural event up at the U. Vanessa got to talking to another girl at the event, a classmate of hers, and asked her if she was Polynesian too. The girl said, “No, but I have two half-brothers who are.” Since all Polynesians know every other Polynesian, she asked their names and she told her, “Dan and Jake Anderson.” Vanessa replied, “I know a Dan Anderson.” The girl (who turned out to be my sister) was kind of doubtful that it was me, because my name is pretty common. But Vanessa talked to my brother-in-law, who talked to my wife, and they started connecting all these dots. There was just no way for this girl to know the information she did without her actually being my sister. Her mom (my birth mother) had told her a lot of the facts surrounding our adoption – things she wouldn't have been able to know otherwise. My wife got my sister's phone number and I called her. We talked for quite awhile. I met her first, after about a month I met my birth mother and her other son, then a couple months later I met my Tongan family. I ended up being related to Vanessa, the girl who lived just down the street. So they put us in touch with my Tongan family and I've had contact with them ever since.

Alice Anne: How old were you when you reunited?

Dan: Well, I had been married for a few years. My wife was pregnant with my daughter when we met my Tongan family and we met my birth mother just a few months before that, so let's see... I was probably 28.

Alice Anne: Before then, did you not want to seek anyone out?

Dan: I wouldn't say I didn't want to seek anyone out. I never actively pursued it because I knew how my parents felt about it. And it's not like I was actively pursuing it when it happened, it just kind of fell into my lap and I took advantage of it. I was always curious, but that's about as far as it got – curiosity.

Alice Anne: When you did reunite with your birth family, did anything surprise you? What did you learn?

Dan: So, it wasn't until that conversation with my sister that I found out I was half Tongan. I learned about my siblings – I always wondered if I had siblings. The biggest surprise for me was the connection I felt with my siblings. I would say the connection I felt with my birth mom and dad is more of a close friend of the family, but I really have a close bond with my siblings. I was the best man at my birth mother's son's wedding. I feel a pretty strong connection with them. I felt the connection as soon as I started talking to my sister on the phone. I also found out that my birth mother and birth sister had been interested in having contact with us the whole time. Turns out my birth mom told me she had sent some letters and gifts. I went home and asked my parents about it and they said, “Oh yeah – here's this letter.” They gave it to me. I'm not sure what they were planning on doing with it. I think they were hoping I would never find out and never ask and never do anything about it. I think that was what they were hoping.

Alice Anne: How did it feel to see people biologically related to you, other than the brother you grew up with?

Dan: I felt an instant bond with my sister. When I met her, she was nearly a spitting image of me... but better looking and longer hair. There's some suspicion that she's my full-blooded sister. Ha ha. But it's all speculation. Nobody's gonna tell us the truth on that one. The brother that I was adopted with, he's my only full sibling... at least as far as we can tell. There's a possibility that my brother had a different father. Both sides say different things as to what happened, but it really doesn't matter to me – he's my brother and so are my Tongan brothers and my brother and sister from my birth mother. I consider them all my siblings. My birth father came back to Utah from Tonga and re-married and has a family. I felt an instant bond with some of my birth father's children. Some of the other children it took a little time to feel that connection, but right now I'm actually closer to them than I am to the brother I grew up with. I think it's because of the tension that me having a relationship with my birth family has caused between me and my parents. The battle lines have been clearly drawn and my brother does not want to get on my side of the battle at all.

Alice Anne: How did your parents react to you wanting to meet your birth family?

Dan: At the time, my adoptive parents had said that they were comfortable with it, though I knew that wasn't the truth. I told them that I was going to meet my sister and my mom's first response was, “Well if you meet your sister you know you're going to meet your birth mother.” And I said, “I know.” The funny thing is it was my brother who set up the meeting with my sister. He did it without consulting me and he just went ahead and did it. And I think that's funny because I think it shows his true emotions. I don't think my parents understand that he called her and set it all up. My brother and I met my sister at the same time. My brother and I met my birth mom and her son Elliot, my brother, together. And then I met my Tongan family a couple months later. By then, my brother realized this was not gonna go over well with my parents.

Alice Anne: Have your adoptive parents and birth parents since met?

Dan: Yes, they've since met. And it's not on pleasant terms for my parents. They would much rather I would not have a relationship with any of my birth family. We've invited my birth family to our children's birthday parties and different events, so obviously my parents are there too. It's awkward.

Alice Anne: Is it awkward for anyone else besides your parents?

Dan: I think it's mostly awkward for me and my wife since we don't care who comes or who doesn't come, we just want people to be involved in our kids' lives. We're stuck in the middle. My parents are cordial, but you can definitely tell they're not happy. Both my birth mother and my birth father have tried to reach out to my parents, but they are not responsive to that. My brother initially met our birth mom, and our sister Emily and brother Elliot. He started a relationship with them, but when he saw the reaction of my parents he stopped. He cut that relationship off and never really established one with the Tongan family.

Alice Anne: Do your birth mother and birth father get along?

Dan: They're very cordial. There's still some tension there I think. It's always awkward and I think it always will be.

Alice Anne: The way you and your brother interact with your birth family is completely different?

Dan: Right now, he doesn't have a relationship with anybody from our birth family. The only time he sees them is when we're at family events together. Though I suspect he really wants that relationship, he's just not sure how to do it with my parents' approval. I'm at the point right now where I am no longer inviting my parents to things because I think they're acting ridiculous. I've always been more independent than my brother. My brother has always been really dependent on my parents, which plays really well into my mom's need to be needed. It works out very well for them, because he needs her to need him and she needs to be needed by him, so it's mutually reciprocal. My brother has never pushed the issue of pursuing a relationship with our birth family, so he and his family get along very well with our parents.

Alice Anne: Were your adoptive parents ever supportive of you creating a relationship with your birth family?

Dan: No. Right now, my relationship with my parents is strained. We don't talk much. In fact, I haven't spoken to them in over a year and a half, maybe closer to two years. If you were to ask them, their perspective would probably be that I have a relationship with my birth family now and so I have replaced them. My perspective is that they are disrespectful to me and my wife, but trying to explain that to them without them placing the adoption in a different context is difficult. They don't see that they're disrespectful. They just see that my wife is supportive of me having a relationship with my birth family, and they are not.

Alice Anne: Why do you think they would rather you not have a relationship with your birth family?

Dan: This is a very complex psychological issue for my mom. She has to feel validated as a mother because of the difficulty she had in obtaining motherhood. I don't do a good job of validating her motherhood because of my relationship with my birth family. I think a lot of mothers feel threatened with girlfriends and eventually wives, because they're in essence being replaced. But for my mom this felt especially true. My mom never liked any of the girls I dated and I think it was because of her insecurities with her and my relationship. I think she has placed the blame for my lack of a relationship with her on my wife's shoulders, and subsequently she's very rude to my wife... which I don't tolerate. For my mom, everything translates into being replaced by my birth family. In my mind, one has nothing to do with the other, but for them it's all about the adoption.

Alice Anne: What does having a relationship with your birth family mean to you?

Dan: For me, having a relationship with them is more about me having an open heart to everyone and less about who my parents are. My philosophy for everyone involved is that I don't care how you're involved, just be involved. I know who my parents are, I've never doubted that. There's never been any confusion about that for me. I know who raised me... I know who did everything for me. I don't feel like I need to close my heart to anyone in my family in order to have a relationship with somebody else. One thing that I've told my mom is... I don't remember my birth. I don't remember who brought me into this world. What I do remember is who raised me and that's all that matters to me. She just can't get over the fact that she didn't give birth to me. It doesn't matter to me, but it matters to her.

Alice Anne: They say that adoption isn't a cure for infertility...

Dan: I sympathize with my mom. I can only imagine what it means to be a woman and to want to be a mother. I don't understand it, because I'm a guy, but I can certainly imagine that for a woman it's supposed to be part of who you are. There's some sort of fulfillment in life that occurs when you get pregnant and have a child. And it must be very difficult to deal with not being able to do that. I think that on top of all the insecurities of not being able to have a child, when the girl was placed in their home for a week and then taken away, it just exacerbated the problem. And then at some point when my brother and I came to my parents' house, my Tongan family tried to get us back, so I'm sure that stirred up a lot of problems for my mom emotionally. And I was nearly 3 years old. I'm sure the next morning when I woke up I said, “Where's my mom?” And they said, “She's sitting right there.” I'm sure I didn't just go, “Oh okay! We're good!” I'm sure that I threw quite a fit and probably did for quite awhile. And all of that for my mom probably amounted to some feelings of rejection, which never went away because of my independence. Every time I did something without her, or wanted to do something without her, for her it was probably seen as rejection of her being my mother, but for me it had nothing to do with it. And my relationship with my mom has always been strained because of that. If I had been born to her, I would never have had these issues because it would never had been interpreted as a rejection. It would've just been interpreted as, “Oh he's independent.”

Alice Anne: Does your father share the same insecurities about the adoption?

Dan: It's similar, but I don't think it could be as strong for him as it is with my mom. He's like me, he's a guy, he doesn't understand that. He's never felt that burning desire that women must feel to have and bear children. Some guys feel that way, but it's like on steroids for women, you know? I have two kids and I would be lying to say that there isn't some carnal, natural desire to have your bloodline continue. But I think coming from my background and coming from a guy's perspective, it's less important than it is for women. A woman can feel the baby inside them, and you are that baby's life during the pregnancy and even after birth. I know it's a complex issue, but I think for females it's far harder to deal with.

Alice Anne: How does everyone in your birth family feel about your adoption now?

Dan: My siblings treat me like a brother as if we grew up together, so there's no real change for them. My extended family on my birth side, I don't think they quite know how to treat me. I think it's probably a little awkward for them, because it would be very easy for me to question them – “Well, why didn't you take care of me? Why didn't you step up to the plate?” But I don't feel that way at all. I'm very grateful I was adopted. I'm glad things worked out the way they did. I actually wouldn't change them. I feel like I'm a stronger person because I was adopted.

Alice Anne: So there's a lot of extended birth family members that remember when the adoption took place?

Dan: Oh, yeah. I met a lot of people who've said, “I remember taking care of you!” And this and that. Well, I don't remember that. I had an interesting interaction when I met my biological maternal grandmother where she came up and said, “I'm Grandma!” and I actually physically moved away from her. It didn't feel right for her to say she was my grandma. I think names such as mom and dad, grandma and grandpa are less important biologically than they are... I don't know how to say it. Those titles are reserved for the people who actually did whatever they needed to do to help you in this life. My mom – I've never called anyone else “mom” – is my mom and my dad is my dad and I don't call anyone else mom or dad and none of the extended family are really aunts and uncles. In my mind they're like friends of the family.

Alice Anne: What do you call your birth parents?

Dan: I call them by their first names. Trying to explain it to people who don't understand how I feel, I do use the words “mom” or “dad.” But not in the same manner that I would to refer to my own parents. Even though I think they're being ridiculous right now, they're still my parents. They're not being replaced.

Alice Anne: Do you wish your adoptive parents had done or said anything differently in regards to your adoption?

Dan: Yeah, I wish that they wouldn't have been so insecure and had trusted that I'm secure in our relationship – that I'm not seeking to replace them. I'm just seeking to understand where I come from and I think everybody wants to tie themselves to something. So, it might sound conflicting for me to say on one hand I don't care that I'm adopted but then on the other say I did still want a connection biologically. It might sound conflicting, but for me it's not. I don't care that I'm not biologically connected to my parents, but I still want to know where I came from and the circumstances surrounding my adoption. All of those things are more of curiosity than anything. I could've lived without knowing. But I would've always had questions that never would've been answered because I wasn't going to ask them.

Alice Anne: What advice would you give to anyone considering placing their child for adoption, from your perspective?

Dan: I think generally people who are placing – I'm probably gonna make a whole lot of assumptions here – but I think generally people who are placing kids up for adoption can't help but feel like they're abandoning their children at some point. But I would say that if it's the right thing for you at that time, feel secure in knowing that things are gonna work out the right way. I'm sure that my birth mom especially felt like I would probably resent her. I think she struggles still to this day with the decision to give us up for adoption. The funny thing is, I think through this whole process that the one person who has suffered the least and come out the best... is me. I think the path my life took was really positive. And I personally don't care that I was adopted. I think I had a much happier life than I would have, a much more financially stable life. I'm sure mentally I was affected positively, I did better in school... I mean, there's numerous things that went better than if I stayed with my birth family, so I'm very grateful that I was adopted.

Alice Anne: So the negatives that came out of your adoption are things that people needed to work out anyway?

Dan: Yeah, whatever problems led to my birth mom placing us... she needed to work out anyway. My birth mother has suffered psychologically and subsequently her children have suffered. My mom and dad have suffered psychologically and subsequently my relationship with them has suffered. I don't feel like the adoption caused that. The infertility played a part. It would be very simple for me to say that the adoption was the catalyst that caused all these problems, but I think it was like the perfect storm – the inability for my mom to be a mother, my mom growing up with an abusive father, my independent personality, the fact that I was almost 3 years old and somewhat rejected her when we came to her house... I think there's all these factors that contributed to it that I don't think that had I been born to my parents that they would be seen in the light that they are. The thing is I can't do anything for my birth mom or my mom to fix their problems. This is something they have to deal with inside of themselves and be able to accept inside of themselves and get over themselves. All I can do is say to my birth mom, “Look, I don't blame you for giving me up for adoption.” And to my mom, “I don't blame you that you couldn't give birth to me.” That's really all I can do. I can't take away either of their pain. And I don't intend to because that's not my job and that's something they have to do on their own. Unfortunately they have to realize that and fix it. And I'm sure it's not easy.

Alice Anne: What advice would you give to someone considering adopting? To do it successfully?

Dan: Do it. I want to adopt. I think adoption's great. It worked out for me! Be open, and honestly don't treat it like such a big deal. It's not. I mean, it is for you but from a child's perspective it doesn't matter who gives birth to them. The bottom line is that they don't remember that, they only remember who was there to love them and tuck them in at night and teach them all the things that they needed to know. That's the stuff that matters. Don't make adoption awkward, because it's not!

Alice Anne: Treat it normal and it'll be normal, right? “It's no big deal!” So, would you say you've found peace with being adopted? Ha ha.

Dan: I think having met my birth family, I have a different perspective than I did before. In terms of understanding their side of it and answering the curiosity. I'm settled emotionally because I had the answers to the questions I needed answered, but I think I would've been fine without answering them, it would've just always been one of those things I wish I knew.

Alice Anne: If you had never met your birth family, what would you have missed out on the most?

Dan: My brothers and sister. I'm really grateful that I've met them. I love them. And for me, part of why we're here is to learn to love as many people as you can and I think it's unfortunate that my parents and my brother have decided that that's not possible. That that can't happen because it comes at the expense of loving them (my adoptive parents). I don't feel like we have a finite amount of love to give. I think we have as much as we want and they don't see it that way.

Alice Anne: How do you think your adoption experience has affected your experience as a father?

Dan: This is gonna sound very prideful, but I think I'm a pretty damn good father. My kids mean everything to me. And I don't know that it's because I'm adopted that I feel that way but I certainly feel like there's things that I don't want to screw up. I have a pretty close relationship with my kids and it's hard to say that it's because I'm adopted that that is, but I definitely don't want to make some of the mistakes that I think they've made (both my birth and adoptive parents).

Alice Anne: Any last thoughts?

Dan: I think there used to be a pretty negative stigma associated with adoption. I think it's less so now. I think there's more openness to adoption and I don't think publicly it's viewed quite like it was, which is good. It's good for everybody involved. I think the more society realizes that and the more each person in the adoption triangle tries to understand and empathize with the other sides, the healthier it'll be. If my birth parents can forgive themselves for giving us up for adoption and be grateful for what my adoptive parents have done (which they are), I think they'll be at peace. And I think if my adoptive parents in some way can also forgive my birth parents for giving us up – because I think that's a conflict for them. I think it's hard for them to understand, because they wanted children so badly and here's this mom and dad that were able to give their children up. I think there needs to be some forgiveness there, but also empathy for the fact that they did – I mean, that's gotta be a tough decision. And then for the child, to also forgive and be grateful that that sacrifice was made on their behalf and that the sacrifice of the adoptive parents was there too – I mean, it's a sacrifice to have kids! To go through an adoption process is probably even more difficult emotionally, psychologically. If there's just more understanding on all sides, more acceptance, more forgiveness... I think it just can't be anything but healthy for everybody involved.

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