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What do you do when your family is different than everyone elses?

By HERWriter Guide May 9, 2008 - 1:23pm
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There is some irony in that question. What is a normal family, anyway?

Depending on your age, your grew up with Leave it to Beaver or the Brady Bunch, Family Ties or The Cosbys. Television and pop culture always has 'that' family. The one we want. The one that tells us we should be like them. The one where all their problems are sorted out in 30 minutes, minus the commercials and where everyone is laughing as the camera stops. Everyone has two parents or if not, a strong role model to substitute for the missing one. They all have siblings, a grandparent or two and not forgetting the wacky neighbor who gives us a laugh to break the serious moments.

And now - real life, take 1.

I guess I have a 'normal' family. Two parents, three kids, a home, two cars. But between the 5 of us we are citizens of 3 different countries and are of 2 different religions. Hmmm, maybe we're not quite as Beaver as I thought!

So what if you don't know who your Dad is or you haven't seen him in years? Your Mom is dead. Your grandparents are raising you because your Dad is in jail and your mom is on drugs. Your Dad is in a wheelchair or your Mom has a mental illness. You are an only child. Your sibling has Down's Syndrome or some other condition that makes other kids point. Your parents are gay. Or one just came out. You are adopted. Someone is morbidly obese. Your Mom is black and your Dad is white.
Maybe you're the gay parent or the one struggling with something that makes you feel alone.

There are a million other scenarios so forgive me if I omitted yours!

I'm not saying all this difference is good. We could hardly say that having a parent in prison is positive diversity for a child.

But none of us are alone.

According to the Urban Institute, there are more than 3 million gay households. (www.urban.org)

1 in 19 Americans born today is of mixed race. (Newsweek May 08, 2000)(www.newsweek.com)

One out of every 140 people in this country are currently in the prison system. (www.bbc.co.uk)

19.4% of Americans have some kind of disability (World Bank - www.worldbank.org)

28% of children are being raised in single parent households. http://social.jrank.org/pages/891/Family-Single-Parent-Households.html

Tell Us!

If you or your family is different, what gives you comfort? What makes you at ease in your surroundings? What upsets you? How do you answer questions like 'how come your Dad isn't around?' or 'why does your Mom take all that medication?' What if it's you who is 'different'? Do you find support on line? In real life? Do you want to be like everyone else or do you enjoy your 'different' status?

Add a Comment4 Comments

SusanC -- Yes! Those 'idealized' families are always fun to make fun of with their stilted dialogue and perfectly manicured lawns. Ugh. And I'm with you Evie, I wouldn't trade my situation either. It's great you were able to be honest with your parents and receive their love and support in return. For me, adoption is such a generous proposition. As far as I'm concerned, you and I, Evie are very fortunate. And you said these are two subjects you could go on and on about ... What else would be important to share?

May 13, 2008 - 9:12am

I too am adopted and to top it off I am a Gay. Two topics far from being "Normal" growing up in the late 6o's though 80"s. I credit my parents for all the love and support they have given me and my sister who is also adpoted. We were raised to be respectful of everyone regardless what there situation is, where they come from or what color there skin was.

My parents went through 5 miscarriages in their first 7 years of marriage. They wanted kids more thatn life itself. So they went with the option of adopting. They first told my sister and I when we were old enough to comprehend where kids came from.

I do remember my Mom alwasy saying that our situation was necessary to be kept within the family. Back then adoption was not readily discussed as it is today. Our extended family new my sister and I were adopted and why. But as for friends... it was just kept under the carpet. I think I was in Jr. High or High School before I ever openly discussed it with friends.

I will tell you that I am so proud to be the daughter of my parents that I openly discuss adoption with all my friends especially my gay friends who want kids and who are in the process of adopting or who have adopted. I think it is the greatest gift you can give to a child or to yourself. There are so many young Moms out there who just aren't ready to be Moms. The best scenario if you can't raise a child is to give them up for adoption because there are so many couples, single parents, Gay and Straight willing to adopt for many positive reasons.

On the other subject of being Gay and coming out to my Hispanic,adopted parents (I am also Hispanic,) was the hardest thing I ever had to do. And it shouldn't have been. But again we are talking about what was considered normal in the past. It took me ten years of being out on my own before I ever braved telling my parents I was Gay. My biggest fear was I thought they would want to disown me. My parents are old school. I knew it wouldn't be easy for them to understand that being gay was not a choice. It is who I am. Why would I chose to go against the norm of society. I waited until I was almost 30 to tell them. Like expected they had a hard time with it at first. But they have come full circle with it. They know I have a great circle of friends who most of which are Gay. Many of whom are becoming adoptive parents. They just wish me the best and give me all their love and support. I would not trade my situation for anything in the world. I have never looked at my parents as anything other than my "Natural Parents" The only time I get reminded that I am adopted is when answering medical questions. I do not know the medical history of the biological mother/father. I have chosen to take whatever life has to offer. I take the necessary medical precautions. I go in for annual exams regularly. Sorry I was so long winded. These are two subjects I could go on for hours about.

May 12, 2008 - 10:17pm
HERWriter Guide

that's a whole different ballgame for me too!

I have to laugh at thinking being adopted meant you were a brown eyed brunette! Cute!

Different can be good. I believe that a child's reaction to being different is based on the parents' reactions. If all is fine in Mom and Dad's world, then often times the child will follow suit. The parents are the key to the child feeling good about themselves no matter how they look or sound.

I kind of want to smack those producers of the 1950s shows that gave many people the feeling that if they didn't fit into that box, they didn't fit anywhere. Then again, that kind of fantasy land was nice to revel in at times. And now it's nice to poke fun at! Mom doing the vacuuming in high heels and pearls!

May 9, 2008 - 2:59pm

Growing up, I guess you can say I belonged to one of those not-so-normal families. The reason? I was adopted. And the hook? I was a brown-eyed brunette adopted by two blue-eyed, blonde parents who had a blue-eyed, blonde son.

Because my difference was something we couldn't hide, our plan was to handle everything with openness. For example, when making introductions, my mother -- ever the anticipator -- pointed out that I was adopted. I never felt uncomfortable about it and for me (unlike other adoptees I have met) there wasn't any shame. There was a brief period in high school where, like everyone else, I wanted to fit in and was probably a little more self-conscious, but for the most part, I didn't care.

On the upside, I think I embraced my 'different status' which helped me embrace diversity early on. If the color of my eyes and hair didn't matter when it came to family, why should the color of someone's skin? Their culture? Their religion? Now, I belong to another not-so-normal family in that my husband and I are from two different countries, two different cultures and two different races.

The best part is we now embrace our differences together.

The only downside was that in growing up, I thought the term "adopted" was a description for brown-eyed brunettes, much the same way "albino" is used for those with pale skin and light eyes. Soon, I was calling other little boys and girls with similarly dark features adopted. Oh the confusion!

May 9, 2008 - 2:48pm
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