Back To School


I stood in front of my first grade class with a Poncho, Sombrero, and some Pesos. Feeling more like a tourism commercial about to sell a country I knew very little about, even if Mexico was my birthplace. I was more excited to share about being adopted, than sharing about a culture I have never experienced. My first grade class thought it was cool that I was adopted. “Cool points” are gold for a kid in school. Then came the awkward moment, that I am pretty sure is standard in early childhood education, of doing a family tree. It was easy to share about being adopted with my class. It was easy to talk about Ponchos and Pesos. It was hard to explain that I truly looked nothing like my Mom and Dad. That posed a lot more questions of intrigue from my class. How could someone not look like their parents?

The assignment consisted of doing a family tree and then sharing with the class. I never really thought about how “different” my family was until the family tree assignment. I always knew I was adopted. My family was very open about discussing it, and never really thought about it. It was just the way my family was. It was normal for our family pictures to consist of the one brown skinned kid among my white skinned cousins. When working on my family tree it was pretty simple and I got done really fast. Being adopted there wasn’t much to my family tree, in comparison to the genealogy of my first grade friends. Since the assignment was pre-Crayola skin toned crayons. My family picture consisted of 3 yellow people and a dark brown stick figure. My family matched the same color as the sun, and I was the same color as the tree bark. [Crayola thanks for adding skin toned shades to crayons.]

My teacher was told before the school year that I was adopted, just in case any random comments came from my mouth in class. It helped to have back-up from my teacher, when I was trying to share my adoption story. An easy assignment could have quickly turned into a complicated discussion, that I am sure the parents of my first grade class would have not liked to address after school. In our house adoption wasn’t complicated. It was a topic that was very open, which is what made it so easy to share with my friends. Once past the family tree assignment, it was pretty smooth sailing for the rest of the year.

I finally made it to Middle School. A dorky, eyeglass wearing, Mexican. I am pretty sure all cool points once had on the swing-set of the playground were lost. Although middle school did not require my family tree making skills, it did present other issues. Mainly everyone thinking me and my Sis were boyfriend and girlfriend. We got asked this all the time. It became second nature to respond to the question. I was surprised that my Health class in Middle School presented something I never really thought about: My health history. I was sitting in class and a part of learning about personal hygiene and health was the stressed importance of knowing family health history. I hardly knew the exact place of my birth, let alone anything about my family health history. It kind of caught me off guard that I was so bummed about being adopted. It wasn’t like I hated I was adopted, but it was a reminder of the unique situation adopted adolescents can find themselves. For me it was okay to sometimes struggle with the issue of being adopted. What kid doesn’t have any identity struggles in adolescence?

A question I often get asked from friends who are adopting or people thinking about it is, “How do I prepare my kid to be so ok with being adopted?” My answer is always, “Talk about it”. I found that by not making it a whole sit-down awkward conversation made the topic a lot less intimidating. With my little four year old niece, I recently had to talk to her about how I am adopted. We made sure our conversation was casual, and used references that she would understand. Lucky for me there are a few cartoons that also discuss adoption and how each family is different.

For more information about MLJ Adoptions’ international adoption programs, please click here.

MLJ Adoptions is a Non-Profit, Hague-Accredited adoption service provider located in Indianapolis, Indiana, working in Africa, Eastern Europe, Latin America and the Pacific Isles. We are passionate about serving children in need.