Friday, May 30, 2014


Over the last few years, and noticeably the last few weeks, I have read about adoptive parents not wanting to stay in contact with or even talk about their child's first parents because it would be "confusing" for the child to have more than one mother or more than one father.

A and I experienced the confusion firsthand when we were in Ethiopia. But we managed to get through it, and I want to share how we overcame it.

Here's what happened. We were in Burji. We were having a normal, pleasant conversation. Then someone asked A a question about his father.

A looked at me. I looked at A. We didn't know which father he meant.

So confusing!

Somehow, I found the words. The words that melted the confusion away. Adoptive parents who fear confusion might want to write this down.

I said, "Which one?" 

Which. One.

I know. I'm pretty sure I'm a genius.

You know what happened next? The person said, "Oh, the Ethiopian one." And then we were able to answer the question. Because we weren't confused anymore.

I know what you're thinking. Which one. It's tricky. I mean, it's TWO words! What if you get them backwards and you say, "One witch?" And then there's the alliteration. What if you accidentally say, "twitch twon?" Or "flitch flon?"

But dear adoptive-parent-who-withholds-a-relationship-with-your-child's-first-family-for-fear-of-confusion, you can do it. Be strong. Be a warrior. Practice in the mirror.

Which. One.

The amazing thing is, that once you have mastered these words, you can use them in other situations. Suppose, for example, that you have three brothers. And someone says they are looking for your brother. You can say, "Which one?" Or say your child has two grandmothers. Someone asks a question about her grandmother. She can say, "Which one?" You can apply this phrase to literally any family relationship in which a role is filled by more than one person, and there will be no more confusion.

So dear I-just-don't-want-my-child-to-be-confused parent, now you can go ahead and send that letter to, hire a searcher to find, mention the existence of that other parent. Or is something besides fear of confusion holding you back?


  1. I'm with Ms. Aloot on this one. So awesome!

  2. So beautifully said! Language can bind us and language can liberate us too! Thank you!

  3. As an AP, I'd love to give this a standing ovation. Awesome.

  4. Well said. We have a name for our daughter's birth father, "abaye" and her mother is "emaye". By keeping those Amharic names, this has helped her with understanding why we are different colors and look different.

    By the way, is there an Atheist Adoption site? I'd join.

  5. So simple isn't it? Love this post.

  6. This "the children will get confused"-argument really confuses me. No one ever asks me of I am confused about having a mother AND a step-mother, a father AND a step-father. And none of my (half-)siblings are confused about who belongs to whom in my (admittedly pretty complicatedly structured) family. So what is it about adoption that is perceived as more complicated than run of the mill non-nuclear families? So strange!