Kent Bush: As different as black and white, but both of my sons are real
I’m his dad.
I wasn’t there when he was conceived, but I am the only father he has ever known. My wife is his mother. That bond has been secure since the first hour after we took custody in a guesthouse in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
My son Dawit, doesn’t share my DNA and he looks just like his birth mother. But contrary to what NBC’s Olympic Broadcaster Al Trautwig believes, not only am I his dad, I am also his parent.
Trautwig fired up the online outrage machine this week when he referred to the world’s most decorated female gymnast’s parents as her “grandfather and his wife.”
When some people corrected Trautwig on the social media platform — trust me, if you need to be corrected about something, post it on Twitter — he didn’t acknowledge his mistake, he dug the hole deeper.
“They may be her mom and dad but they are NOT her parents,” Trautwig tweeted in response.
Obviously this guy knows more about gymnastics than adoption. There is a subset of adoptive parents who are militant about it and some of them started an effort to get Trautwig fired. He deserved a little of the heat since he decided to spew verbal gasoline on the fire he set after his first faux pas was pointed out.
I have only been an adoptive parent for five years. I am pretty sure I either said or at least wondered internally about an adopted child’s “real parents” before I had the direct knowledge of the incredible institution of adoption and how great it really is.
The strangest question I think is when people ask how Dawit gets along with “my real son,” Blake. I think the assumption is that they won’t get along because Blake wasn’t at the hospital when Dawit was born or something.
Dawit is equally real. He is equally my son. He is my real son.
When I die, my illustrious empire from years in journalism will be divided between them equally.
There isn’t a law that says the “real” child gets an extra portion of the inheritance.
But adoption goes beyond legal rights. That is where Trautwig failed in his attempt to parse the parentage of Simone Biles. He became enamored with his knowledge that Biles wasn’t fathered or birthed by the people who raised her.
They are her parents — legally and in every other way possible other than biology.
Every time Dawit prays, he thanks God for his family — not his “adoptive family” or “legally binding but not really real” family.
One hurdle we won’t have to navigate with Dawit is when he discovers he is adopted and didn’t get here the same way Blake did. He knows the woman who carried him and gave birth to him before eventually saving his life by relinquishing him to an orphanage to make sure his medical conditions and malnourishment were treated.
But what no one can know is how the most counterintuitive thing you can ever be told is also the most accurate. We had a lot of friends who had adopted when we adopted Dawit. Many of them had biological children and adoptive children. They all agreed on one thing.
They said we would love our adoptive child the exact same way as we do our biological child.
I know the difference between Facebook families and what life really looks like. I assumed these people were trying to convince themselves as much as us that they had equal love for all of their children regardless of the DNA.
Let me be the cynic that clears this up for you. It’s true.
Dawit is nothing like Blake. Sure their skin color is different and they use different hair products.
But their personality types couldn’t be further apart, either.
Dawit is a freight train of happiness that starts running full speed from the moment his eyes open in the morning until he runs out of fuel at night. Blake is far less interested in bouncing around like Tigger. He is more sedated and thoughtful. He is certainly more cautious in his approach to life. Dawit is a ready, shoot, aim kind of kid. Blake measures twice and cuts once.
The same divergence can be seen in my brother and me. We have the same parents, are the same number of years apart as Blake and Dawit and we couldn’t be any less alike.
But after five years I can confirm that the people who said the crazy stuff about loving both boys equally don’t seem so crazy now.
Trautwig was trying to show what he knows about biology and parenting, but in his tin-eared commentary he only showed what he doesn’t know about adoption and how emotional ties can bind people far more securely than strands of DNA.
Most adoptive parents will give him a pass. Hopefully learning the lesson in the public square helped others to gain a new understanding of how adoption really works, as well.
— Kent Bush is publisher of Shawnee (Oklahoma) News-Star and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.