I’m adopted but not legally. I have three older brothers, one younger sister, three younger brothers, and an older brother that passed away when I was 12 years old. Only two of my three younger brothers are biologically related to me. The rest are part of my adopted family. Writing this out seems simple enough, but when having a conversation with others about my family, it can get quite confusing. I always end up backtracking and having to explain that my sister is not biologically related to me, and that I haven’t known her my entire life or even most of my life (yet). I also call some of my best friends’ families my family because that’s how it feels. So, it’s like a collection of families all connecting themselves to me that make up my very large extended family.
However, talking with others about where and how I grew up is complicated. I didn’t move in with my adopted family until I was a senior in high school (18 years old). I didn’t even meet that family until a year earlier when I became best friends with the person I now call my sister. People get so confused because I never flat-out explain that she’s not biologically related to me. I don’t feel the need to explain because she’s my sister and my best friend. Our relationship feels more like siblings rather than best friends. I call our mom 'mom', but I also call my biological mom 'mom'. When talking about the two, I find myself having to say “adopted mom” and “biological mom.” In a sense, I don’t just have a mom; I have many different moms. Biological mom, adopted mom, my best friend’s mom, my hometown friend’s mom… but they’re all my moms because they’ve all treated me like I was their very own.
This all sounds great and dandy to be a part of so many different families, but sometimes it is taxing to have to feel in limbo all of the time. When someone asks me about my family, I have to choose which family to talk about – my biological family or my adopted family. They are both so different, and I have had different experiences with each. I usually end up talking about my biological family, but then end up talking about my adopted family without any sort of transition. This confuses the person I am talking to, but this is my life. I have no transitions into the different families that I am a part of. This is just my life.
I used to feel so out of the ordinary after moving in with my adopted family and coming to Tufts because I knew I wasn’t biologically related to them – I was the outsider coming in. Sometimes I still feel this way up until I get a text in our family group chat, a phone call from one of my parents, a “good morning” when walking downstairs into the kitchen, or surprise them by coming home and see their faces light up when they see me. Hearing other students talk about their one and only mother, father, siblings, etc. used to be hard for me because I cannot just do that. I have to have transitions and I have to explain my situation.
At Tufts, sometimes it seems like I am the only person among the 5,500 undergraduates here that has this situation. Honestly, it still feels that way because I haven’t met another person with a story close to mine. However, I have met people here at Tufts who have supported me, listened to me, and tried to understand me and my family tree. Because of the administrators, faculty, and students, I have come to not feel so out of the ordinary, because what is ordinary? I have multiple parental figures, siblings, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins in my life that may or may not be biologically related to me but still love me all the same. I love my family. I love having multiple Christmases and multiple parties and multiple people in my life that I am able to call on whenever I need anything (from advice, to a bike).
So, I am adopted but not legally. I do claim seven siblings, four parents (three of which are mothers), five grandparents, and a huge number of cousins. Without all of these wonderful human beings in my life, I would never be where I am today – at Tufts, graduating in May 2019. I am grateful for having the opportunity to have so many different, loving families that I get to call my own. I’m still going to battle with having to explain my family situation and code switching from “adopted mom” to “biological mom,” but I don’t mind it. It’s my family tree, and it might not look the same to everyone else, but it’s mine, specially made just for me.