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Smile for the Photo

Updated: Feb 28

"You look so happy" they said, snapping the photo of me with my hands raised in the outline of a gingerbread man at a Christmas light display.

"I look like I'm saying 'don't shoot'" I thought.

Then it clicked.

My adoptive parents thought I was happy with my experience of adoption because I was actively trying to fit their mold, match their picture and accomplish what they could not: generate the mirror of a biological daughter they never had.

After all, mirrors really are what children are first and foremost: tiny mirrors of their parents, in the outline and shape of the same flesh and blood, growing from under a parent's shadow into a new iteration.

I can't blame my adoptive parents when they put the pressure in all the places they thought mattered and showed me the motions that made sense to them. I tried desperately to keep up, fit, fall into step. But all the while I was thinking, 'don't pull the trigger and send me away. Don't threaten me with loss again. I'll do whatever it takes to fit in here because...where else would I fit anyway? "

It can be hard, as the adoptee, to comprehend this image. "But I did smile for the pictures. I did hold myself just so to fit the mold. Look. I even fit in it a tiny bit except that one little part if maybe I just fix it..." and then we try to fix it and realize it doesn't go away. And now we panic: "Is it my fault? Did I not say enough, show enough...BE enough??"

Dear adoptee, you are enough, and it is okay to not fit.

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