Most adoptees have heard the words “Real Parents” many, many times.

As in: Do you ever want to find your Real Parents?

Even though I get it, I understand what people mean, I’ve always found this annoying. When I’m feeling universal, I’ll respond, Searching for your Birth Family/Biological Family is a really personal decision. Sometimes, I’ll continue about what it means to be adopted, but sometimes, I just stop talking.

We’re a curious lot, this human race, and it’s understandable that people would automatically create a kind of mythology around being adopted. But this question bothers me simply because it’s obtuse. My Real Parents are the two people who spent their lives feeding me, clothing me, driving me to untold amounts of piano, ballet and violin lessons. The ones who grounded me, and stayed up late helping with homework, and watched me make lots of mistakes.

For some folks, Real Parents might be a grandmother, or an older sibling, or an uncle, or a foster parent. My concept of family is enlarged, I think, precisely because I’m adopted. So the word Real doesn’t mean DNA to me.

There’s a movement of thought about how the phrase Birth Mother is inherently demeaning because it reduces her role to that of a vessel, a carrier, a host, and nothing more.

I’ve never felt that way about it. To me, the words Birth Mother are very special, in the same way that any kind of mother is pretty special. Semantics. I’m grateful to whoever gave birth to me, because she enabled my parents to raise a child. But the woman who taught me to sew and cook and think critically about world events is the person I think of as my mother.

The other part of the question that I’m increasingly aware of is how personal it is. Because adoption is still struggling to be “normal,” I think some people are so intrigued at the concept, they forget it involves hearts and minds that can have great sensitivity about the subject. For the non-adopted, having origins in a completely foreign world must seem akin to an alien landing.

We come in peace. Sometimes.