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by Abigail Van Buren

Adopted Daughter Resents Being Labeled as Not 'Real'

DEAR ABBY: Recently in a department store, I overheard a conversation between two women that made my blood boil. One woman identified a neighbor by saying, "The one with the adopted son."

Abby, I am 42 years old and was adopted at birth. My adoptive mother was the nurse assisting in the delivery, and my adoptive father was also present at birth. In fact, while anxiously waiting to see his new daughter, Dad slipped and fell, so we joke, "Dad sure fell for his daughter."

My loving parents told me early on that I was adopted and did it in such a way that I felt adopted meant "special" and "handpicked."

Perhaps the comment hit a nerve because my aunts, uncles and cousins from both sides of the family often referred to my brother and me as "Marvin and Ethel's adopted kids." My parents and grandparents were never guilty of using that unnecessary adjective.

Does "adopted" mean "less than"? Am I less of a daughter because someone else gave birth to me? Even at my grandmother's funeral, I was mentioned as her "adopted granddaughter." Sadly, my extended family still, after all these years, treats me as though I am not part of the "real" family.

Abby, the purpose of my letter is to let people know they do damage by distinguishing between "the adopted kids" and "the kids." The mother and father who adopted me, fed me, clothed me and disciplined me were my parents, and our family is as "real" as the families into which other children are "born." I would be proud to have you use my name. -- MARVA BOEHM MASON, HOUSTON

DEAR MARVA: Your point is well taken. Once children are adopted, they "belong" to the parents as much as children who are born into the family. Not everyone who describes family members as "adopted" means to be cruel, and they probably do not realize how upsetting it can be to a child. I hope your letter will cause those who have adopted relatives to think twice before making a verbal distinction.