Tuesday, July 9, 2013

DNA does make a difference

Becoming a parent has been an astounding experience.

It is for anyone.

Becoming a parent as an adoptee who never experienced a biological connection until four years ago--well, it only adds to the astonishment.

I have had to face a very complex and somewhat troubling truth--DNA does make a difference.

This realization has troubled me at times because of the way it naturally causes me to question my relationship with my American (adoptive) parents and family. 

When I say, "question," I do not mean that I question whether my American parents love me or whether they are my parents. They indeed love me and I indeed consider them my parents.

The questions are simply a natural consequence of finally experiencing the power of DNA between not only my Korean parents and myself but also between myself and my child. This experience of the connectedness that my Korean parents and I and my son and I naturally experience due to the DNA that we share has made me all the more aware of the lack of biological connection that I share with my American parents and family.

(Because I know there are many people who would label me as an ungrateful traitor of a daughter for even daring to share these thoughts, I feel the need to state that I am not a traitor or an ungrateful daughter for allowing myself to ponder this.)

Seeing so clearly certain physical and personality traits that I inherited from my Korean parents and that our son has inherited from my husband and me (and hence, from my Korean parents as well) has been so validating and startling. And realizing how these similarities connect me to my Korean parents as well as connect and bond my husband and me with our son and him to us is also astonishing to me. It's beautiful and wonderful but also a bit disconcerting and confusing to me as an adoptee.

As I stated above, it's not that these experiences as a reunited adoptee and as a parent with my child cause me to question the love my American parents have for me, it's that they cause me to question the concept that I've been told for so many years--that DNA doesn't matter.

Furthermore, because of the power of DNA, I cannot help but question the capacity that my American parents and I have to truly relate to and understand one another, simply because we are so starkly different in personality and temperament as a result of, well, having different DNA.

For so long I have often felt frustrated, even despaired at times, that no matter how we seem to try, my American mom and I have the most difficult time relating to and understanding one another. We are opposites in almost every way. We see and interact with the world and people in such different ways. Our interests, our tastes, our views more often diverge than merge. (Conversely, their biological children seem to connect, relate to, and understand my parents so much more easily and seamlessly than do I.)

In large part because of experiencing the biological connection with my Korean parents and my son, I think I'm starting to realize that ultimately the difficulty I experience in connecting with my mom and American family may simply be something we just need to accept. I don't mean this in a fatalistic, hopeless way, but rather in an accepting, freeing way.

We are different people in the most different way possible--we are biological strangers. I do not have my American family's DNA in my blood. I reflect them in no physiological or psychological way, biologically. Our personalities are those of strangers, not of family born to one another.

Please, do not take this in a negative way. I do not mean it in a disparaging way, but rather in an honest way.

For me, being able to contemplate this, acknowledge this lack of biological connection and the very real effect it has on my relationship with my American parents and family is actually freeing. It helps me to stop feeling like it's somehow my fault that I don't relate to or understand my American mom. And it also helps me to cut my mom some slack--it's not her fault either that she doesn't understand me or relate to me very well.

Not that it's anyone's fault when even biological parents and children don't relate to or understand one another--I know that happens all the time and is bound to happen between my children and me (especially once those infamous adolescent and young adult years arrive).

But in my situation, it is clearly the lack of shared DNA that affects the ability my American family and I have to relate and connect. I literally am coming from a different place than are they. The huge differences in personality, interests, and preferences is the result of coming from different gene pools. I am literally from a different people than are they.

Now, obviously, in many ways, we have overcome these differences and remain family. I love them and they love me.

But acknowledging and understanding that DNA does make a difference helps me accept why it has been so challenging over the years to feel understood or accepted for who I am. It's not that they don't necessarily want to understand or accept who I am--maybe they just can't and vice versa.

I'm not trying to sound cynical or fatalistic or hopeless. But rather, trying to come to peace with the fact that the missing link--that we do not share the same DNA--indeed does affect the relationships I have with my American parents and family.

It doesn't have to be a bad thing, though. There is probably some good that can come from ceasing efforts to force a square peg into a round hole.

Rather, I'd say that learning to live with and accept the truth--although just as painful and troubling at times--is more emancipating than trying to maintain a pretense that never really brought peace in the first place.


*This is probably going to be my last post for quite some time being that I have most likely given birth to our new daughter and am in the chaotic midst of learning to adjust to life with a newborn and a toddler. 

But to view other previous posts written by Mila at Lost Daughters, click here.