June 27, 2011

On Being Adopted

Everyday I wake up in the morning and think nothing of it. I am Kelly Schiro, the same girl that went to bed the night previously.  I have lived in the United States, better yet, Minnesota my whole life. When people ask how long I have known that I was adopted, I have to think. I don’t remember when I was “told” I was adopted, I guess I have always known.

At 9-months-old I didn’t know that I was to be shipped off to the far away land of the United States of America. My life would be forever changed. At that point in time, I didn’t know much of anything. I was a happy and content little baby unless I got too hot. The one way trip from China is a distant memory, I supposedly spent it eating popcorn, in a box, on a plane.

My parents went to adopt me with a group of hopeful parents. The group came back with the five of us, Alia, Ahn, Elizabeth, Audrey, and me. Although we live in separate parts of the U.S. (Alia, Ahn, and Elizabeth on the East Coast and Audrey and I in the Midwest), we like to keep in touch. We have grown up in different environments and we are very different girls, but we share the bond of being adopted.

It is rare, but sometimes I wonder why my birth parents gave me up. My real parents constantly remind me that my birth parents gave me up because they wanted a better life for me, but I have my doubts. In ninth grade math there was a problem directly related to China’s One Child Policy. This really hit home for me. Under the policy a couple could only have one child in an effort to stop the rapid growth of the population. In a culture where the son is placed with the duty of taking care of elderly parents, there is no question of which gender expecting parents would want. Maybe that is the reason why there is a book in my house called “The Lost Daughters of China” rather than the lost children. The number of adopted girls from China significantly out weighs the boys, in fact I don’t think I know one boy adopted from China.

I think that all adopted children go through some sort of questioning. We question why? Why did they give us up? Did they not want us? Of course we hope the answer to this is “no,” but what if somehow we have a chance to talk to them? What would we say? What would we do? If you’re put up for adoption you can sometimes get the information about your birth parents. I will probably never know because the Chinese government withholds that information. If I were given a choice to meet my parents, I probably wouldn’t want to.

Sure some adopted children would love to meet their birth parents, but what if they turned out to be different then what the adoptee imagined? Meeting my birth parents would be wonderful, but it would also make me feel awkward, like walking in someone else’s shoes. Here is this couple that walks into my life after I have grown up with my mom and dad. Am I just supposed to start loving them right away? When I go to China the next time, I won’t be looking for my birth parents.

I have not been back to China, where Alia, Elizabeth, and Audrey have. I suppose I have been postponing this visit because I wanted to learn the language better. This girl from an article went back to China in college. Unfortunately she couldn’t speak the language, but her Swedish friend spoke it fluently. What stuck out to me in this article, was a Chinese market man commenting to her Swedish friend that she looked like she should belong, but didn’t even speak the language. I found it sad that her friend, who wasn’t even Chinese, could speak the language and she couldn’t. From that point on, I knew I didn’t want to be that girl when I went back to China, I wanted to understand and speak the language.

It wasn’t until I reached high school that I began taking Chinese language classes on Saturday mornings with a fellow adoptee, Kylene (Funny fact: Kylene and I are from the same orphanage).  The fall semester of my freshman year I decided to take Chinese 1 with Ms. Heng. I was surprised that the language came naturally to me. The pronunciations of characters seemed harder for my Caucasian classmates. I am now a junior and have completed Chinese 1 and 2. In the spring I will return to China with my mom and by that time I will be enrolled in Chinese 3.

Being adopted is unique. What people don’t realize being adopted can sometimes be confusing. I imagine what it would have been like to not be adopted, but I can’t. I love my life and I wouldn’t have asked for a better set of parents. 


  1. Great post, Kelly. I so appreciate your unique perspective, especially since I am parenting a Chinese daughter who is now 2 years old. I appreciate hearing your heart in words and feel like it better prepares me to parent her. My 7 year old (bio) daughter is taking Chinese on Sunday afternoons now. I hope to start my Chinese daughter with lessons when she is about 4 or 5 years old. I agree with you that I think it's important. Looking forward to reading more posts from you all!

  2. Thanks for your perspective. I have 8 & 11 year old girls from China. The older one has always wanted to go back to China and find her Chinese mother. It is an issue we talk about and deal with a lot. You say that you wouldn't want to meet your Chinese parents. Have you always felt that way? And if not, what, besides time, helped you reach that point?

    Thanks for allowing me to gain a glimpse into the thoughts of an older adoptee. It is very meaningful for me!

    Michelle in California

  3. Michelle~
    I have not always felt that I didn't want to meet my parents. It has actually quite recently that I decided I felt this way. I love my parents in America and there is nothing that I would do to change the course of events that led me to them.

    I rarely think of my birth parents because it makes me feel sad, I will probably never know the two people who gave life to me. Because I don't really know them, I don't know if I love them. They gave me up. I'm sure they had a good reason and I'm sure it was tough, but they abandoned their beautiful baby girl. If they didn't want me, why did they conceive me? If I were to meet them, like I said in the essay I believe it would be awkward. Would they have the right to take me back, now that China is being more flexible?

    My birth parents are always this distant shadow that I'll always be aware of but never truly know. I'm glad that I was adopted and I'm sad I never got to know my birth parents, but I'm happy with my life without them, by not knowing who they are doesn't change where I want to be.

    I hope this answer helps you!

  4. I was adopted from Anhui when I was 20 months, and I share a lot of similar feelings. Peopke ask where I'm from and I feel awkward deciding if I should give them the answer they are seeking or how I feel. I have always known I was adopted but its not really something I think about much because I'm just...me. I also have kept in touch with people from my orphanage. Ive always taken Chinese but without much motivation or real desire to learn the language and culture although pronunciation cones easy to me. This summer I had the opportunity to go to China and coming back I've been more interested in being adopted and studying Chinese with greater seriousness. I'm often put off when people say I'm so lucky and that my mom is such a generous woman for choosing me. Neither of us feel this way; she's my mother and I'm her daughter.