Azerbaijan International

Summer 2005 (13.2)
Page 15

Readers' Forum

Embracing Our Adoptive Family
by Kathleen Wilson Shryock

kathleen wilson shryock
Left: Lucas and Rachel Shryock with their parents Kathleen and Jim. In 2001, Shryocks were among the first couples to adopt children from Azerbaijan. It's been nearly four years that they have been together as a family.

Kathleen Wilson Shryock, mother of two handsome children from Azerbaijan, recently launched her career as a freelance writer. One of her first achievements was getting her story about intrusive questions related to adoption into the largest general family magazine published in the United States.

Family Circle is published by Gruner and Jahr in New York City. Their circulation is listed as 5 million. This article is reprinted with permission of Family Circle in the May 2005 issue, page 246.

"Are they yours?" the man at the garden center had asked. Several months had passed since the arrival of our children. My husband Jim and I were on an outing with our son Lucas and daughter Rachel choosing a new tree for our backyard to commemorate the formation of our family - the planting of new roots.

After spending the majority of the previous few months close to home, we were venturing out into the world. It was spring, a new beginning. The sun warmed me, but I found that I was also basking in the glow of motherhood - a special something that had eluded me for so long but now warmed me from deep within.

"Are they yours?" the man repeated. I was only too aware of the implication of his question. With shiny dark hair and deep chocolate-brown eyes, our children looked absolutely nothing like us; they must not be "ours."

They was the first of countless questions we have been asked since our children arrived home from Baku, Azerbaijan, more than three years ago. Since then we have been questioned by grocery store clerks, educators, friends, nurses and even other adoptive parents.

I must admit that although I was adopted as an infant and considered myself prepared to deal with adoption-related issues, I have been repeatedly shocked at the boldness of others in asking about my children's personal history.

I am not thin-skinned. I do not assume people are being purposefully rude, and I do not think that adoption should be secret. I simply believe that my children's story belongs to them and that they have a right to privacy just like anyone else. I also believe that my children should not be defined solely by their adoption. But most important, I believe my children are, without question, my real children.

Personal Experience

lycas and rachel shryock
Left: Lucas and Rachel Shryock

My own life's lessons have influenced me. I had parents who shared my adoption story with me at an early age, and I cannot recall a time when I did not know that I was adopted. As a result, being adopted was always part of me, like having blond hair or being partial to strawberry ice cream.

As a child I learned that being adopted was only one of many characteristics that made me who I was. Above all, I learned that the realness of family did not come from bearing a resemblance to my mother and father.

Instead, it was in daily acts of love. It was my father being there to patch up skinned knees as I learned to ride a bike, my mother sitting in the audience at every concert beaming with pride even though I could not carry a tune in a bucket. It was their teaching of family values and a strong work ethic. Recently, it was my father's glowing face when I got off the plane holding his first grandchildren. At that moment I recalled how right he was when he told me that it takes about five seconds after you hold your child for that baby to become "yours".

Bothersome Questions
Where does all this leave me when intrusive questions come my way? At first I was angry, but that didn't solve anything and definitely did not set a good example for my children. Responding with sarcastic one-liners was not a skill that I would be proud to teach them. Instead, it is my responsibility to help my children become equipped to deal with adoption-related issues productively.

By treating others with kindness, they will learn that they are deserving of that same consideration. They will discover that their own personal information belongs only to them and that they will be the ones who have the right to share this information. They will learn that they have many characteristics other than, and including, adoption that make them special, unique people. They will learn what is real.

So now, when asked if my children are mine, I smile and simply answer. "Yes," Nothing more.


Kathleen Wilson Shryock is a freelance writer and mother of two. They live in Kansas. Other articles by Kathleen published in Azerbaijan International include: "Preserving Adoption Memories - Memory Books", AI 10.3 (Autumn 2002) and "Celebrating Our Families: Second Reunion of Azerbaijan Adoptee Families" which she and her husband co-hosted in Kansas City. AI 11.3 (Autumn 2003). Search at

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