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What Does It Mean To Be A "Real" Parent

"They’re not even your real parents”.

I remember the first time I heard this statement. I was in middle school, seventh grade.

I was confused and in disbelief when I first heard these words. In fact, being adopted was a topic brought up multiple times throughout my middle school experience. I remember being laughed at in school about being an adopted child, both on the playground and in the classroom

Some kids teased, “Your real parents didn’t love you" or "You were given up and will never be loved". For some reason, “They aren't your real parents” stung more than any other remark. Those words carried a dense feeling with them. It was as if an elephant was on my chest, and I couldn’t breathe. I was paralyzed as these words cut deep inside of me.

I had a comeback to many of the “jokes” the kids would say about me, or I would just "laugh" it off even though on the inside I felt shame, embarrassment, and loneliness when I was made fun of. I think this is one of the reasons it was easy for me to connect with others who were made fun of. I was able to empathize. This time around though, when I heard ..."they aren't your real parents," I didn’t know what to say.

I thought, “What does he mean by that?”

Unfortunately, the topic of conversation was quick, as many of the middle school conversations were, so I didn’t get a chance to ask him questions about what he meant by "real" parents. Was this the first word that came to his mind? Did he know it was hurtful? Did he hear it from his parents? Was it the only word he knew to distinguish the difference between his parents and my parents?

Today, as I think about that experience, I get curious, “What does it mean to be a real parent? What is a parent?” Far too often in life, I took meanings at face value.

I’ve accepted the definitions society presented to me in the past, but today I question what they truly mean to me. In this chapter of my life, I am choosing to change that approach.

As I think about what makes a “real parent”, I can’t help but think about an individual who genuinely loves the child, supports, nurtures, encourages the child and provides a space for the child to be heard and to be seen, and appreciated for who they are.

From my perspective, it is so much more than being connected by blood.

I’ve been fortunate to experience the concept of parenting via multiple perspectives.

Not only via my parents, but also through those who are parents to others surrounding me.

What does being a parent mean to you?

About the Author Oleg Lougheed: His start in life was inauspicious. At 9 years old, he relinquished his parents' rights and entered the Russian orphanage. At 12 years old, he decided to be adopted into a new family, in a new country, halfway across the world, to start a new life. At 24 years old, he began his journey of helping others live the life they have always dreamed of, despite their hardships and misfortunes by allowing them to recognize the uniqueness and worth within their own story.


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