by Avril McInally
A few years ago, while writing about Mothers’ Day for our monthly TRJ newsletter, I made the decision to move the apostrophe over to commemorate my child’s reality of having two mothers. This is no accident and not an error in punctuation. It’s my way of elucidating that my child has more than one mother, as well as my way of making space for and acknowledging my child’s mother of origin. I choose to move the apostrophe over for fathers too.
If only it were as simple as moving an apostrophe to signal these intentions in conversation. It can be exhausting and intrusive having to explain my family's makeup. It’s an exhausting, repetitive experience for all of the members of our family. When I do choose to have “the talk”, I’ve come to think about the people in my extended family of adoption as being present to hear what I’m saying, and to speak as if my child is listening too. How do I honor my child’s story and her right to privacy? How do I honor her birth parents' same rights?
The adoption journey and its coinciding conversations don’t get any easier as our children age. They continue to be complex in new ways. Should I attend that funeral service for Grandma or Uncle? If I do go, where do I sit and where do my kids sit? Am I a painful reminder of a painful separation? Is our daughter a painful reminder of a painful separation? Do the visiting family members even know an adoption in the family happened? I have to keep coming back to ask myself the most important question which is “am I being a healthy support to my daughter”? The answer begins with me asking her the question, “Darling, you’ve got to let me know, should I stay or should I go?”. A little of the Clash’s lyrics can go a long way ;).
These conversations aren’t usually simple, but moving the apostrophe is. It’s my way of saying I recognize all of the parents who helped bring our child into and raise her up in the world. So, maybe someday, instead of asking me all of the usual, mundane questions about race or adoption, ask me about my “bad” punctuation.
As June is the month which holds our national holiday for celebrating Fathers’ Day, I’d like to invite you to move the apostrophe over in consideration of all of your children’s fathers present, absent, step and otherwise. In order to make that space for more than one father, April’s conversation prompts for June are a good place to start not just on Fathers’ Day but whenever you or your children feel the need. Happy Fathers’ Day from me and from everyone on the TRJ board!
This post is from our April, 2023, newsletter. If you would like to get our newsletter in your inbox each month, as well as information about our annual Transracial Journeys Family Camp and our monthly Zoom call to provide support for our transracial adoption parents please subscribe.