“You ate octopus,” I say, my eyes wrinkled with laughter. I sneak glances at the back seat where all three of my children are sitting, seat belts holding them back. They are laughing.
Pattu is amused and shocked. Ammu grows quiet.
“You mean we were meat eaters before you changed us?” the question is flung as an accusation. The mood in the car changes.
We are on the bed. I am tying Ammu’s hair before her shower. She leans back to me. “Was I like you when you were young?” I think a tad too long before I answer.
The three of us, the twins and I are crowded around the laptop where I have three windows stacked showing our genetic makeup. Two identical and one so different that we have a laugh about it.
The house is quiet. The questions from the previous day circle my head. I am conflicted.
“Did I change my children?”
“What does it mean to raise children?”
I look back on my life and think of who I am. The existential question of identity. The food I eat, the beliefs I hold, the rituals I follow, the values I hold dear. These are what I consider my identity. This identity is a composite of what I imbibed from my parents, people in positions of power in my life and my friends. This identity has evolved over the years because of the experiences I have had.
When my child hurled the “you changed me!” at me, it made me pause in my tracks. Yes, I did change her identity. Her name. Her religion. Her food preferences. Her family. Everything about her changed once she became my family. In naming her, I claimed her for my own. In raising her as my child, I gave her the best of all that I know.
Early in the pre-adoption process, the term “as if your child” is bandied about a lot. It is assumed that when you become a parent, the verb “adopt” will be in the past and the rest of the journey will be no different from any others that arrived at parenting by birth. But the truth is the verb is very much active. How you parent is subliminally affected by the awareness that there is another identity for your child. How much of that identity you preserve and how much you meld with your own is only limited by circumstance and you.
I have no answers or solutions on how to resolve all that I am feeling. All I know is that I am conflicted.