The Root Of All…

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This morning Anthony asked if any of his birth relatives had been approved for visits…like an uncle or cousin.  When I asked why, he said, “I’d kinda like to know my roots.”


By definition the root is the foundation.  It is the beginning, the base.   It is the fundamental cause or essence of something…the source of derivation.  It is the giver of life.  My son wants to know where his life source comes from…makes sense to me.

Adoption … screwing up genealogy, one court room at a time…

We are an open to contact adoptive family, unlike some.  As long as the family members are appropriate, we are open.  Mya talks to her mom every couple of weeks.   I applaud her mother’s efforts, though they’ve been limited to phone and there has been no actual contact in seven years.  That effort is priceless in the mind of a child.  I once overheard Robin say to Mya, “At least your mom calls…I don’t even know where mine is.”  A phone call.  A card.  So simple.

It takes little to impress a child who is eager to accept and yearning for some small sign they are wanted.

Last year for a school project Billy had to create a family tree going back four generations.  This is always a touchy subject in my house, as I’m constantly irritated by school assignments that require a child to have information beyond their control.  Nothing like a graded paper to remind my kids of years they’d rather forget and people who they thought they left behind.  His teacher said he could certainly use his adoptive family…they are his family, after all.  But he surprised us by making the assignment even more difficult than it had to be…and he chose to research his birth family.

Looking for roots, I imagine.

With the help of, we were able to trace his family tree.  We found relatives on both sides dating back as far as the eighteenth century, documenting who he is…his blood line.   It was exciting for him to see those names, even in print on a screen, because somehow it made it more real.

Perhaps, it made him feel more real.

My kids all come from giant families.  Anthony is one of nine children, seven surviving.  Billy and Robin have three other sisters that they know of, Mya has at least four half siblings and Steven and Luke have a family so large we rarely leave the house without passing a relative.  These families mean something to these kids.  They are their blood, their resemblance, and for some, their only good memories in a lifetime of horror.  Older siblings raise younger ones in families like theirs and there are connections there that are irreplaceable for some.

And now Anthony wants to walk that path.  Not birth parents, he says.  (which I would never allow and he has no desire for…) “Just some cousin who might be a nice guy.”  And so the search will be on.  We may not contact, depending on the relative, but the information must be out there.

And I feel that if a kid is old enough to know he has ‘roots’…for better or worse, he’s old enough to know what they are.


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33 Responses to "The Root Of All…"
  1. Heather says:

    More than anything, you, your husband, and children deserve a big thanks for giving all these children a second (or third, or fourth…) chance at learning what love can mean.   Not only thanks for helping the children, however, but for helping society. You have kept at least one (admittedly) child from an inevitable life of hate and crime and in turn showed him what it means to be a productive citizen and to care for others. You are amazing 🙂 

  2. Gabriella Swartwood says:

    Did you know that I often start my work day with reading your blog? Your advocacy and care for children is something I admire and read about while holding my breath. I hold my breath in both horror that they had such difficult lives (I love that you guard their privacy) and because I am so happy that they have you and your husband (and the other children).
    -Gabriella Swartwood

  3. JMCrigney says:

    These families mean something to these kids.  They are their blood, their resemblance, and for some, their only good memories in a lifetime of horror.  Older siblings raise younger ones in families like theirs and there are connections there that are irreplaceable for some…And I feel that if a kid is old enough to know he has ‘roots’…for better or worse, he’s old enough to know what they are.

    You said, understandably, that you were frustrated and annoyed with the assignment and then you gave the above awesome and inspiring reasons for the assignment (pasted above). Maybe I am giving instructorsd the benefit of the doubt, but I think that is what they are trying to get children in any family situation to realize (what you said above). Even though we can’t or shouldn’t define ourselves by family, for better or for worse, family is important. We learn what is and isn’t acceptable, what to do and not to do from family, and in an abstract way, the genealogy progect teaches this. Our genes are a part of us, even if we choose to define ourselves differently.
    Thank you, this was thought provoking!

    • I think I phrased that wrong and have since talked to that teacher…who reads this blog…and restated what I meant. My frustration is with assignments that don’t realize many kids do not have access to their past…and many do not want to think about it. One assignment several of my kids have gotten is to find out how they were named. I just put an X through that one ever year and my kids don’t do it…the teacher understands and doesn’t grade them on it. It is just a reminder to my kids that they have no idea why they were named…or most anything else about their early childhood.

  4. As a once adopted kid, this is a heart wrenching and sensitive subject. I remember being his age, full of wonder and positivity, and I was given a few chances at a relationship with the three members of my birth family that I know of, in my teen/young adult years. Now that I’m grown, I regret acting on it, and I wish I hadn’t been afforded that opportunity. So much heart break. But I can’t blame myself, after all I was young, gullible,  and wanted to know my roots too, to have a sense of belonging and family. There was a reason God removed me from their lives, and now that is perfectly clear. It’s absolutely awesome your kids have you to stand guard, use adult judgement, and protect their little hearts and minds as they go through so many challenges of being adopted.

  5. auntiemom says:

    I needed this today.  Sometimes I wonder why I am not enough “love” for my niece of whom I have guardianship. Sometimes, she won’t even let me show her that love.  This put it into perspective.

    • I’d love to talk to you about what you just said…”she won’t even let me show her that love.” I have extensive experience with this…let me know if you want to chat. 🙂

  6. Meg says:

    Wow. That must be a difficult journey for everyone, including you Keri. How brave you all are.

  7. Barbara D says:

    I’m so sorry that you were irritated with me for Billy’s project.  I was/am so proud of the way he worked on this, though.  I know that you helped him with a lot of it.  I can’t begin to tell you how much I contemplated the different issues that I would face as I put this together.  Your kids are lucky to have you as a support system.

  8. Rene Shepard says:

    I helped my mil find her birth family. She was in her 60’s. She found a lot of brothers and was tough. but now she has at least a passing relationship to one brother, many years later.

  9. Tonya A. says:

    Wow – what a journey you and these kids all share together.  You really are a blessing to them & I hope they all realize that! 🙂  I always thought the saying of “family isn’t always the people you are related to” is so true! 🙂

  10. Everyone wants to know were they have come from. I hate the family tree thing for school two! My husbands family were told when we had our first child that they could only be in our lives if they were clean and sober when they came to visit. We were told to go to hell and never saw any of them again. Our children know there dad has sisters and a mom and dad they never see or know and its hard for them. We have been very open about the reasons they aren’t in our lives and that it was very important to there father and I to break the cycle of drugs, alcohol and abuse but it still hurts them. I hope one day Anthony will see you are his roots and his brothers and sisters are his family. It was just formed in a different kind of way.

  11. Amy Tuggey says:

    No offense to my mom, but I would SOOOOO want you to be my mom if I needed one!!!

  12. Wchughes1 says:

    Thanks.  Birth families and genealogy are still a hard thing for me to handle.  I appreciate your thoughts.  We got the simple assignment of providing a baby picture for a team banquet slide show.  I don’t think people realize that is a part of my kids lives that we have a lot of unanswered questions and no pictures

    • Oh…the baby pictures…I hate that. Most of my kids have some now, thanks to old foster families sharing and a few relatives. Anthony doesn’t have any and I don’t think we’re going to get them. We’ve asked…but they’ve not shared.

  13. My 19 yr old recently found an uncle (an attorney) who was able to fill in lots of blanks for her.  Some of my kids have gone down the path only to find that nothing has changed…….the child is  still being blamed for the family separation even by the extended family.    We have one birth grandma who comes in the summer and spends a few days with us…….we always have a great time.  We have another birth great-grandma who has her 2 grandkids over for the holidays but always makes sure to send gifts back for the other kids who are not related to her.  It can be a wonderful journey or a heart-breaking awakening but either way, it is one the child usually wants to go on. 

  14. Lois Groat says:

    Tell Anthony to not lose hope.  At age 17, my daughter has finally found a birth uncle who is a really great guy.  He is thrilled to know her, and she is enjoying getting to know him.  This new relationship is not without emotional pain, but still, it is good.

  15. Aknoef says:

    You are a rare and fabulous example of putting a child’s best interests first. GOOD for you!

  16. Nhtrisha says:

    You’ve probably heard it a million times but you are truly a God-send for these children, as I know that you would say the same that they are a God-send to you.    ((hugs)) to you all.

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