The Benefits of Being an Illegitimate Child

Disclaimer
I am speaking about my personal experiences. If you disagree… Stop reading?

Background
Every person’s origin story is different, minus a few elements.

Are people born Wicked? Or do they have Wickedness thrust upon them? After all, she had a father. She had a mother, as so many do… -Galinda from Wicked

The majority of us have the same background story when you go back far enough. Man meets woman… Man falls in love with woman *insert funky music here* and whether or not you were planned here you are. Of course this does not count people whose parents chose adoption or were raised by parents in a same sex relationship. Both of those are super important and awesome, but I’m going to focus on natural “oops” babies.

I was a medium-level Oops Baby, depending on how you look at it. My parents were in a committed relationship for the most part. The wild card was the fact that my father ended up being a hard drug-doing alcoholic. He was also a serious biker and he hurt people. But he did care for me when he was present and mentally present and that’s more than some people have when it comes to parents. Fortunately, he left when I was very young leaving an opening for my mom to marry the person that ended up raising me.

Credentials
Throughout my life people have focused entirely too much on this aspect of my life. Some people are uncomfortable with the labels, and some people claim that it isn’t that big of a deal. While I agree that my history does not actively affect me everyday, in that I don’t cry daily about being abandoned, it is ridiculous to think that my father hasn’t influenced who I am today.

At 16, I was forced to find my father’s family to figure out my family medical history. I had no plans to be accepted fully into the family, because my mom had told me from a young age that reunions aren’t like tv shows. You rarely get the answers you are looking for, and I understood. I lucked out, and a few of the family members welcomed me with open arms. The others were not as warm and for the past 10 years. I have been accused of everything from trying to get money out of them to faking who my father is. Nothing makes you feel welcome quite like family members refusing to acknowledge you in a room, simply for being born.

Benefits

As I said in the title this is a positive post about all of the things that I have gained for my experiences with my “abnormal” family history. (I feel like illegitimate children have been around longer than marriage, so I am not sure how abnormal it really is but whatever) I would not trade my life for anything.

1. Appreciation

A few years ago I was walking and talking with my cousin (on my biological father’s side), and she was struggling to cope with some of the aspects of her parents’ divorce that had happened a few years before that. She felt that her friends could not empathize with her, because their parents were still together. It was heartbreaking to me to hear my cousin talk about her pain. Even I couldn’t empathize because my family broke before I could gain an understanding of what a family “should” look like. The only comfort that I could offer her was in the idea that she had been given a gift of appreciation.

People who are raised in steady households are comforted by some ideas that they believe are inherent truths. They believe that their family will always be there to love and support them unconditionally. They believe that their parents love each other, and they always will. Finally, they believe that “Blood is thicker than water”.

Those of us that were not raised in steady homes will tell you that these concepts are great, but they are not always true. Parents, brother, sisters, and grandparents can walk away from anyone at any point. They don’t have to love you or support you. Parents are people, they are capable of every emotion that you are. If they at some point unhappy then they shouldn’t be forced to stay in a relationship just because their children don’t understand how the world works. And the people that choose to stand by you throughout your life are your family, not people that are only there because they think they have to be.

Once you realize that the connections in your life are a choice, you can truly begin to appreciate the people that are in your life. I have numerous “aunts” and “uncles” that are in no way related to me by blood. They are the people that took my mom and I in when her family refused to help her when I was born. They are people that I can be apart from for a decade and will help me if I give them a call. My blood aunts are in no way shape or form that helpful.

I asked my cousin if she felt this way and she said yes. I feel like being forced to realize these concepts is where people get the word “shattered” from. Expressing that their view of reality is permanently changed forever. Good. Some people will choose self-pity in these types of circumstances, but others will see that it takes away a veil of superficial trust. My cousin and I both will approach relationships with the appreciation that they deserve. Anyone that chooses to love and support you in your life deserves your full love and support back. because no matter who they are they will always have a choice.

2. Three Families (Maybe)

This one is specific to me, and I consider myself lucky. When I was 5 I was adopted by the man that would otherwise be called a “stepdad”. People often ask what the difference is, and for clarification purposes I shall explain. My parents were not married, but my father showed up the day I was born and signed my birth certificate. This gave him parental rights, which he threatened to use against my mom and I for years. Part of the adoption process includes giving the birth parent the right to show up and fight for their rights, and as my father had bench warrants out he could not show up in court deeming me legally abandoned and terminating my father’s parental rights. My “stepdad” wanted to make sure that when he married my mom, my father could not show up some day and try to take me away. My last named changed, and I have 2 birth certificates (bonus: I technically have an alias since I was born with a different name).

My adoptive family is filled with irregular family situations and took me in as their own. I have never felt like they were not my “real family” and I am very lucky to have them. When my grandfather found out that I was going to meet my biological family he actually got upset and kept reiterating that, “You are still my granddaughter and will always be”. Being 16 and raised differently, I honestly couldn’t understand why he would be worried, but with time and age I started to understand. Some people can’t let go of the label of “family” and thank god I am not one of them. I am eternally grateful for those people who are in my life.

My mom’s family is interesting. When I was born they did the “unholy child exile” dance, then changed their minds when my father was out of the picture. That was a pretty good indicator, as they are fair weather friends of the family variety. Other than supporting my decision to go to grad school when my parents were dead set against it, I am not sure I have ever felt like I could trust them.

My biological father’s family is also interesting since as I said earlier some acknowledge me and some don’t.My loved ones were really worried about me feeling rejected, but past the age of 18 i was fine. I was grateful for the ones that chose to love me back.

Although I spent most of my childhood with two families, I am very proud to say that I have three. Each one is different, but I wouldn’t say any of them are better than the other. Except maybe the adoptive family on principal, but the others were not given that opportunity, so that isn’t a fair judgement.

3. No Perfect Image Pressure

For a long time I pressured myself into being the exact opposite of my father. I felt that he was a terrible person, and that part of him was clearly in me and I needed to destroy that part of me as best I could. Wrong. He is part of me no doubt (we both have super frizzy hair) but that doesn’t mean that I am going to make the same mistakes that he did. On top of it, my father was definitely mentally ill. Having a super hardcore parent makes rebellion seem a little bit silly, so it also helped keep me out of trouble indirectly.

Other than my own restrictions, I realized that no one expected me to be perfect. I didn’t feel pressured to get married if I accidentally got pregnant. In fact, my mom told me never to get married just because you are going to have a baby. Growing up in various Southern areas, I was not raised to believe that I had to get married at a young age.

Some people assume that if I was not pressured about married life that I would be encouraged to focus on accomplishing a lot within a career. That assumption is incorrect. All 3 of my parents did not graduate from college, so the importance of academia was something that was not bestowed on me. My decision to go to graduate school was the closest I have ever come to rebelling against my parents, as they called it “the biggest mistake of your life”. Luckily, my godmother and grandmother stepped in and provided the needed emotional support until my parents came around.

I was born into the world in bad circumstances, and no one knows what to expect out of children like me. A lot of people believe that we will end up exactly like our parents, crippled by self pity or excuses. Others believe that it doesn’t matter what you are born into, that everyone has the ability to succeed. (Which I disagree with, some circumstances are out of your control. If I hadn’t been adopted by someone with money there’s no way I would have become who I am today) I am a wild card, free to make my own path. I don’t have generations of doctors’ reputations to live up to, or a huge extended family that will be disappointed if I choose not to have children.

But no matter what situation you are born into, it is your attitude that decides what type of life you have. Are you a victim or a survivor? Do you have to love your family members or is it your choice? You cannot control what you are born into, but you can choose how you handle it.

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