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Let Me Tell You About My REAL Father (And sons…and daughters…and nieces…and nephews)

August 10, 2016

She’s a short, black teenager. And she was adopted. No, I’m not talking about Simone Biles. Instead I’m talking about my daughter and her sister. They are both short and black. They are comfortable with their skin color, but they are just a little sensitive about their height. I was delighted to point out that Simone Biles, the gold medal winning, world champion gymnast was shorter than both of them. That fact was more important to them than the fact that Simone was black, or that she was adopted by her grandparents. 

We’re even having this discussion because a clueless NBC announcer, Al Trautwig, announced that while Simone might call Ron and Nellie Biles “dad” and “mom” they were NOT her parents. I’m sure that Trautwig honestly regrets ever sending out that tweet. He’s done the requisite penance. He deleted the offensive tweet and he apologized. 

But, it doesn’t mean that the discussion is over. What’s the big deal? Why does anyone care and what’s the harm in pointing out that Simone’s real parents are no longer part of her life? 

The answer speaks to the heart of what it means to be a family. This is a topic that is kind of important to me. And I think I’m qualified to address the issue. 

Bliss is not a common last name. There are a few thousand of us in the United States and we all are related. People often compliment me on my name, as if I had anything to do with getting it. The thing is, I did. When I was 14, I asked my stepfather, Lloyd Bliss to adopt me. So did my older brother. A younger half-brother lived with us but didn’t opt to be adopted. 

I was born Rodney Keeney. My elementary and middle school yearbooks list me in the K’s, not the B’s. 

Every adoption story is different. My experience is different than Simone’s or other adoptees. Part of my reason for being adopted was a desire to share the name of the man that shared our home. He was and is my father. He’s been gone for many years. I had a chance to help prepare him for his funeral. I pushed his casket down the halls of the church where I spoke at his funeral. I helped carry his casket out of the church. I named my firstborn after him. 
Of course he was my dad. the fact that we didn’t share blood was a minor point. One of my happiest moments was when I was 16 and I met someone who’d known my dad as a young man. “You look like a Bliss,” he told me. It was a great compliment.

The man who gave me life is a nice enough guy. He’s just not part of my life. 
As anyone who checks in here on a regular basis knows, I have 13 children. What you may not know is that many of them are adopted. I’ve adopted children from all over the world; China, India, Columbia, Haiti and the United States. Some of my kids are also birth kids. Our first child was adopted just a few months after our third child was born. Our oldest daughter was 10 at the time. We attended a school event and one of her friends asked, “Which one is your real brother?” We held our breath as we waited for our daughter’s reply. 

They are both my real brothers. This one happens to be adopted.

We would add more children through the years. A couple of years ago, two of my kids ended up in the same class. My son, a 6′ tall white kid, and my daughter, a diminutive black girl. they couldn’t look more different. My son was teasing his sister as brothers will do. The substitute teacher wasn’t amused.

Stop flirting with that girl.

She’s my sister!

And his real sister at that. 

In addition to my children, I also have nieces and nephews who are adopted. My brother and his wife adopted four children. My sister adopted three daughters. My mother has more adopted grandchildren than birth grandchildren. And they are all her real grandchildren.

Your real family is not defined by DNA. It’s not even defined by legality. I have legal siblings that are not really part of my life. Your real parents are those who raised you. They are the parents that took you to school. Grounded you when you missed curfew. Taught you to drive. They are the ones who stayed up with you when you were sick. They are the ones that shared in your successes and your sorrows. 

My real children are the ones that I’ve taken into my home and into my heart. Considering the ethnic makeup of my kids (black, white, Asian and Indian), I think the most surprising thing that my descendants 100 years in the future will ask is, “Did you know they were white? Did you know the Bliss’s were white?” 

Yes, the people that Simone Biles calls mom and dad are her parents. And, like my nieces, nephews, sons, daughters and father, they are definitely her real family. 

Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. His blog updates every weekday at 7:00 AM Mountain Time. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife, thirteen children and grandchildren. 

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(c) 2016 Rodney M Bliss, all rights reserved 

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