Chelsea O'Donnell was adopted at just two months of age by Rosie O'Donnell. This past summer, she and her mother were at the centre of some hot gossip when Rosie reported Chelsea had run away, but Chelsea claimed Rosie had kicked her out. In every single media headline, Rosie was referred to as Chelsea's "adopted mother". Oof. It would appear from the outside that the two of them clash quite a bit, which frankly is nothing strange for a teenager and her mom. But the way their relationship has been put on display, the way Chelsea's adoption seems to play such a huge part in it makes my blood boil.
Let me give you some back story here: I'm an adoptee. Like Chelsea, I was adopted at two months of age (although in my case, I was relinquished into custody immediately at birth). But the difference here is that my "adoptive" parents are my parents, no qualification required. When I was born, I was put into the care of a foster family through Children's Aid Society, where I stayed until the paperwork was completed and I was able to permanently go home with my parents.
Listening to Chelsea speak in a recent interview with Inside Edition is heartbreaking. She refers to Rosie as "Rosie", not as her mother. She says she doesn't love her. She says she has no interest in being a family, or mending their bond. Oof. I don't think Chelsea's the first teen to be told to get out of their house, and I certainly don't think she's alone in her frustration with her mom. Overreacting like this is so much easier when you're not the daughter of a celebrity, I think. Because when I said things like that, the whole world wasn't watching, and when things cooled off, my parents were still waiting with open arms. Just like Rosie. Except Chelsea isn't going back, because it sure is difficult to take the hard line so publicly then back pedal , isn't it?
Chelsea's birth mother spoke out recently accusing Rosie of "stealing" Chelsea from her, despite authorities stating otherwise. There's no doubt that the love of a birth mother exists -- how can it not? They've carried a baby in their body for nine months. But what about the missing years? I think many adoptees feel a sense of loss, a sense of connection with birth parents (mothers in particular), but I've met my birth mother, and there was definitely no primal connection there. I'm not saying my experience is universal, but I do know that the people who spent my entire life raising me are the ones who are most certainly my parents.
Listen to me, Chelsea O'Donnell: You're 18 years old. At your age, I fought with my parents non-stop, especially my mother. I guarantee I said and did some terrible things back then. I honestly have no clue how my parents survived 1987-1994. (I'm so sorry, Mom and Dad!) My teen years were full of turmoil, but none of that had anything to do with the fact that I am adopted, or that my parents didn't love me enough, or exactly how I wanted them to. You're angry because "Rosie" wanted to know more about your life. You're upset she pried too hard. You're mad that she cared too much. These are normal teen feelings. For those who are adopted and those who are not, these feelings are all a part of growing up.
But to refer to the woman who raised you since you were an infant as your "adopted" mother, or by her first name, is incredibly disrespectful and hurtful. Not only that, it diminishes the relationships of adoptees and their adoptive families. Adoptive parents need no qualifications, just as you need none as an adoptee. Family isn't defined by genetics. Where was your birth mother all your life? Regardless of her regrets, her mistakes, or her claims, that woman did not raise you. She did not sit up nights when your fevers ran high, dabbing you with a cold cloth. She didn't cheer you on or wipe your tears. She didn't hold you and love you.
Your mother did. Rosie did.
No relationship is perfect, including parent-child relationships. I've got biological children of my own now, and I can see for myself that blood does not an easy relationship make. I fear my kids' teen years, to be honest. When I wondered who my birth family was, there's a good chance my own kids will wish they were not my own. But for them, there's no fairytale life to fall back on. There's no "what if", there's no "maybe" that a birth family would be better. This is all they've got -- one mama who is trying her very best. And that's what you had, too: one mama trying.
I know pictures and media coverage can never paint an accurate picture of what a home life is truly like, but when asked if you love your mother you said, "...love is a really big word and I wouldn't really use that". I wonder if you know how many times a parent will question ever becoming a parent, or how often they wonder how they can love a little monster of a child? Love is a big word, and it sounds like you don't really grasp the concept. Love is taking a child into your home and loving them unconditionally. Love is adoring a baby whether it carries your genetic code or not. Love is riding the tumultuous waves of parenthood, from sleepless nights to fights to struggles to failures to, well, to absolutely everything you've gone through in your 18 short years of life. To Rosie, you're not her "adopted daughter", you are her daughter, full stop.
I'm really thankful my teen years weren't in the spotlight, and I'm even more thankful for my parents.