Understanding culture and family history: Birth and adoption stories

Have you asked your parents about the day you were born or adopted?

Mother and son smiling

The most memorable part of many family’s history is when a new child is brought into the family. Often, the date is recorded with photos, but have you captured the stories associated with your birth or adoption? Many times, people don’t think to ask those questions until it is too late. Sometimes these conversations are avoided because they are uncomfortable, so be sensitive if these questions bring up strong emotions.

Here are some things to potentially talk about with your family. You could also ask the same questions about your parents by talking with your grandparents.

  • Does your family have stories about how they knew you were arriving?
  • Were there any “baby shower” events before you arrived? Who was there? Are there any gifts from that event that are still in your home?
  • Are there any memories of the day of the adoption or birth? My grandfather, who worked on an old-school dairy farm, talks about the day his first child was born and how he “ran over the milk cans three times that day.” Bringing a new child into the home can cause moments in time to stand out in our memories. Going through photos can help stimulate even more stories.
  • Were there any complications to bringing you into the family? Was the adoption or birth easy or difficult? Did you arrive when you were planned, or early or late?
  • Do you know where your name came from? Was it based on a family name? Was there argument between your parents on the name? Do you know what your name would have been if you were a different gender? If you were adopted, the stories of your names may be multi-layered and come from different places.
  • If you have siblings or pets, what were their reactions when you were brought home?
  • Are there interesting stories of how other family members (grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins) reacted when they found out about you?
  • Is there a story of when you first said “Mom” or “Dad?”

Capturing these and other stories about you and your family could be the foundations for a set of your own stories in the future.

This article was inspired by and adapted from the 4-H Folkpatterns curriculum:

Michigan State University Extension and the Michigan 4-H Youth Development program help to prepare youth as positive and engaged leaders and global citizens by providing educational experiences and resources for youth interested in developing knowledge and skills in these areas.

To learn about the positive impact of Michigan 4-H youth leadership, citizenship and service and global and cultural education programs, read our Impact Report: “Developing Civically Engaged Leaders.” Additional impact reports, highlighting even more ways MSU Extension and Michigan 4-H have positively impacted individuals and communities can be downloaded from the MSU Extension website.

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