“Normal is a washing machine cycle,” I often joke with those worrying that turning to adoption will defeat their dream of a normal family, quoting a childhood friend who is now a special education teacher. My friend and I were nerdy outsiders growing up, far from the effortlessly popular crowd in school. I understood the wisdom of her motto during my struggles with infertility before IVF was widely available in the United States, followed by the adoption of my two sons.
There is no such thing as a normal family… working to create a loving family is what matters.
This summer, I thought of my friend’s dictum, “normal is a washing machine cycle,” listening to Jacqueline Woodson read her luminous memoir, Brown Girl Dreaming, as an audiobook. In piercing poetry, Woodson describes growing up as an African American girl in South Carolina and Brooklyn in the 1960s and 1970s. Divorce forced her mother to raise four children alone, and her grandparents in South Carolina, where she spent every summer, became central parental figures in her life. Woodson’s penetrating descriptions of her early struggles against discrimination, poverty, and learning disabilities make her pain feel immediate. With her gift for storytelling from a young age, her knowledge that she was a writer, and the deep love of her family, she overcame an extraordinarily difficult childhood.
Woodson, my friend, and adoptive parents all understand that there is no such thing as a normal family, but that working to create a loving family is what matters.