Even when adoption isn’t at the forefront of an episode’s immediate plot on “This is Us,” the show always manages to surprise us by including revelations into Randall’s life as a transracial adoptee. Last night was no different; we felt our hearts break with Jack and Rebecca’s as they learned the real reason behind one of young Randall’s new desires.
*Spoilers ahead for last night’s episode of “This is Us”!*
In a flashback in last night’s episode, young Randall reveals he is being bullied at school. Wanting a way to defend himself just in case something bad happens, he asks his father Jack to teach him to box. Jack agrees, against the wishes of Rebecca, who disapproves of her husband’s boxing hobby and certainly wouldn’t approve of her son learning the same thing.
When she catches Jack and Randall practicing their boxing, Rebecca convinces Jack to call Randall’s principal. Then, they find out something unexpected: There is no new kid bullying Randall at school.
Jack confronts Randall about the lying and discovers the real reason behind Randall’s desire to box:
“Why did you want to learn so bad?” Jack asks.
“So I can be more like you,” Randall replies.
He talks about how his brother Kevin is much better at physical skills than he is. When Jack asks whether he wants to box so he can fight his brother, Randall says:
“Kevin’s tough, and he got that from you, and I didn’t. Dad, the thing is — I know I’m your son, but Kevin is your son son. And he got DNA stuff from you that I didn’t.”
It’s a moment to make any adoptive parent think, especially those raising biological children alongside adopted children. While Jack and Rebecca do everything they can to ensure they are raising Randall in a positive environment, there are still learning experiences for them when they least expect it — something that all adoptive parents can relate to.
However, Jack knows exactly what to say to reassure his young son.
“First of all, you are my son son, okay?” Jack says. “Second, you’ve got something even rarer than knowing how to throw a punch. You’ve got a brain, so smart that you tricked your old man into thinking that I had to teach you how to fight. That is going to be your secret weapon, Southpaw.”
It’s a moment that made our hearts swell — but also a lesson for us all to take to heart. Adoption is a lifelong journey, and there will be tough moments at different times for adoptees, adoptive parents and birth parents. As much preparation as you can do, it’s all about how you react in the moment.
Tips for Raising Biological and Adopted Children Together
Since “This is Us” premiered, we’ve seen a lot of instances where Jack and Rebecca navigated the joys and challenges of raising their blended family. While every family is different, there are some great tips to learn from these two parents if you are raising biological children and adopted children of your own.
1. Celebrate differences.
For new adoptive parents, it can be tempting to want to raise all your children the same, whether they are adopted or biological. After all, you love them the same, and they are both your children. However, this can be more detrimental than positive.
Every child is different, and the biological relation with a parent is only one aspect of that. Even biological siblings can be completely different, and you can’t fit all children into one box. This is especially true with adoptees, including transracial adoptees like Randall.
So, rather than try to dismiss Randall’s worries about DNA, Jack takes a different approach. He recognizes that he and Kevin may share some similarities — but that doesn’t mean that Randall’s own strengths are less admirable. He turns the conversation on its head by complimenting Randall’s intelligence, the thing that makes him different from his brother and sister. In a sense, Jack is also celebrating Randall’s birth parents — the people that Randall got his intelligence from.
Any adoptive parents raising biological and adopted children should take note. It is completely normal for an adoptee to feel like they don’t “fit in” among their parents’ biological children, and you’ll likely have this kind of experience at some point in your child’s life. By celebrating differences, you will celebrate what makes your adopted child unique and their story of how they came to be with you.
2. Emphasize love, not blood.
While adoption is growing in popularity as a way to build a family, there is unfortunately still a default view of family meaning “genetically related.” As positive a home environment you may create as an adoptive parent, your child will still see images of biological family and internalize them, as Randall did.
In these cases, you’ll want to double down on the message you’ve been sending: Love is what makes a family, not blood. Explain to your child that you are their “real” parent, just as Jack reassures Randall he is his “real” son. Provide to them examples of many different blended families — created through adoption or another manner — to show them they are not alone.
3. Be patient and understanding.
Finally, it’s important to let your child express their feelings and support them through this time. These are completely normal thoughts for your adopted child to have, and it’s something you should have prepared for as an adoptive parent. Don’t dismiss your child’s feelings; validate them and help them feel better without trying to quickly “solve” the issue.
Remember, a certain amount of sibling rivalry is normal for every family — even those with only biological children. Some of this is age-dependent, and your child will grow out of it when they become more confident in themselves. In the meantime, empathize with their concerns and celebrate them for who they are.
Your American Adoptions specialist will always be here to answer your questions after your adoption, including any concerns you may have about raising biological and adopted children together. We are confident in your skills as a parent, but we know everyone needs a little help sometimes. Don’t be afraid to reach out if you need it.