Helen Doss, “Our International Family,” 1949

Source: Helen Doss, The Really Real Family (Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1959), 26.

Helen (above) and Carl (below) with a few of their children.

Source: Helen Doss, The Really Real Family (Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1959), 46.

Source: Helen Doss, The Really Real Family (Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1959), 48.

The one question that always brings me up with a start is, “What is it like, having a family that is a miniature United Nations?”

From our point of view our family is no different from the average family, except that we probably have more fun because there are so many of us. We’ve enough right here in the house to play London Bridge on a rainy day. Meals are always a party. Even bedtime isn’t so bad when a whole gang goes with you.

I think that perhaps the nicest part of all is the thrill of watching so many budding personalities unfold, each with such individual, fascinating possibilities.

The fact that none of my children was actually born to me rarely enters my consciousness. After all, even a biologic newborn is not always what his parents expected or hoped for, and all parents who honestly want their children love each little newcomer for what he is. In the long run it doesn’t seem to make any appreciable difference whether the baby arrives via the stork or a social worker. Indeed, when parents approach adoption not solely on the basis of their own wishes but also to meet the needs of a rejected child, the groundwork is laid for ties of love that can be, and often are, far stronger than in biologic families.

Friends well acquainted with our children never ask, “How can you feel like a family with such foreign children?” Instead they exclaim, “They seem so much like brothers and sisters! It’s hard to realize they represent so many races and nationalities.”

After a discussion I heard the other day in the back yard, I decided that with our family almost anything can happen.

I was hanging up clothes when Donny, from the stump where he was preaching a vigorous sermon, suddenly announced, “When I grow up, I’m going to be a minister like Daddy.”

Teddy, constructing an intricate steeple with lumber ends, squatted back on his heels, his brown face serious. “When I grow up,” he piped, “I’m going to be a minister and build a new church.”

“I’m going to be a minister and have babies,” Laurie chanted, as she pushed by with her doll buggy.

“Girls aren’t ministers,” Donny decreed. “Would you like to marry a minister and have little minister babies?”

“Okay,” Laurie agreed amiably.

“Me, too,” black-haired Rita chimed in from over near the faucet where she and Susie were making mud pies. Susie chattered something and I called out, “What did you say,” Susie? You’re going to marry a minister too?”

“Three-year-old Susie looked at me, scorn in her blue eyes. “Not me,” she stated emphatically. “I’m going to marry a fire engine!”

If you could see our children working, playing, sharing together, dark hair against fair, black eyes laughing into blue, I’m sure you would feel as we do: when there is love and understanding and a common level of culture, artificial barriers of race or nationality disappear. Actually, we are more than an “international family.” Our home, with its strong ties of mutual understanding and love, is symbolic of that most inclusive family of all, God’s family.

Source: Helen Doss, The Really Real Family (Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1959), 45.

 

Source: Helen Doss, Our International Family,” Reader's Digest, August 1949, 58-59.

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To learn more about The Adoption History Project, please contact Ellen Herman
Department of History, University of Oregon
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