“They’re putting words to what I feel as an adoptive mom,” I confessed to my mother through tears, as we watched “This Is Us” in her living room.
Besides the fact that my maiden name is identical to one of the main characters (Kate Pearson), and I'm a sucker for great writing and acting, I watch “This Is Us” because, like Jack and Rebecca Pearson (the parents of Kate, Kevin, and Randall), my husband and I adopted a son whose skin color is different than ours.
Week after week, the show addresses the range of emotions that adoptive parents and adopted children experience—the hard parts, the beautiful parts, and everything in between.
“You're adopted and we don't talk about that enough, because to me you are every part my son. And maybe I don't want you to feel like you stand out. But I need you to know something... I want you to stand out. I want all of you, to be as different as you can possibly be, in all the best ways. I love you as much as a human heart can kiddo.” — Jack Pearson
In Season 1, episode 6, Randall’s father, Jack, is trying to decide whether or not to send Randall to a different school that is more academically challenging, but less diverse. Jack seeks advice from Yvette, the mother of one of Randall’s friends, about this pressing decision.
Yvette calls out Jack’s motivation for asking her opinion and says something to this effect, “Oh, I see what you’re doing here. You want my approval.”
And the tears began to flow right there in the living room, as the characters put words to some of my insecurities as an adoptive parent.
I have reached out to friends, and even a few strangers, trying to gain insight and approval when it comes to raising my son. I once jumped into a conversation about hair care with a young woman I just met. I reached out to an acquaintance online, peppering her with questions about skin products. I asked my doctor and dear friends, endless questions, trying to make sure I’m doing it “right.”
We sent pictures to our son’s birth mom after his first haircut to see what she thought. Thankfully, she liked it.
And while there is wisdom in learning from others, and acknowledging that we are not experts in all areas, there is another scene from “This Is Us” that has helped shape my parenting too.
Jack and Randall are at a marital arts class, and the instructor invites Jack to do push-ups with Randall on his back. It is a powerful picture of Jack taking responsibility as Randall’s father, committing to do everything he can to help his son. Later in the scene, it shows other men in the class doing the same for Randall—a beautiful picture of community working together, helping one another, surrounding each other with support.
“I'm terrified that I'm going to make a hundred wrong decisions to keep you guys from living the perfect lives that you deserve, but I will protect you fiercely, and I will always sing to you when you can't sleep, and I will always be excited to hear you laugh." — Rebecca Pearson
While there is no such thing as living a perfect life, this quote from Rebecca highlights some key components of good parenting: acknowledging we don’t have all the answers, being available, comforting our kids, and enjoying them.
“This Is Us” has helped put words to the ache and tug, the fears and joys, and the fierce love my kids need—although I offer it imperfectly.
Like Jack, I want to do what I can (and then some) to help my children navigate this life—to have hard, awkward conversations with them, to admit when I don’t know the answer, to reach out to others when I’m at a loss.
As we see in the show, and in real life, parenting is hard work, no matter the method by which your children arrive into your family. There is not a handbook for every sticky situation you find yourself in (like over-moisturizing your son with too much coconut oil before church). But there is value in humbly admitting what you don’t know and confidently shouldering what you do know.
"We’re their parents. We do the best we can. But at the end of the day what happens to them, how they turn out, that’s bigger than us.” — Jack Pearson
To learn more about Katie M. Reid and her adoption story, head over to katiemreid.com