Different DNA, but Same Family History — My Parents

Colleen Mom Dad Wedding
My parents, on their wedding day.

My 13th entry in Amy Johnson Crow’s “52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks” family history blogging challenge for 2015. The theme for week 13 is — Different. What ancestor seems to be your polar opposite? What ancestor did something that seems completely different than what they “should” have done or what you would have done?

My 13th ancestors are my Mom and Dad, with whom I have (as far as I know) completely different DNA.

Since my last two posts have focused on the new search for my biological family, I thought it appropriate to focus on my parents (my real parents) for this post.


As a refresher, I was put up for adoption at birth, in a public closed adoption in Los Angeles County, California. I am the poster child for everything that can and should be right about adoption. Just a few months after I was born (I had been hospitalized for a while due to being two-months preemie), I was adopted by my parents — my real parents (I hate when people call them adoptive parents).

These are the only parents I have ever known. The parents who really really wanted me. The parents who have loved, nurtured, protected, guided, and encouraged me my entire life. The parents who have caught me every time I have fallen, figurative and literally, then helped me get back up on my feet again.

I mentioned in my previous posts about my adoption, and I have always told family and friends, that finding my birth parents has never been and never will be a big deal to me. I don’t feel a sense of missing identity. I don’t feel I was ever unwanted (my birth parents were just kids who had no business raising a kid). I don’t feel that I have been cheated out of my family history. I do know adoptees who do experience these feelings. I just am not one of them. I was blessed with the best parents and the best family possible. My childhood and adult life are filled with happy cherished memories.

Oh, and, despite what my parents say and my siblings say — I know that I am my parents’ favorite child! Yeah, I realize that my parents can’t ever actually admit that, or it would make them seem like bad parents, choosing a favorite kid. But I know I am their favorite kid. And I have never had a problem pointing that fact out to my siblings.

Nor have I refrained from searching for my birth parents due to some fear of hurting my real parents’ feelings, or of possibly being rejected by my birth parents. My real parents know that I love them, that I will always love them, and that they will always be my parents. My birth parents are simply the egg and sperm that made me; it won’t hurt me if they don’t want to meet and have a friendship with me.

So this post is really just about taking a breather from the whirlwind birth-mom-journey I got plunged into less than one week ago, and sharing the love I have for my real parents.

Colleen Robledo as Toddler with Mom
Me as a toddler with Mom, in my grandparents’ pool. We spent a lot of time in that pool as little kids! The man is not my dad; he was a friend of my parents. Dad was probably taking the photo.

Why Adoption?

My parents tried to have children naturally after they were married, but Mom’s doctor determined that she couldn’t get pregnant. They decided that biology would not prevent them from being parents, and they filed for adoption. Both wanted the first baby to be a little girl (lucky for me!). They have told me many times about that moment when they received “the call” congratulating them on becoming parents, and asking them to come bring their baby home.

From my baby book and childhood photo albums, it is obvious my parents thought the sun and moon revolved around me. My brother’s baby book and photo albums have far fewer photos…just sayin’ :-).

Adoption Poem from Dear Abby
A famous adoption poem that Mom clipped from Dear Abby when I was a baby, to put in my baby book.
Adoption Poem by Mom
A poem that Mom wrote to me when I was a baby or little girl.

Mom and Dad had already started the paperwork to adopt a second child, when Mom found out she was pregnant. Shortly after, my brother was born. I call it an accident, my brother likes to call it a miracle. I tell him that I was chosen, and he was just a “whoops!” kid.

After my brother was born, Mom and Dad made sure that no further accidents could happen.

Then six years later, we as a family decided that we wanted a little sister. So my parents adopted my sister, shortly before her third birthday. She was also a closed public adoption.

Our family was a bit unusual, with the biological child sandwiched between two adoptees. So much so that a documentary maker did a film about my brother (don’t know whatever happened to that film), chronicling his experiences as the lone biological child in the family. You can bet I was none to happy about someone wanting to star my brother in a documentary. I was, after all, going to be a future Broadway star.

I think that little bout of jealousy (one of many many many such fits of jealousy) only hits the point home that we were a perfectly normal imperfect family, despite none of us kids being biologically related. We fought like normal siblings, we played like normal siblings, and no other kids were allowed to mess with our siblings. We all sassed and disobeyed our parents, and our parents punished us all equally for any bad behavior. They also loved us all equally (well, except for me being their favorite).

Robledo Family, Camping, Late 1970s
One of many family photos, from one of many summer family camping trips. This must have been before Dad got a camera with a timer, because he is taking the photo. And I think it’s the late 1970s, shortly after adopting my little sister (on my lap).
Robledo Flanagan Family - ca 1984
Our immediate family, 1985, on a family summer vacation camping trip. I can tell the date by my hair and outfit, which I sported my freshman year of high school. Why do most of us look miserable? Because my parents would make us pose over and over for the camera timer to capture family photos…on every summer family camping trip.

Family History vs. Genetic History

When I refer to my family history, I am distinctly referring to my real family. Because it is family history. Genealogy is the pursuit, the study and the profession. Family history is more personal…at least for me. Now that I’ve added my bio parents and my own autosomal DNA into the mix, I refer to that as my genetic history.

I know adoptees are all over the board on this. Some research both their real and bio families’ histories. Some do just their real family history. Some do just their bio family history, because they insist this is their history. To each his own.

But to me, my family history focus will always be on my real family.

Because it is the people (the ancestors and relatives) from this family, my family, that shaped the extended family universe that I have known my whole life — my great-grandparents, grandparents, parents, siblings, great aunts, great uncles, aunts, uncles, cousins, etc. Their life experiences, their culture, their traditions, their memories, their success or failure as parents and spouses, their hopes and dreams. Their sense of love and sense of family. I may not have the same DNA that predetermined physical appearance (although people always say I look like my Mom..ha!), medical history, or particular traits (THANK GOD I could not inherit Mom’s tone deafness gene!), but that stuff doesn’t matter to me.

Family and family history are not defined by biology.

Colleen Robledo & Dad Graduation
Preparing to leave for my undergraduate graduation ceremony. Dad was the first in his family to graduate college.
Colleen Robledo and Mom
Drinking and dining with Mom. Thanksgiving about 6 years ago.
Colleen Robledo and Mom - Bridal Shower
With Mom, at my bridal shower in a Victorian tea house.
Colleen Robledo Bride and Mom
Mom looking on while I touched up my hair and makeup in between my wedding ceremony and the reception. Shopping for wedding dresses with her is one of the most memorable experiences of my life.
Colleen Robledo Bride and Dad Aisle
Dad walking me down the aisle, something he dreamed of since I was a baby. I knew he’d lose it (crying here). I kept squeezing his arm telling him that I loved him.
Robledo Colleen Bride and Dad Aisle.jpg
My very favorite photo of Dad and me, before my wedding ceremony. He was still pretty emotionally with-it at this point. Dad is a model husband, father, and grandfather. I am blessed to have married someone like him.

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0 thoughts on “Different DNA, but Same Family History — My Parents”

  1. Jeanette Gardner

    I can’t believe how much you look like your real parents, the ones that raised you and made you who you are today. I don’t know if I would be curious about my birth parents if I had been adopted. It would be hard to imagine that anyone else, besides the people raising you, could be your parents. Because after all you don’t remember them and your parents have gone through everything with you and your birth parents are strangers.

  2. Jeanette Gardner

    Looking at your wedding picture, I can’t believe how much your step daughter looks like you, amazing. God must have known you would have you in your life. He plans ahead you know. I guess that is just like you look like your parents.

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