Being yourself

I’ve had surrogate children, and I’ve had surrogate parents. I was starting to feel like I might need a surrogate country until the recent protests, rallies, legislative actions, and shifting presidential predictions raised my hopes again.

I’m talking about the non-legal definition of the word “surrogacy,” the idea that we look for others to fill major roles in our lives that sometimes go, or at least feel, unfilled.

We’re trained to look for better. The dissatisfaction might center on jobs, relationships, homes, or wherever one’s decided to spend money.


I had a series of moments in therapy when I discovered, in waves, the behaviors and attitudes passed on to me by family. I went away to school early, of my own choosing, and envied those from other backgrounds. Eventually, I substituted others’ situations for my own.

Only after I’d married did I realize how the idea of willful but often unconscious surrogacy has become natural to all of us.

I watch my son, adopted at birth, and his friends playing basketball in our back yard. The court is brick, the hoop too small for anything but baby basketballs. But everyone’s having the times of their lives. Two of the pairs of brothers have separated or divorced parents. Two other boys have had histories with anxiety. All just made it through.

I don’t see any of them looking for surrogacy. They’re content with each other.

Maybe the secret is never to allow ourselves to be wrongly situated in the first place.

Read more installments of Village Voices by Paul Smart.