This article analyses the subjective experiences of adoptive parenthood among Spanish parents with regard to becoming and feeling like a father and mother. The article is based on analysis of data from group discussions held with pre- and post-adoptive parents in Catalonia, Spain, as part of a wider study of family, education and belonging on national and international adoption in Spain. Adoptive families start with parental knowledge and practices that were not created for the unique features of their families. Some adoptive parents who express difficulties in exercising their parenthood question the relevance of parental practices, the construction of parental bonds and the socially accepted concept of 'child'. © The Author(s) 2012.