Tomorrow is National Adoption Day. In honor of this occasion I thought I'd share with you a few of my thoughts and feelings on the subject.
I believe adoption is a miracle. Think of the allegory of the grafting of tame and wild branches in the olive tree--the Master of the Vineyard, in his wisdom, took two entities that needed the benefit from the other--and he made them one.
And how beautiful was the tree because of it.
I love my life. I love how my children came into my life. I love our family tree. I love the Master of the Vineyard for binding our family eternally.
And that is the deepest joy of my heart.
Now on to a more practical note.
There have been many times I've said something, trying to be supportive or insightful, when I've offended someone instead.
(Like the time in high school when a classmate told me she was half Native American and I exclaimed, "Oh, you're a half-breed!" I had no idea that was a racially charged thing to say.)
Anyway, I'm not one to easily take offense but I do recognize insensitivity when I hear it, usually letting it roll off my back. Maybe you're the same way. However, if I could enlighten you a bit on what to say to an adoptive family, perhaps I could help you save yourself from an uncomfortable situation. Here are some things people have actually said to me, or to someone I know.
"Your children are so lucky you rescued them from a horrible life."
I feel that they rescued me as much a I did them.
"I heard this story where the couple had their baby for 5 months and then the state pulled him out of the home and returned him to the crack-smoking grandma . . ."
Sensational horror stories don't make up the majority of adoption stories, but they get the attention and can scare people away.
"You had your children the easy way."
Physical pain: yes. Mental anguish: right up there.
"How much did your kids cost?"
Ummm . . . I didn't pick them up at Macy's Baby Sale.
"Were their parents on drugs?"
I understand your curiosity, but you just can't ask that. I don't want you to pre-judge our kids based on that information, good or bad. We love and respect our birth parents because they gave our children life.
"I had no idea your daughter's hair was so long."
I'll admit that this is picky, but what I feel like you're saying is, her hair is so different and strange and unlike the "normal" hair you see every day.
"Blacks are responsible for bad schools, crime, teen pregnancy, global warming . . . oh, but not your kids."
Racist remarks offend me. I said I wasn't easily offended but this is the thing the bothers me the most. Don't assume it's okay to say it but exclude my kids from the stereotype. Not cool.
"There was a Mulatto guy on my soccer team."
The term is mixed race or bi-racial, please.
"You should need a license to reproduce in this country."
Again, a picky one I've probably said myself. But what it implies is an US against THEM mentality, a superiority that relegates birth parents to the underbelly of society. This is absolutely false. Birth parents have a myriad of circumstances--from lovingly placing their babies in the arms of a forever family, or yes, to having their 8th crisis pregnancy end a whirlwind of social workers and foster homes--or something in between. The point is, they gave their children life. That life is not a mistake; he or she is a child of God with an important work to do on this earth.
We don't live in a perfect world and wishing won't make it so. It's what we do about it that makes the difference.
"What do you know about their REAL parents?"
Does anyone really say this? I don't think so, but I'm including this anyway. REAL parents raise you. Birth parents give you life. All are important.
"Aww, that's so cute that she calls you 'Mom.'"
An old lady said this in all sincerity! Yeah, it's cute because I AM her mom!
"I know just how you feel. I adopted my Fifi from the pound."
For the love of Christmas, do not compare my child to your Yorkie Poo.
"Just watch, as soon as you adopt this next one, you'll get pregnant."
Probably the most common and annoying of all, for two reasons. First, no I don't think I'll get pregnant, and thanks for reminding me . And second, it implies that adoption is a second choice. For us, that's not the case at all.
Okay, now the do's.
Throw the prospective adoptive mother a baby shower!
She is about to become a mother too, with all the anxiety, nervousness, anticipation, and enthusiasm any parent feels at her baby's arrival. Thank you, Tracey, for throwing mine over 3 years ago!
Treat adopted kids like you would any other kids.
Easy to do.
Use the term "birth parents."
Of course not "real" parents, as mentioned above. Biological parents is acceptable. Natural parents is really outdated. The last time I heard that phrase was on an episode of "Family Ties" where Skippy reunites with his "natural mother."
Celebrate the family's adoption day and sealing day!
These are the "birthdays" of the family. We loved that people supported and loved us through the challenging and amazing times.
Respect the family's privacy.
If you're open and have a listening ear, the adoptive family will probably open up to you. A lot. But don't be intrusive.
Accept the child for who he or she is, knowing there might be more than meets the eye.
While adoption is wonderful, it still means the child experiences pain from a significant loss. Pain can look like aggression or depression and be expressed or internalized, or come out in other ways. Their challenges may be difficult for you (and me) to understand but they're doing the best they can.
Talk about adoption in a positive manner.
It's not shameful and it's not a secret. Many families have open, loving relationships with their child's birth parent(s). If you know someone struggling with infertility or a crisis pregnancy, you can offer a positive opinion on adoption.
Tell them they have a beautiful family / beautiful, smart children.
It's okay to acknowledge it. We think so too. And we love flattery as much as the next person!
You can make the difference in someone's day!!!
And now I'm stepping off my soap box and into my minivan to cart Miss M. off to school.