This morning I finished week 8's lessons for our adoption class. Yippee!! 8 down, 4 to go!
I read something today that I found especially helpful. So much so, that I wanted to share it with you all. The language around adoption can be tricky, especially when you're dialoguing (side note-isn't that a funny way to spell that word?) with a transracial family. There I go...transracial family...a family with more than one culture represented, often parents of one culture and adopted children of another.
Anyhow, since I found it so helpful and written in such a simple way, I thought we could all read it together! I am certainly guilty of saying some of these things, even though I try to be sensitive. I know that speaking to a family that has obviously adopted children, the best place to start is by being genuine!
Without further ado, I present to you:
Without further ado, I present to you:
Ten Things Not To Say To An Adoptive Parent
by Harriet Fancott
Mixed-race adoptive families stand out everywhere they go. As a white mom with a
Filipino husband and a black son, I’ve been stopped at the park, in the pool (yes, in the pool), at restaurants, and on the street, by strangers wanting to know something about my family. Even friends and family often stumble over terminology, saying or asking things that are painful or irritating. I don’t mind questions that come from a place of caring and connection, and I’ll talk your ear off about my family story under the right circumstances. After all, adopting our son Theo is the best thing that every happened to us.
Here are 10 things not to say to an adoptive parent. And yes, I’ve heard all of them.
1 - Where did you get him?
Our son is not a toy, a gift or a package. And while it’s tempting for me to blurt out, “Canadian Tire,” I don’t find adoption jokes funny. Theo is a person and how he joined our family is a deeply emotional story that I’m happy to share over coffee, but not in a crowded pool.
2 - Why did his real mother give him away?
We are my son’s parents. We are very real. His birth parents are also real but weren’t ready to be parents, and they didn’t give him away. They made a brave and difficult choice to find a couple that was ready, willing, and able to take on the lifelong responsibility of parenthood. As for their precise motivations, it’s not for me or anyone else to speculate on or share.
3 - Is he adopted?
I’ve had this irrelevant conversational opener countless times and always in a public place. The fact that we are an adoptive family isn’t a secret or a point of shame, but I don’t feel the need to explain our status just to satisfy someone’s naked curiosity. If you are genuinely interested in adoption, the best way to start a conversation is to say, “What a beautiful family you have,” and go from there. Most adoptive parents will pick up on genuine interest and offer some information.
4 - Where is he from?
I could say Canada, which is where my son was born, but that’s not what people want to know. They want to know his ethnicity. Just like you wouldn’t ask someone who is not white where they are from as light party banter, don’t ask me where my son is from. Again, it’s all about context. If we’re discussing family background, then by all means, let’s talk about all of our cultures.
5 - Is He Yours?
Children are not possessions. As parents, our role is to love and shepherd our children into adulthood. I always think of Khalil Gibran’s famous poem “On Children,” which begins “Your children are not your children. They are the sons and daughters of life’s longing for itself. They come through you but not from you, And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.” That said, the answer I generally give is,“Yes he is.”
6 - Now you’re sure to get pregnant!
Adopting isn’t something we did as a means to reproduce biologically. It’s not a stepping-stone to the ideal biological child. Our son is our son. Our family is complete, and we can’t imagine it without Theo.
7 - I could never give away my baby.
Did someone ask you to? A woman who places a baby for adoption is in a radically different life situation from you. It’s a gut-wrenching decision that has lifelong consequences, and no birth parent makes it lightly.
8 - Don’t introduce my son as adopted.
It’s inappropriate to introduce my son as adopted. The only exception would be if you were introducing us to another adoptive family, in which case you can either say nothing because we’ll figure it out or indicate that we are an “adoptive family.”
9 - I have this friend who was adopted and..(insert horror story).
Sharing your negative adoption story is a bit like telling a pregnant woman a bad labour story. Don’t do it! We can’t predict the future and neither can biological families. All we can do is be open to our son’s feelings, be attuned to his temperament, work on open, loving communication and trust that he’ll thrive.
10 - Wouldn’t closed adoption be easier?
Closed adoption would be simpler in the short-term and infinitely more painful in the long-run. Too many people get hurt in closed adoptions, and this is well-documented. We chose a path that benefits our son, his birth family, and, by extension, us. Theo knows where he came from. He knows his family, cultural, and medical history, and, most importantly, he is surrounded by a lot of people who love and care about him.
Bonus: Your son is so lucky.
Save the halo for someone that deserves it like Mother Teresa or Nelson Mandala. Hands down, we are the lucky ones. We didn’t rescue our child: he rescued us.
Harriet Fancott is an adoptive mother in a tricultural family. You can read about her
family at seetheorun.com
© 2012 Adoptive Families Association of BC*
*Please keep in mind that if you like this resource, it is copyrighted, and shouldn't be shared without all the proper information included! I asked them permission to share, so it's all good!
And one more because I'm such a dork. It is hard to take a decent photo of yourself. Especially when you make a dumb face like this! Ha!