Adoption Conversation: If you want to say that, try this instead

7 Jun

A while back, a person in my life was talking about another person in my life and mentioned how she had given a gift to the couple’s “adopted child”.  I still don’t know why I didn’t say, “you mean, their child?”  Every time our paths cross, I want to say, “remember what you said? Don’t say that again. Please, don’t say that again.”  It just wasn’t a necessary part of the conversation.

I followed a link today on facebook – you know how it goes, right? Someone likes a blog and then you find yourself sucked in.  I didn’t have much time to do much digging, but I did find an amazing “do’s and don’ts” that I wanted to share and elaborate on.  Now, that said, I’m not one of those people who usually get all upset with other people’s questions on adoption or looks or obvious googling at Cora because she’s obviously joined our family through adoption.  I know it’s obvious, I know that many people love adoption even if they haven’t adopted and I know that they are most likely just wanting to bless us with their good thoughts or smiles.  (I *do* kind of miffed with the “real daughter” vs. “adopted daughter” thing, though, fyi, so don’t say that to me. 😉 )

I thought this blogger had such good points.  This is sort of, “if you want to say this, try saying that” thing.  I changed/added some of her thoughts to match more of what I hear or those who have both biological and children thought adoption. (Who are very much real.) And I do understand when you’re talking to another family and happily want to share that they have adopted. Perhaps you’re sharing with a family who also adopted or are in the process or are thinking about starting the process.  I totally get that there are many times when people have conversation with other people about other families and adoption or children come up. And many times it is good stuff! TOTALLY get that.

These are just some pointers that might save you from being that person that someone else can’t stop thinking they should have corrected like I feel with my someone….

  • Do you have any of your own children?… Do you have biological children? Hands down the best terminology, imo.
  • They have an adopted daughter. … They have a daughter. Or a child or children. Not real and adopted children, please. If you must differentiate between my children, I personally find, “They have two biological children and one child through adoption”, but that’s just me.  Not necessary in many, many conversations, however.
  • They have a (insert country) daughter.  … Again, most of the time it’s not really necessary to differentiate, is it?
  • They are adoptive parents.  … They are parents. There is an exception to this rule for myself, however. If you are talking TO parents who have adopted or are in the process or are thinking of adopting, introducing another family who have adopted.  The adoption world isn’t as big as you think, adopting can be very lonely and sometimes that is the start to a great friendship.
  • She is adopted.  … She was adopted.  (Adoption is a one-time event.)
  • Her real/natural parents.  …  Her biological parents.  (Or- Her First parents.) We are her real parents.
  • Do you know anything about her real parents. … First: My question is, why do you want to know?  curiosity? That’s normal, but really, just don’t ask. It’s not really anyone’s business what they know about the biological parents and it puts us in a weird spot of having to tell you in a nice way that it’s not really open for discussion. Plus our children don’t really need to hear the topic of their birth history in mundane grocery store or park conversation.  Second: I’m her real parent.
  • Do you know why she was put up for adoption? (Or my favorite: Was the mom young and poor and that’s why she couldn’t care for the baby?) Most international adoptions have little information on the “whys” of the choice of adoption but some are lucky enough to get a glimpse at the reasonings of adoption. Sometimes they are warm and fuzzy and sometimes they are pretty straight to the point. (And no, not every child that was placed for adoption had young, poor birth parents.) The birth family information was not something that we even really shared with our family, so, we’re not going to share it with you, either.  It’s Cora’s history. A little piece of Cora that belongs only to Cora.  Not one single person who has adopted that I know has ever shown they want to be asked why their child was placed for adoption. It’s just not up for conversation.
  • How much did she cost? Did she cost a lot?… How much does the adoption process cost? Children are not for sale. But also know that someone isn’t just going to outright say, “I spent $50,000! Or $30,000! Or $20,000! Because really, that’s personal.  Are you really thinking about adopting?  Then start the convo by saying, “I’m in the beginning stages of researching adoption and I’m wondering if you can share what the country fees are for “insert country”.  But know that this information is very much available online, so you might just want to skip this one.
  • You wanted a daughter, huh? Oh how I hate this one. This is my number 1 dislike.  This one really gets me because I hear it all.of.the.time.  If you knew me in real life, you’d know that it wasn’t just the “daughter” thing that made us adopt.  We have been walking the path to adoption from before we even had Logan.  And it wasn’t always a daughter we had in mind.  But our daughter was born in Korea and we found her.  Not because she was a she, but because she was our child. The one God picked out for us.  Let me tell you how many mountains were moved to put us together.  I have yet to find the right response to this one.
  • She is so lucky!  Nope! We are far more lucky to have her.  And we know it, too!  A “You are so blessed!” is far better.

That said, people want to talk about their new children. Do you know how many people that I have run into that I have had conversations with over the years, they OBVIOUSLY know that the daughter in my arms is new to my family and yet they don’t even mention her.  I think it’s because people are afraid to say the wrong thing!

If you feel this way, you’re not alone.  I saw this caucasian family in Target right before our travel date. There was a BEAUTIFUL African-American toddler in their cart.  Her hair was this amazing shade of black mixed with auburn. Just beautiful. I couldn’t help but comment on it.  “You’re daughter’s hair is beautiful!” I said as I was walking past and they just smiled and I didn’t stop walking.  But I sat there wondering, “Did I offend?”  Honestly, how could that offend? But I wondered. And you might wonder, too, which keeps you from saying anything at all.

Can I suggest just simply saying “Congratulations” and if you feel led, a “he/she is beautiful!”  It opens the conversation, it’s a wonderful open and the parent is DYING to gush about her new child, I promise. :)But on the flip side, we’re so in love with all of our children and all children have ears and feelings, so I think there should be note of a balance here.  When you’re shopping and you feel led to comment on a family who has obviously adopted, might you think about saying how beautiful the children are? Not just the one child? Just a thought. 😉

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4 Responses to “Adoption Conversation: If you want to say that, try this instead”

  1. Wendiplus6 June 7, 2012 at 2:58 am #

    Awesomely written!!! I couldn’t and wouldn’t have said it any better.;)

  2. christina g June 7, 2012 at 4:07 am #

    so true. Great ideas on what to say instead. HUGS

  3. megan r June 7, 2012 at 1:04 pm #

    This post made me smile, as this topic is also reality for parents of multiples (just different comments). With two years of dealing with rude comments from strangers under my belt, I have come to realize that while people are just trying to relate to you and hoping to make a connection through small talk, they normally say the wrong thing. They just say what they are thinking, without a filter. It is a daily/weekly occurrence for me. I deal with it best with a smile and a nod, and a quick exit. Although having a witty comeback for the most annoying questions can be fun too, if I’m in the right mood. The most recent favorite was at daycare pickup…. “are they real? Well, all three can’t all be yours – there is no way anyone could afford that”. (You are right random lady– I’m just the babysitter……ugh.) Good luck……

    • Jen June 7, 2012 at 1:43 pm #

      I can only imagine, Megan! I bet you get fertility questions, too, huh? As for the comment, you should have aske if she had any extra money to spare. You know, seeing she was so concerned. 😉 😉

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