Thursday, November 11, 2010

Top Ten Things NOT To Ask


In honor of November being National Adoption Month, let's talk a little adoption semantics.  There are those things, sometimes completely well-meaning, that people say and do that make every adoptive mama cringe a little.  Here's my top 10:
  1. "Which ones are your real kids?  Oh, you know what I mean."  Well, in my case the difference between my biological kiddos and adopted kiddo is a little obvious, so I've never had this question.  But, this isn't always the case.  In general I don't believe people intend to insult or offend.  But, think of it from the kids' perspectives.  Imagine growing up, and constantly hearing questions as to your "realness" or the feeling of having to prove your place in your family.  And, don't fool yourself ... kids are always listening.  Adoptive parents already have extra battles to fight to instill a sense of confidence and security.  Don't make it harder for them by asking insensitive questions.  I assure you, Joseph is my real kid as much as my three other kids are, and I would not hesitate a millisecond to jump in front of a bullet for him.
  2. If you meet a family with more than one adopted kid, don't ask "are they real siblings."  Yes, they are real siblings!  Timothy has a real brother, and his name is Joseph.
  3. "What a blessing your family is to Joseph."  I know this is a well meaning comment.  I've heard it numerous times.  But, let me tell you, I am a blessing (and a curse) to all my children equally.  And, I believe wholeheartedly that I am receiving the greater blessing.  So, if you are tempted to say this, just turn it around.  Say: "Oh, what a blessing Joseph is to your family," because this would be more accurate.
  4. "Oh, what an awesome thing you did.  You are so amazing.  You must be a saint."  Honestly, I throw up a little in my mouth every time I hear this.  Trust me folks, this isn't false modesty.  I'm perfectly flawed and, just like most every other mama, I spend way too much time selfishly ignoring my kids and losing my patience.  If you've said this to me, no worries.  I forgive you.  Just cut it out! :)
  5. "Oh, I hope he knows how much you've done for him when he grows up."  I hate to break it to you, but generally kids don't appreciate their parents until they have kids of their own (and sometimes not even then).  Why should we expect anything different from adopted kids?
  6. Please don't generalize horror stories and apply them to every adoptive family you know.  Yes, some adopted kids grow up to be punks.  Guess what, so do a lot of biological kids.  And, yes, adoption involves money, and where money is, so is corruption.  But, don't assume, because you saw a news report on CNN about a corrupt adoption in Ethiopia, that every Ethiopian adoption is corrupt.  Unfortunately, the good stories don't make prime time but they are the majority.
  7. If you see a multiracial family in the grocery store, maintain a little bit of self composure.  I mean, if you're going to stare unceasingly, at least follow it by a smile so we don't feel the need to watch our back all the way to the car.
  8. Be sensitive about asking questions (even good questions) in front of older children.  While some kids soak it up, not all children like being in the spotlight their whole lives.  If you have a genuine desire to know more (besides unbridled curiosity), politely tell the parent you would love to know more, and do they have an email address or could you pick their brain sometime.  Most adoptive parents I know LOVE to talk about adoption (myself included), but their first priority is the protection of their children.  Right now this isn't really an issue for me, because Joseph is too young to comprehend any question or conversation I might be having.  But, in a few years brace yourself for mama bear should you get too inquisitive in front of him.
  9. Don't leave out the bio kids.  This has happened to me numerous times.  I see strangers in the store, and they ooohhh and ahhhh all over the brown baby, completely ignoring the beautiful pink babies in the same shopping cart.  I get it.  He stands out (because he's brown, but also because he's gorgeous).  But again, keep in mind the kids.  You never know if that middle child isn't crying out for just a portion of baby brother's public attention.
  10. Unless you have a really really good reason (like you are the child's Godparent), don't ask about the birth family or the reason for relinquishment.  Some parents are very sensitive on this issue, and rightfully so.  Joseph has an absolutely amazing birth father, who had a tragic story that involved nothing less than pure sacrificial love, that led him to take Joseph to the orphanage.  It undoubtedly saved my son's life.  I hope Joseph grows up with nothing but love and honor for him, and one day I hope we all get to go back and meet him again.  Not every adopted child has such a story.  But, as beautiful as his story is, it is still tragic and involves a lot of loss.  As he gets older, we can't pretend that this won't affect him, and casually discuss it while picking out bananas at Wal-Mart.  As he gets older, I hope Joseph is at peace enough with his story to want to talk about it, but I won't force him to.
Adoption is a beautiful, amazing thing, so let's talk about it.  Never, never be afraid to talk about it. Just think a little before speaking, especially if the kids are within earshot.  I've only been an adoptive mama for six months, and so I'm sure I'm missing a lot.  So I would love for other adoptive parents to chime in on this, and add to my list.




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