Adopting Manners. It’s a “Good Thing”
Happy National Adoption Awareness Month! We are a proud and grateful adoptive family, and before this month gets away from entirely, I wanted to highlight some things you may or may not be aware of when it comes to adoptive families.
By and large adoptive families are exactly like every other family whose children came to them the old fashioned way: we are trying with all of our minds, bodies, and spirits to raise our children with strong characters who will grow up (faster than we can imagine) to contribute to our communities and make our world a better place.
Here are some things that adoptive families are decidedly NOT:
*We are not “saints” or especially “good”people because we’ve chosen to adopt our children. Adopting a child is not doing a good “deed” and says nothing about our moral character. (Sadly, I recently heard an adoptive parent refer to her family as having done a “good deed” after they adopted their first child. I can only hope they’re further along the journey now. I HOPE)
*We are not better parents than anyone else because we’ve adopted. I personally have done and said things I’m not real proud of to my kids in fits of crazy anger and hopelessness. I’m not proud of it by ANY means. But please don’t put any of us any parenting pedestals. Our kids didn’t come with instruction manuals either.
Sometimes people who have no experience or exposure to adoption just don’t know exactly what to say to an adoptive family. Adoptive families have more in common with typical families than you might think: all of our children’s characters need to be molded and cultivated into something that you can actually take out in public. They may be angelic when they’re babies, but I think it’s only when (if) they sleep. Our children may have come to us on a different path than yours, but beyond that logistical detail, we can pretty much relate to all the issues you deal with on a daily basis too: sleeping through the night, potty training, food issues, early bad attitudes that need to be nipped in the bud, whining, bedrooms that don’t clean themselves, etc…..But there are some things you DON’T want to say to ANY adoptive family EVER:
*Don’t EVER, EVER, EVER bring the subject of adoption in front of that family’s child. EVER. You have NO IDEA where that family is at on the subject of revealing that their child is adopted to that child. It is entirely presumptuous and insensitive to bring up the subject of adoption in front of a child. (yes, it’s happened to our family many times)
*”Excuse me, is your child adopted?” It’s none of your business. No, seriously, it’s absolutely NONE of your business how that child came into that family (I don’t care if the child is purple and green plaid and the parents are brown and black striped), unless that family wants to make that information known to you. How would you like it if people constantly asked you, “Did you go through IVF (invitro-fertilization)”, or “How long did it take you to get pregnant?” It’s NONE of your business.
*”Is she your’s or did you adopt her?” I just squint my eyes and twist my head back and forth at them and force them to repeat themselves until they understand that that is the most bass-ackward, ignorant, back-woods, dumb-a_____ thing you could possibly say. Sometimes I have to twist my neck back and forth a few times. Rinse and repeat until the person gets the point.
*”How many of your kids are natural?” (as freakish and alien as all of our kids may seem to us at times, all our kids are 100% homosapien humanoids)
*”Did you adopt because you couldn’t have kids of your own?” I can’t speak for other families (despite my natural inclination to do just that), but I can tell you emphatically without a doubt that adoption is NOT A CONSOLATION prize for us. My children are not second rate because of HOW they came into our family and I’ll go to the mat on that one. If any family ever seems to you that that’s how they came to the adoption decision, then hopefully they will learn over time (if they pay attention to their child who is trying to teach them) that that’s not how the world works. EVERY child, no matter how they come to us, is the best thing we could EVER hope for.
*”I just don’t think I could love someone else’s child like I could my own.” That fine. Keep that sentiment to yourself and don’t ever say that out loud again. EVER. (and yes, I’ve heard this many times)
*”How much did it cost to get your child?” NONE of your business. I don’t care how good of friends you are with that person/family, unless THEY want to reveal the details of their process, it’s absolutely none of your business. And in fact it’s unbelievably tacky and shows very poor breeding on your part that you would even consider asking.
*”Do you have an open adoption? Why/why not?” Again, NONE of your business. You have NO IDEA what that child has been through emotionally/psychologically or what they can handle emotionally/psychologically. Asking that question puts the adoptive parent instantly on the hot seat to answer an incredibly complex social/emotional issue in the span of one or two minutes. Perhaps, just MAYBE if that person is your BFF and you talk to him/her everyday you MIGHT be able to ask that question down the road….IF it’s any of your business, which it won’t be.
In reading this list you might think the subject of adoption is a mine field rife with taboos. It’s really not. The things listed above all fall into the category of good manners and grace, things that are SORELY lacking in today’s casual conversations. But really, the subject of adoption is joyous and happy and can be a topic that opens many doors if you adopt some basic social graces. I for one, I am VERY happy to talk about our journey (I’ve known since I was 15 that I wanted to adopt all my kids), the desperate need for more capable and willing families, the joys and excitement of the process, and the challenges too.
If you’d like to know more about adoption, here are some excellent resources that we have either been personally involved with, or have reliable information that it is a solid organization with which to work:
The North American Council on Adoptable Children (www.nacac.org)
The Colorado Coalition of Adoptive Families (www.cocaf.org)—-Colorado resource
The Adoption Exchange (www.adoptex.org)
Bethany Christian Services (www.bethany.org)
Reece’s Rainbow, an international adoption organization that focuses on rescuing children from orphanages world wide who have Down syndrome (www.reecesrainbow.org)
Chinese Christian Adoption International (CCAI) (www.ccaifamily.org)
The Down Syndrome Association of Greater Cincinnatti (www.dsagc.org)