Saturday, April 5, 2008

How I Handle the Comments

My friend, Faith, recently blogged about strangers who make comments about her kids, when they are all out together ("Are any of them adopted?") . All of her kids were adopted. She said, and I agree, that it doesn't make sense to ask if someone is adopted. Adoption is something that happens once, it is not an ongoing condition. People ask this in the same way they might ask a mom if her child is handicapped or if he is autistic. (All of these, in my opinion, are inappropriate fyi.)It is unlikely, however, that all of us adoptive parents are going to change the way people think about this. In fact, I hear just as many adoptive parents say that their kids "are adopted," so I've decided to get over it. I'm a fan of semantics, but you get a little tired of saying: "They're all mine"over and over as they keep looking at you like you just don't get it.But while you're here reading my opinions, I think the best way to ask that question would be: "Were any of your children adopted?" and I think it's much kinder to ask the parent alone, not in front of the children.
I suggested that Faith's answer to that question, which is frequently asked in front of her precious kiddos, might be: "As a matter of fact, ALL of them were hand-picked and they're just wonderful!"
Then I got a comment asking how I would respond to questions like this since all of mine weren't adopted.There have so far been two times that I've been asked "Are all of them adopted?" Both times, I gave a mischievous grin and said: "Half of them were, I'll let you guess which ones!" and I give a big dramatic wink.Here's the thing: my kids are going to have to get used to this type of questioning, regardless of how I feel about it. They know they are different and they know they don't look like their mom and dad. I choose to have fun with it and respond joyfully, teaching my kids to enjoy the attention they get.


amada said...

I'm glad that you mentioned this, because I am ignorant and want to be sensitive, but I just wouldn't have even thought of it, as far as the are, is, were issue. I wouldn't have broached the are some of them adopted... seems pretty obvious ;) I appreciate your patience with the ignorant portion of the population and your clever reply. I just caught up on all your posts for the last 2 months I think! I have you on my bloglines... I admire the decisions that you and your husband have taken. I also resonate with your love for herbs and natural products as well as your devotion to quick and simple ;) We have 5 and I LOVE LOVE LOVE my crock pot!!! woohoo! that deserves a good cheer! We also do AmblesideOnline! Well, come on over to my place any old time. I'm sure we'd get along just fine ;)

Trujillo, Peru
A0y3 - 2boys
A0y0 - 1girl

Amber said...

Hannah wants Great Wolf pics! Great Wolf I say!

Jenni said...

I know those questions can get old, especially day after day. It was even worse for my parents when they adopted three of my siblings because I was a teenager, and they and I kept getting asked if he/she was "my" baby born out of wedlock. We got some racist remarks as well. For those comments not meant to be rude, if asked if they were adopted, my Mom would reply with an emphatic, "Yes, aren't they so wonderful? We are so blessed to have them in our family." My Mom always said that they may not have been of her womb, but they were of her heart.

teambettendorf said...

Oh, good grief. My kids *were* adopted (in a court) and they *are* adopted. Just as I gave birth to some others and they are my birth children (although I use the term biological). My foster children (when I had them) came into foster care and were foster children. There ain't no changing it.

And I don't get why it is inappropriate to ask if the children are adopted in front of them. Is it a secret? Something we are afraid of? If my son was wearing a baseball uniform would I be offended if someone asked if he played baseball? If the kids are darker than my husband and I and there appear to be a couple sibling groups I think it is fair to assume that they are adopted and it is also fair to ask because adoption is a beautiful thing.

Now if someone wanted to say "Are you the ones that saved the negroes /wetbacks from the slums?" I might be offended.

I think I'd rather not put arbitrary rules on conversations about adoption and leave it pretty open in hopes of encouraging others to adopt by showing how to handle the interest with grace and humor.

Kyle said...

The baseball analogy is weak. Adoption is a life changing event. Baseball isn't, it's a sport that a kid chooses to play.
It sounds like you're putting your feelings onto your kids, Katie. You don't care that they're different, but you can't assume to know what they're feeling. Why would you take the chance assuming their feelings won't be hurt by the comments?

Amber said...

In our family we sort of consider ourselves to be ambassadors for adoption. Hannah from China, little sil is black - we obviously have other than biological ties. I don't mind people asking about adoption. The absolute worst phrasing I've heard has been "How much did she cost?" Although, I think it's a horribly insensitive thing to say, I re-phrase the question and answer it in a way that will encourage adoption. SO I would say, "There are different fees associated with adoption, there was this fee and ___fee, and ____ other fee and it totaled about $$$."

Also, some people want to ask about Hannah's bio family. We know nothing of them. Some folks want to comment on "abandonment" in China. I always phrase my answers to benefit Hannah first and make her feel valued, and to educate the asker second. So I tell people about how it's always a bad Idea for the government to try to control birth rates and that the government put it's own people in a horrible predicament etc.

PC terms are important to me, but I am not going to get aggravated if someone doesn't know them. I say "pro-life", not "anti-abortion" and I say "pro-abortion" not "pro-choice" because I think the subtleties convey a message. The same is true in adoption terms. I have a right foot, but I am not A RIGHT FOOT. My right foot is just a small part of who I am and beautiful as it is, I want people to think of me as more than just that lady with the awesome right foot. I know I am being ridiculous in my analogy. But if someone asks if Hannah IS adopted, I phrase my answer, "yes, she was adopted..." I don't disrupt the conversation to educate the listener on PC adoption terms, but I use them and I like them and I like the reasoning behind them.

I know there are folks who don't feel the same way about the semantics of the adoptions terms. Doesn't bother me. They can use whatever terms they want I guess, but I like them and I will use them and I will tell others what they are and why I like them if they want to know. 'Cause like I said, I like them.

Sydney Anne said...

I love how you said that adoption isn't an ongoing condition. I gave birth to my kids once a time, but nobody ever asks about that when we're out and about. How they joined our family certainly doesn't define who they are.
Great ideas! I love the power of words.

Angela said...

Honestly...if it were not for the wonderful and patient people who put up with my sometimes un-PC questions, we may never had considered adoption at all.

I did not always know how to express what was on my heart. I was (and am) curious how people pay for it, handle the situations that come up regarding adoptions, how they handle discipline and finances.

It may be none of my business or rude to wonder/ask.

I have NEVER had anything but kind intentions and true interest as the Lord had put adoption on my heart many, many years ago.

I think sometimes it is the fear of "saying something wrong" that prevents people from learning about what a wonderful thing adoption is.

God bless...Angela

The Herd said...

"It is unlikely, however, that all of us adoptive parents are going to change the way people think about this. In fact, I hear just as many adoptive parents say that their kids "are adopted," so I've decided to get over it."

Ginger, I like this part. I think there are things that people say that might get on one person's nerves but not another's--both people having the same experiences to deal with. We all have our soap boxes or things that bother us and in the end, we do have to "get over these things. "

I think it's nice though to know how people think(thank you for sharing your blog post:)for your perspective of these questions ), so we can be more aware of the possibility of the impact of our words. I think I am more like Angela and like to ask questions, with good intentions, b/c I am the QUESTION MARK personality-hehe! Sometimes, as the question is out of my mouth I wonder how it sounded! It's hard to communicate our heart or reasons behind all of our questions.

Sometimes, I wish I could wear a sign that says--don't ask this particular question--it really really irks me...but then I think ...I really just need to "get over it" like you stated.

I love Jenni's mom's quote: "Yes, aren't they so wonderful? We are so blessed to have them in our family." IT's PERFECT!!

Ok, those were my thoughts.

Amber said...

Angela, That's why I think Ginger posted about this - to help people who might be shy to know a good way to start a conversation. And that's why I always try to answer peoples' questions in a way that I HOPE they meant to ask, even if they asked in a non-PC way. I know that people aren't familiar with terms that I prefer. It doesn't bother me. I use those terms because I like them and I like what they mean, not because I am the terminology police looking to argue with folks who say things that I don't like. Questions don't bother me. I answer them in a way that I hope encourages adoption and in a way that makes Hannah feel valued.

Our Family: said...

Ah yeah, I have read and re-read this about twenty times (pregnancy brain tends to render one brainless) and I definitely agree. No one asks, "Are they birthing?" Birth is something that happens once, after that, they're here.

As someone who has OCD and studied Language and Literature in college, I'm very big into words and I'll hang onto every single word I hear and analyze it to death (although again, pregnancy tends to skew one's obesseive filter, so please overlook any grammatical errors). And if you'll humor the Obsessive-Compulsive Pregnant English Major, "are" and "were" do mean very different things. One indicates present tense while the other indicates past. If one "was" adopted and no longer going through the "adoption process" then it is completely illogical to say that they "are" adopted. Otherwise it would imply that a person's adoption is never actually finalized. It also implies that adoption is the current state of that person's life, resulting in mockery of what adoption truly is: voluntary acceptance of a child of other parents to be the same as one's own child. Society would deem "one's own child," as to being the child that the mother has given birth to, and she would never go around saying "My child is being born" or "My child is birthing," after the child's birth.

I really don't understand the argument comparing baseball uniforms to adoption. That's likening a public team sport, of which a child may be a proud member and the uniform shows unity, to being the same as it's OK to public display and recognize that there's division among one's children. In adoption, the public display of "look how this child is different from my other kids," shows anything but unity.

The children I have spoken with, who have finally found their forever families, have often said how all the wanted was the security of knowing they were within a family unit, in which they belonged. Some are even old enough to remember their original families and say when it's brought up so many times how they're different from the rest of the family, it just causes depression and sadness, as they suddenly feel as though they're still in a sort of "limbo," in which they will never actually "belong."