Sunday, September 29, 2013

What NOT to say to adoptive parents

I feel as if I've visited this topic before, but it's worth repeating. I've made a handy dandy list of things NOT to say to an adoptive parent. If you utter these words to an adoptive parent, this is what will happen to you: We will blog about you ('s happening right now!) We will forget that you make an excellent holiday cheese ball, wished us happy birthday that one time, or let us borrow a Kleenex when our kid had chocolate running down their face. You will forever be known as the idiot that asked that. Adoptive parents are like this sisterhood of families that have beat the odds. We stick together. We have this crazy support group. I am part of an adoption forum that has over 1,000 members. We chat, we meet face to face when possible, we swap stories daily about "You won't believe what my cousin's next door neighbor said about my son". Anyway, the list.
Please print this out and carry it in your pocket for future reference.
1- How much did he cost? Lets just put it this asking me that is exactly like me asking you how much your lady parts hurt after giving birth to your child. It's private, personal, and just plain rude. Is adoption unnecessarily expensive? Yes. Would I pay every penny again in a heartbeat? Yes. In the International adoption scene, I considered it ransom. But my kid is not a car. He did not come with a price tag. My response to this question? He was free. It was the shipping and handling that was out of this world.
2- Do you know anything about his REAL mom? Yes. She is 5'8 and has dark brown hair, green eyes. She loves to cook, play ridiculous games on her iPhone and read books. I look at her everyday in the mirror. Last time I checked real moms clean up vomit, fight their way through homework, wipe butts, noses and whatever else needs wiping. We cook, we clean, we hug, we kiss. We stay up late and do it all again the next day. Like Coca-Cola, I'm the real thing baby.
3- Now that you've adopted, you know what's going to happen right? You're going to get pregnant! I thought about making this #1 because it is so vile. But I'm lazy in the cut/paste department. My favorite time this statement was made to me was at my OB/GYN office. BY MY DOCTOR!!! We had been through the fertility junk with her. Then we stopped and decided to adopt. A year later, I told her we were pursuing adoption. Then she uttered those fatal words. I almost fell off the table. You've learned to smile and nod when the friends, family, neighbors, church people say this. But a fertility doctor??? Come on. Finalizing an adoption doesn't make my ovaries kick into hyper drive. Everyone know a friends, sister's aunt that this happened to. I get it. Some people get pregnant after they adopt. Some don't. Why say it? Just why?
4- They are sooo lucky to have been adopted by you!! First, luck had nothing to do with it. Adoption for me, was and is a very spiritual experience. It's the most tangible way I've ever seen God work in my life. To chalk it up to luck is somewhat cheapening the experience. You get lucky when you find a dollar on the street. Luck and adoption should never grace the same sentence. I have always liked this Chinese parable: An invisible red thread connects those who are destined to meet, regardless of time, place, or circumstance. The thread may stretch or tangle, but will never break."While Charlie and Jack were being knitted together by God in their birth mother's wombs, they were being set apart for our family. Chance had nothing to do with it. Furthermore, my kids were not "saved" by me. They didn't escape a life full of despair when I came onto the scene. From the beginning, God knew these boys would destroy every piece of furniture in my house, make me get grey hair and turn my life completely upside down in the most miraculous way.
5- Do you ever wish you could have had children of your own? This one is pretty self explanatory. If these children are not my own, could someone else take over the dirty, sticky parts? I'll just be the fun aunt.

The list could go on: Why did his mom give him away? How could she give away such a sweet boy? What are you going to tell him when he asks about being adopted? What if he wants to find his birth mother? It's amazing that your kids look like you when they're not! When you think you've heard it all...someone asks "Which one of your kids cost more?" (True story....) And you are amazed all over again. I think the best guide to keep in mind when talking to adoptive parents is this: Not all families are made the same way. That doesn't make me less "real" or my kids not my own. I don't need to give birth to have a baby. I'm not lucky, my kids aren't lucky, we are a family rooted in the same stuff your family is rooted in: unending love, overflowing joy and strict bedtime rules. You can't put a price tag on that, so please don't ask. 


  1. I'd like to say there is a HUGE level of ignorance and curiosity when it comes to adoption. That does not take away from anything you have said here but it adds to question number two. People can be ignorant with terms. They may mean birth mother when they say real, and not understand that by saying "real" mom it is highly offensive. I bet it gets tiring correcting people frequently.

    People can ask just as rude and personal questions to parents that birthed their children as well (vaginal or c-sec, planned or not planned, do you know how babies are made). I think it is a sad reflection of our societal need to know everything about everyone. Or just that nosy people abound. Or people have lost the skill of small talk. I dunno. Dear Abby talks about this all the time.

    Parents need to support one another. I don't care how you got to be a parent- adoption, birth, step, multiple partners... regardless of the journey to parenthood we have trials and adventures of raising children.

  2. Amen, sister. . .For #1, I usually respond, "My whole heart!" I do it with a totally serious face and make sure I look them in the eye. It works every time.