Wednesday, November 19, 2008

20 Adoption Bugaboos

Ok...this is a warning...I KNOW I am going to lose some blog readers over this posting, but with Maureen's comment on the Family Tree Project about thinking she was the only one who felt sometimes we adoptive parents get a bit too sensitive over things I decided it was time to state my case. This is intended to be a bit sarcastic, humorous, snarky...whatever you want to call it...but within it is truth for me. After 10 years of being a participant in online adoption lists and talking to literally thousands of parents over the course of time, there are certain things that have always gotten under my skin. If I offend anyone, I am sorry. If you see yourself in this, I am sorry. It is my opinion and that isn't worth a hill of beans! But I am wondering if any of these little Adoption Bugaboos get on anyone else's nerves as well. So let's begin, and I have my Fire Retardant Suit for the inevitable flaming:

1) Focusing too much on "PC" language. Political correctness has its place, but to make it your mission to savagely correct any poor innocent unsuspecting soul who happens to use the words "real mom" when asking about your child's adoption or who does have the gall to ask "How much did he/she cost?" is going over the top. Personally, I also think it is unhealthy to walk around with a spirit that is laying in wait to pounce on someone for stating something in a less than ideal manner. For goodness sake, my own KIDS sometimes call their birth parents their "real" parents!! I don't take offense at that, "real" is VERY DIFFERENT from being the "present" parent, which is what we are...and I'd gladly that that over "real" any day.

2) Getting angry over every "adopt-a-something" campaign. Again, going too far folks. So what if the shelter wants to use "adopt a pet" in their advertising or if we want to "adopt a school" to keep it in good shape?? How in the world is that negating the experience of child adoption? So...why don't we just have a "adopt a kid" campaign and call it good??? Adoption = caring, nurturing. In every instance when I have seen the "adopt-a-something" phrase used it has been about exactly that, caring or nurturing something. Totally appropriate, in my ever so humble opinion. Besides, since when did adopting a child give us total control over a word??

3) "Oh you are such a saint!" - I didn't realize that my selfish desire to have a family somehow nominated me for Sainthood.

4) "I could never do what you have done!" - Oh yea you could, you just don't want to...and I am totally cool with that!!! No justification necessary, we are all called to do different things in life.

5) Adoptive Parents who present themselves as the Savior of their adopted child - Boy, that sure does make me feel good, doesn't it? Look what I took you from...everything that is familiar, everything that is all you have ever known, and I drug you halfway around the world to thrust you face first into crass commercialism, a society often short on moral values, and not only that for the REST OF YOUR LIFE you need to be filled with gratitude for what we did for you. Oh yea, and NEVER refer to your birth parents as your "real" parents or I'll really crawl down your throat!

6) "I don't know how you did it,I don't know how you handle it all, I don't know how you made it through Reactive Attachment Disorder..." - I know how, its because I am their mom...period.

7) The entire domestic adoption vs. international adoption debate - I'll put this as simply as I can: It ain't your business where my kids come from.

8) "They are SO lucky!" - How do you know? Live in my house with Dominick and I for a few weeks and you might walk away thinking otherwise. Now, every once in awhile someone speaks to us who "gets it" and I love nothing more than hearing "YOU are SO lucky!". Now THAT'S our truth.

9) The prevailing attitude of so many that every orphanage adoptee is "so screwed up". Oh yea? Maybe it is YOU who is "screwed up"!! Not every kid has RAD, not every kid hoards food, not every kid will yearn for birth parents. Quit painting adoption with such a broad brush. Trust me, I live with 3 and we have totally different experiences with each one. And NO NO NO they are NOT "all screwed up"! And yes, someone actually said that to me.

10) "How do you afford it?" - We do without. We fret and worry about finances constantly. We live differently than some (and that's a whole different post)...yea, differently...MORE HAPPILY and we trust God a whole lot more.

11) The whole "Circumcision Debate" - Should we or shouldn't we? Come on now, is this REALLY a life or death decision to have angry confrontational debates online about? And every 6 months like clockwork almost? Sheesh! Intact or not, as long as it WORKS!!!

12) "Are you babysitting?" - In this day and age why is it that so many people still can't conceive of the fact that families can "look different" and not be matched like Garanimals clothing??

13) Adoptive parents who fall in love with a photo - You've waited for years to become a parent and you get your referral, and you fall madly in love. Madly in love with what??? You've never met the child, you have no idea what their temperament is like or what their personality is like. Would you fall in love with a prospective husband that way? Someone you are going to spend the rest of your life with? Well, maybe a few would but the majority of us wouldn't. This isn't a fairy tale and you can not be truly in love with someone you have never met. Seriously "in like", well, I'll give you that one! Hahahah!

14) "Can I have a Caucasian infant girl from 2-6 months older...with no special needs, blond hair, blue eyes and a perfect birth family history." how about "Can I have a Quarter Pounder with Cheese, ketchup only, no lettuce, pickles on the side?". We aren't ordering dinner, people. I think we ALL have forgotten that somewhere along the line.

15) Overzealous Cultural Clinging - Yes, it is important that your child have a strong sense of who they are, that they feel confident and have an understanding of their birth culture. But does that mean you have to force feed them Mandarin lessons? Do you HAVE to attend "Culture Camp" or feel like your child has missed out on something? Do ALL of their friends have to be adopted from their birth country? If YOU have a fascination with the birth culture of your child, then YOU explore it in deeper ways. I am NOT saying that some of this is not important, and obviously we do it to some degree here in our home as well, but there are those that would be placed in the "baseball Dad" category of "Cultural Awareness in Adoption" because they place so much emphasis on it that their child then even sometimes feels more torn between two worlds. How about a healthy balance? And yes, I guess this means if my kids want to learn Spanish in High School instead of Russian I will be allowing them to do so.

16) Rehashing your adoption story to everyone you meet, from the grocer to the mailman - Now, don't get me wrong here, we end up chatting about adoption far more in our day to day lives than even I would like. Part of that comes from living in a less culturally diverse area (maybe we should move to wherever city has a Kazakh Town or Kyrgyz Town! Oh...wait...don't think we'll find that anywhere!! hahahaha!) so we are often asked as our difference sticks out more here than it would in a more urban area. I also go on and on and on and on here on the blog, but this is where many of you are coming to become educated yourselves. But there are people we interact with every day who only guess at what our story is but have never heard any part of it from our lips. Of course our dearest friends know just about everything and then some, but there are some adoptive parents who wear their child's adopted status and/or race difference as some sort of Badge of Goodness, and who never fail to tell anyone they can find who can't escape them all about their child and the adoption.

17) "I've adopted from XYZ country, so I am an expert." - As anyone who follows the ever changing circumstances in international adoptions knows, you can be home 10 days from your adoption trip and what you have to share suddenly becomes hopelessly outdated. Adopting 1 time...or 2 times...or 3 times...does not make you an expert. Do you know more than someone adopting for the first time? Yes, you do. Does that make you right? No, it sure doesn't. You are ONLY right for your specific experience, and every parents' journey is different, in large part due to their own world view.

18) Parents who blame their agency for things that are totally out of their control - Agencies can not control foreign governments, agencies can not control orphanage directors, agencies can not control birth parents returning for kids. Blaming them is pointless. Save the blame for the things they CAN do wrong!! hahaha!

19) Parents who forget that a child is not yours until the court documents are signed and waiting periods have expired - The sense of loss of a referral is understandable, we cling to photos and hope for months sometimes only to learn things fall apart. However, the anger over it is inexcusable. These are NOT our children, and if a birth family comes back and can care for a child, Hallelujah!! If a child is adopted by another couple who is paper ready first, then that child was not meant to be yours. I do not understand laying claim to a child and then having a hissy fit afterwards when something good happens for that child that just happens not to include you.

20) Adoptive parents who speak negatively of their child's birth country in front of their child - Notice I don't say "honestly", but there is a difference between saying "the poverty there was so sad" to saying "the place was a dump! The streets were filthy, the people were rude..." etc. Or sometimes people will do Item #15 on the list and subject their child to all kinds of "cultural connections", and then say not a kind word about the actual experience in country!! Sharing what you saw while trying to place it in a positive light is important, while traveling look for the happy things, the beautiful, the sacred in what you see and share that. And don't hesitate to share the poverty, the sadness, the true circumstances...just remember that much of your child's self-worth is derived from figuring out who they are and where they came from.

Whew! That felt GOOD!!! hahahaha! Now, flame away if you'd like...or take a humorous look yourself at the things that annoy you and post a comment about it. I'd love to see what Bugaboos stick in your craw!


Lenore Ryan said...

Wonderfully written (as always!) and educational for someone who is out of the "adoption loop"....thank you for writing and sharing this with us!!

Michelle said...

Amen sister. Not a single thing on that list that doesn't annoy me. Especially the one about being over sensitive when people try to initiate a conversation with you about adoption and may use the wrong verbage. No matter how the conversation is initiated I am always happy to talk with anyone because maybe someone is trying to talk to you about it because they are interested in adopting internationally and don't know how to start or where to start. I have had someone start a conversation about adoption with me with the much did he cost question. Later in the conversation to find out he and his wife had fertility issues and wanted to investigate international adoption and didn't know where to start. Maybe my taking the time to talk with him helped his family to initiate an adoption and maybe there is another child with a family becuase I didn't get all holier than thou with his innocent and well meaning question.

Shannon said...

LOVE IT LOVE IT LOVE IT! Thank you for speaking up! There is nothing you've said here that offends me one little bit. It's a great reminder to all potential and adoptive parents.

Dee said...

I agree with you 100%. However, I do get annoyed when people imply I am not the "real" mom. I guess I am overly sensitive. I don't recall ever saying anything rude back to one of those remarks, though. I try to ignore them. Well, or kvetch in my blog later! LOL

I used to get annoyed when my mother said I "rescued" my kids. Now I think well, yes, I did, in a way. Older kids rarely get adopted. That's not what I dwell on, though, nor should anyone.

I applaud your courage to take stands, and risk yucky comments. You go, girl!

Anonymous said...

LOVE the post Cindy. I actually think this is how many of "us" see things and when I was the "new" adoptive mom, I remember feeling guilty for thinking that way by others in our usually very supportive adoptive community. Can't wait to read the comments on this post!

traceylynndel said...

Amen. Thank you for being so bold. I find even more issues when adopting a special needs child. Katya has Down Syndrome. She isn't Down Syndrome. She has it. She doesn't suffer from it. But it does shape who she is and will become. It doesn't have to put a limit on what she does in life though. While I take offense at someone asking me "is that a downs" like she is somehow less than human, I don't have a problem with people referring to her as the girl with Downs or asking if she has Downs. It isn't always obvious with her facial features. That is a blessing and a curse. She isn't sterotyped by her looks and yet people then expect her to act typical because she may look typical.


Anonymous said...

Can you feel everyone here blowing out the flames? :)
Great post.
I will admit to being someone who hates seeing the "adopt-a" everywhere but I so often see it in school where we adopt text books. There is no love or caring for these things and we will not keep them forever. We hate them while we have them and then cannot wait to get rid of them usually to "adopt" another series that we hate even more. Not a connection I want with a word that has been so powerful in my life. :)

Kim in Seoul

wilisons said...

Ok, I love the post. So much is exactly what we hear/experience etc.

I entered the adoption world specifically telling my case worker,
"I DO NOT need to blond haired, blue eyed baby."
I said it and meant it but I love the 2 blonds with gorgeous blue eyes sleeping in the next room no less.

What I didn't love was some PAP awaiting travel to Kaz actually telling me my daughter was,"the cadillac of Kaz adoptions" since she had these features. Now, how do you respond to that one????

And what annoys me more than any others are the questions about if my girls are "real sisters". Real mothers come in all shapes and sizes and I will that to my daughters to decide which parents to call which names but real sisters, what qualifies or disqualifies them as that. YES, they are both very real as is their love for one another not to mention their sibling rivalry-LOL.

Oh, and did you know that my girls look just like me. I guess that if my 5 foot overweight body and dark hair and hazel eyes resembles my beautiful, muscular, tall, girls I should just accept the compliment but I am still searching for how we look alike! No, each of my daughter looks just like herself!

Shanna who feels great sharing those bugaboos. Thanks for opening it up for discussion!

Alethea said...

Yes, Ma'am! Remind me never to get on your bad side! Just joking... since I've been blessed by knowing those boys of yours too...

Bob; Carrie DeLille said...

You are too much fun!! So, did you circumcise?

Anonymous said...

Hello Cindy,

Loved this post.
All these things annoy me too (and a few more), except one.
I don´t like when people use the word adopt to pets.
I have 3 Birth Children, no adopted one yet, and I´m terrified he/she thinks we adopted him/her as we would a pet, or that is the same thing.
He/she is not a pet.
I think it could have an influence in my child´s self asteem or confidence, and that worries me...
Maybe in some years time after some of my fears are forgotten and others confirmed, I´ll think differently...

Anyway, I really enjoy reading your blog.
Even in your least inspired days, there´s always some food for thought. :)

All the best to you All

Julie and John Wright said...

Every good message involves an ouch or A-Men.... I must admit I had a little ouch.... one of the things that set me off when I returned was a big add in the paper for our humain society for sponsoran animal in the shelter ... the things that they were offering and the money that they were asking for , was more then we are able to offer the kids we are sponsoring.... this broke my heart ... we could get people to sponsor a sick duying stray dog, but not a child for less... I have tried to except this as the culture that we live in and recognise that I am not going to change it... When in Missions, there is a lot of training on Ethnocentric thinking... that is to try to over lay your culture and expectations on everyone else... I just never realized that it was going to be on the return trip not the time spent there...
But you are right...In many waysd, I need to get over myself...
Untill then.... Keep challanging us.

Spring said...

7) The entire domestic adoption vs. international adoption debate - I'll put this as simply as I can: It ain't your business where my kids come from.

Wow! I'm a new reader and officially, you have GAINED a reader from this post! I'm an adoptive mom of 3 and many items on your list are pet peeves of mine too!!! Especially #7! Thanks for spelling it out!!!!

tapsalteerie said...

Well written! LOL abt the circ. debate. I think it makes the round on non-adoption forums too! I'll have to remember your reply!

Anonymous said...

Loved this blog!! Who wants to go through life with a major chip on the shoulder, worrying about who might accidentally ask a question the wrong way? Having said that, I really agreed with Shanna’s comments. I am bothered when people ask “are they really siblings?” (meaning birth siblings). I answer “yes” (because “yes” they are siblings now, and that’s what matters). However, I’m not rude to the questioner, because I know they don’t mean to be hurtful, they are just curious. It’s not worth it to get upset about this stuff, and the calmer and more matter of fact we are in our answers, the better it is for our kids who are listening, and that’s what matters. Some responses I use are “in our home, adoption is another word for blessing” and “this is how God decided to put our family together.”

By the way, the “real mom” question came up to one of our kids at school; it was from another kid who is also adopted. That was the way she thought about it. It gave me one more opportunity to talk about things with my kids. In my mind, changing all those poopie diapers kind of made me a real mom too!

It’s great to hear from so many people on this issue!

Peggy in Virginia

pearly1979 said...

I love this list and agree with almost all of it! :) I'm glad you put it all "on paper". I do have to disagree with this one though:

11) The whole "Circumcision Debate" - Should we or shouldn't we? Come on now, is this REALLY a life or death decision to have angry confrontational debates online about? And every 6 months like clockwork almost? Sheesh! Intact or not, as long as it WORKS!!!

It can be life or death. Infants do die as a result of circumcision, usually due to an infection. I think it's a horrible idea to give a newborn an open wound in a hospital!

And for the "as long as it works comment?" Well again, there are botched circumcisions and some times it doesn't work, and honestly a "perfectly" circumsized penis does not work as God intended it to. The forskin serves a purpose. Sensitivity is lost, men who restore their forskin can gain up to an inch in length that was taken by circumcision. It really can't possibly work how it was truly supposed to after being altered.

I speak out about circumcision not to debate it, but to inform. I know several moms that circumsized because they just thought that is what everyone did without knowing any of the facts, without even realizing there was a debate or a choice. I know moms that really regret it. I would have been one of those moms had my first born been a boy. Back then I didn't know anything different. I feel fortunate that some one educated me before my little boy was born so I don't have those regrets. I am also thankful that my son we brought home from Kazakhstan was not circumsized there. I am thankful for him.

People get passionate about things, and this is one of them. I fully understand why and I am thankful for their passion, my son will some day be as well.

If a parent chooses to circumsize, some believe it is their choice, but I at least believe in informed consent. If either of my sons some day chooses to have it done, I will support them as it will be their body their choice.

Christina said...

Love the post... as to the "adopt-a ____" part, my oldest (adopted) son made an amusing comment. We were at Sea World at the Pets Ahoy show... they have all kinds of house hold pets, and other animals do a show... in the middle they show a short video about adopting a pet from a local shelter... well we were watching this for the first time, and my sons yells out "Hey, I was adopted!" when they started the video... it was a badge of honor for him. I smile thinking about it, he just knew it to be a great thing, and wanted all the people around us to know, that he too was adopted! Later that year, he asked me while riding the tram at Disney if they baby in the row ahead of us was going to be adopted soon.... my youngest child asked my sister what her daughters "first" name was.. ( I giggled, thinking "baby" seeing a picture of my prego sister!) my kids just see life from their experience... They are thrilled that they were adopted and see it as a blessing that they hope other children will receive...

The Cobbs said...

It's time to wean yourself from the name Amir-I know you've known him by that name for a LONG time-teehee!! I feel like if I don't call him Isaac, then it's a form of unbelief, but I believe he'll be here before the snow starts melting!! Lyn thinks Isaac will be moved to Belavosk maybe this week-she'll be checking....I guess this move means he's getting closer? Either way, every one of those sweet orphans deserves a Merry Christmas.
Happy Thanksgiving!!

Kristen said...

Oh my goodness - I followed a link from Christine's blog and I am loving your writing! This post is hysterical. I agree with every point (though I am a recovering Obnoxious Cultural Submersion mom myself. Stepping away from the Kwanza candles right now . . . )

You are too funny.

J-momma said...

so funny! some of it i can't relate to having adopted from foster care, but i SO agree with #2, 4,9, and 14.

first of all, i never understood the whole issue with the adopt-a-campaign slogan. i think some people take things WAY too seriously.

"I could never do that." i've actually gotten into arguments with friends about this because anytime i talk about the great things of adopting, they just make excuses why they can't. there's a big difference between really not being able to for a real reason and just not wanting to. just say it for what it is and cut the BS.

as for orphanage kids being "screwed up", that goes for foster kids too, only worse sometimes. people think all kids in foster care were sexually abused, at risk for killing their parents, and are "crack babies". while sometimes that is true, it is certainly not ALWAYS the case. so i get you there.

and lastly, the whole made-to-order kid totally gets to me too. of course we do have some amount of choice regarding adoption. we can pick age range, gender, what disability we can handle, etc. but, it is not a reason to play God and custom create a "perfect" child for your family. that's not what adoption OR any parenting is about. i help train foster and adoptive parents with social services and one thing i tell them is if that's what they're looking for, they might as well leave right now, cause we don't have any of those. we have kids of minority races, with mental illness in the family, who may have a learning disability, who've had multiple placements, who also have siblings, etc, etc.

great post. must feel good to get it off your chest!