Saturday, August 09, 2008
Let me just get straight to the point...
The topic of adoption can be awkward.
I think adoptive parents would agree...we sometimes dread comments..the things people say that are insensitive, and the down right stupidity of people around us. Sorry...just being honest. Being new to this adoption stuff, I find myself desiring the comfort of our closest friends. I can rest. I don't have to be on my guard. I don't have to constantly be listening to what people are saying. I know I can't live inside my safe bubble of friendships exclusively, but...I'm just saying...I have found it much easier lately to be around people I know...whose hearts I know...instead of being around people who will more than likely say something awful, or ask a really, hard question I don't know how to answer. I'm trying to learn how to respond in situations that are surely coming.
I think we can also agree that as people who haven't adopted, but have friends who have (I used to be in this category) there is also this weird feeling of fear and timidity about what should be said and what shouldn't be said.
Oh how I wish there were a book called, Adoption for Dummies...How not to be a rude moron when talking about adoption.
Of course, the reason behind all of this is sometimes a wicked heart. People are mean, and especially when dealing with trans-racial adoption can be sinful and prejudice. We live in a broken, sinful world, and people saying mean things about adoption, adopted children, and transracial families will always be the case.
The majority of people are not trying to be mean or insensitive. Their "off" comments, from what I have noticed are based on nothing else besides not being educated on adoption terms, lingo and what is and isn't appropriate to say. They haven't thought through their words...haven't thought through what their words actually mean to the adoptive parents or to the adopted child.
I don't want people around me feeling weird and awkward.
I don't want people feeling like they can't say things.
I don't want people thinking that we are always going to wear our feelings on our sleeve, waiting to pounce on you with vocabulary corrections. I'm not going to walk around with a red pen in my hand.
Before adopting, when I saw a family with adopted children, especially a trans-racial family, I would think..."They are so cool. I think that's so neat. But I would never talk to them. They scare me."
Really. I was afraid I would say something dumb. And...my fear was warranted. I had said dumb things before and received a tongue lashing about it.
No tongue lashing will come from us.
I really believe this is something we are all going to have to learn together.
I'm so thankful for the people around us who are supportive of this adoption who I know will take the time to learn this with us. They still say stupid things (and so do we), but I know they love us, love Hudson, love adoption and are trying to figure this all out right along with our family.
When I think about the topic of adoption...the actual vocabulary of adoption, one word comes to my mind...
I want my speech to be filled with grace.
I want to love...by giving others the benefit of the doubt.
My children have taught me this in such a real life way lately.
You know all the awful things people are NOT supposed to say about adoption to adoptive parents?
Well...my kids have said them to us, and about Hudson.
When we told Ashton that Hudson would be dark skinned like Danny, he said...
"I don't want him to look like Danny. I want him to have skin colored skin."
Skin colored skin to Ashton means WHITE skin.
We had to have a long talk with our son about God making everyone's skin different, and WHITE is not THE skin color...it's A skin color. We had to go over again that skin color doesn't matter. We are all the same.
When we were in Galveston, Hayden said...
"Why doesn't Hudson's mom want him?"
Again, we had to gracious teach Hayden that Hudson's mom desperately wants him, but has decided it would be best for Hudson to be placed in our family.
On the way home from Galveston, Hudson was crying in his car seat.
Hayden said, "I bet you he wants his real mom."
Ouch. Aaron had to graciously teach Hayden that I am Hudson's mom. The precious lady that gave birth to Hudson is an important part of our life and our family, but in this odd, new way - I am Hudson's mom too.
I would love to say that my kids are the only dummies.
But, even Aaron and I are having to be gracious with OURSELVES.
Do you know what we're working on right now?
We keep saying things like...
"With our kids, they weren't lifting their heads up like this until they were over a month old."
Hudson IS our kid.
We're having to train our mouths to say what our hearts know is true...
"With our other kids, they weren't lifting their heads up like this until they were over a month old."
Hudson is our kid and Anson, Hayden and Ashton are our other kids.
As a mother, I know I can't shield my son from all that's coming.
I know that. But I do think there can be some safe places for him - safe circles of friends and family who get us.
Before Hudson is old enough to understand what's being said, it would be great if we could erase phrases like these from our mouths...
"Anson, Hayden and Ashton are theirs, and then they adopted Hudson."
When you hear people say those things you can say...
No...they are all theirs. Anson, Hayden and Ashton were added to their family through childbirth, and Hudson was added through adoption...but they are all 100%, grade A, Hendrick.
Although we will talk extensively about adoption to Hudson, it would be so nice if he wasn't constantly reminded that he's adopted...and especially if he's not constantly labeled as adopted.
"These are the Hendrick's biological kids, and this is the little boy they adopted."
Even if you say that in a sweet voice, please...why does it have to be said at all?
We're white. Our son is black. He's not even biracial. I think it's obvious he's adopted.
We can't say things like, "With your kids did you (fill in the blank)." Again...Hudson is our kid just as much as Anson, Hayden and Ashton are. So, we all have to work on how we say this. "With your other kids (fill in the blank)" is the right way to refer to situations like these.
Questions about birth parents...
Remember...we love Hudson's birth parents. Love them.
We will talk your ear off about how cool they are. But, in a lot of adoption situations, there are some real issues that are private about the birth parents. Adoptive parents strive to never say negative things about their children's birth parents. In our case, seriously...we feel honored to have been chosen to parent Hudson. There's not even anything negative to share about Hudson's birth family. We could not be more proud of the DNA that has landed in our house. But, for other adoptive families, the truth is, there may be some things that are true about the birth parents, that wouldn't be uplifting to say. As a matter of fact, it would be gossip. So, in general, questions about the birth parents shouldn't be asked, in my opinion. If an adoptive parent knows you well enough, and wants you to know more about their child's birth family, they will tell you.
"Why did his mom give him up for adoption?" is probably not a great question to ask...especially in front of a child who has been adopted. In our case, our answer is so easy. "His birth mom is 18 and wants Hudson to be in a family." Our birth mom would never care if you knew that. We think she's so wise for the decision she made. But, in other cases, the answer an adoptive parent would have to give could be pretty complicated and down right dishonoring of the birth parent. Putting a family in this sort of situation seems inconsiderate.
Remember...most adoptive parents LOVE talking about adoption, but be careful what you say in front of children who are adopted. Your ignorance, even if it's naive, OR your curiosity could SERIOUSLY hurt a child listening to what you are saying.
Other great posts about this topic...
This one is from Molly. I don't even know how we met, but she has been a huge encouragement to me through this entire adoption. You will learn so much from her...and wow...those little boys are just too cute.