Saturday, August 09, 2008

The Lingo...

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. 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 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? kids have said them to us, and about Hudson.

For example...

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'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.


Reba said...

We adopted from Guatemala. We will never have to worry about our kids knowing that. I am pasty white in compexion. Our two Guatemamalans are a beautiful brown is even darker than the other one. (Our bio kids favor me in skin color) Yet I can count on one hand (with maybe one or two more fingers) how many questions we have gotten. I really don't mind answering them and think I would prefer that people ask rather than wonder. Plus I am always willing to share about God's goodness in how He brought our family together. I don't mind the questions, no matter how dumb some might sound (once someone carrying out my groceries since I now require two cars some of the time commented on how cute our daughter was then asked very confused WHAT her dad was? I almost smiled and said, "I don't know, I never met him..." but took the high route and explained about adoption to a very confused young man). We don't really have problems at home just saying things like "Our other kids did that..." though we have occasionally made comments wondering whose genes certain traits have come from. The funny thing is I can sometimes see myself in all of my children no matter where their lives began. I do have to make an effort not to joke with my husband on rough days "Do you think we can give this one away?" though I could say that about any of our kids...I am just more sensitive to those jokes with them. As for why our children were given to us through adoption, I can honestly say that I have no idea. One day I would like to ask birthmoms but at this time I can only guess poverty was a reason. The only comments that can rattle me a bit is, "They are so lucky/blessed that you adopted them." I am sure their lives are different than they would have been there but we did not do it as an act of kindness. And we truly feel we are the blessed ones. The other comments that can get me riled up are the ones on immigration and that is just based on my experience from watching many oppressed people wanting to come to America standing in long lines paying a year's wages in hopes of visas that they will likley never get. I do know that our kids will face some prejudices around here and I also know that at times their lives will seem in limbo...they may not feel like they fit into either world. They will look different than many kids they go to school with and the ones they do look like will talk differently. And what your kids are doing is normal with their questions. I have heard some of the same questions...thankfully the first adoption took care of most of them so the second adoption didn't raise as many. I realize I am not saying anything you didn't already in your post. Just wanted you to know it is something we face as adoptive parents. And I can say that so many people handle it differently. I am on some adoption boards and some people will be offended by ANY question while I don't blink an eye as long as someone isn't cutting down my child...that hasn't happened yet. (at least to my knowledge)

Anonymous said...

You know, I've learned so much about the grace of our Heavenly Father just by following your posts about adoption. This has been such a spiritual process for your family, and I appreciate your transparency in sharing it with us. I stand in awe of what an awesome mother and father God has chosen to place Hudson with. He is most certainly your child, and it will be evident in his growth as a Hendrick. I don't really have any questions at this point, but please, PLEASE feel free to (gently) correct me, if I say anything offensive (though I don't *think* I would). I'm so excited for you all, and look forward to watching the littlest Hendrick grow!

Cathy Trimble

Anonymous said...

I fully understand you sentiments here and I agree with you. But I wonder why it is in a post about respect and understanding the right things to say you are disrespectful in many of the terms you use for your son's first/natural mother. I do believe an understanding of this should go both ways and perhaps it would do good for you to also do some reasearch on what many moms who have lost their children to adoption find as hurtful and disrespectful when speaking of them.
Being kind and considerate of others feelings does go both ways, in my opinion.

Hendrick Family said...

I guess I do need to be educated, because I re-read the post and didn't see anything in it that was disrespectful to Hudson's birth mom.

This is sort of what I'm talking about...having grace in the way we respond to people.

It sounds like you are assuming that since I didn't use the exact words you prefer me to use, that you think I must not love our birth mom and respect her.

Of course, that's not true.

So...if you assumed I wasn't a jerk, then how would you EDUCATE others graciously, instead of attack them in the area of birth moms?

I'm really not meaning to be ugly here...just honest. It seems to me like you're doing exactly what I was writing about...assuming the worst about people based on their vocabulary.

If you've read this blog long at all, you would know our heart is pure in this. We absolutely adore our birth mom. So, if our wording isn't quite right, God knows our heart.

If there really is something you need to teach others in regards to birth moms, we would love to hear what you have to say, AS LONG AS, it's said in a gracious way.


Sarah Shalley said...

Great post!As a teacher, I think this is really important. THANK YOU. I don't ever want to ask a student about their personal life and it come across many of my kiddos live with a Granny or an Aunt or something and I could still use the wrong lingo and sond insensitive. It's all about being compassionate.

Love the Hendricks!

Hunter and Ashleigh Gaulke said...

Hey Heather,

I was in your Her Hands class two Spring's ago. I remember telling you that I was adopted in one of the classes when we were on the subject, and I feel as though I may be able to offer a very small piece of wisdom here because of this.

First of all, I SERIOUSLY want to completely encourage you for your words about Hudson's birth mom. Not only is that a praise that she is such a wonderful woman and has obviously made one of the wisest and hardest decisions of her life(because it is! Thank you Lord!) but your heart about her will be transparent to Hudson as he grows up. If you have a purely loving heart towards her, then he will! Heck, I have a wonderful picture of this woman because of your descriptions. What a great step as a mom already, Heather.

You are right when you say adoption is messy.

For me, I want my adoptive mom to know that I love her just as much as I would if she birthed me. My mom was honest with me from the moment I was old enough to understand. She told me it was safe to ask questions, to meet my birth parents, to love them... But it was still awkward.

I also want to encourage you that I was raised in a way that I love talking about my adoption. Honestly, most people feel bad bringing it up or are in shock when I do and I just tell them every detail...even at age 10.

So please be encouraged that Hudson may love talking about it, one day. He may ..(because of the great ways that I know you and Aaron will care for him and love him) ..enjoy getting to share a testimony on the Lord's grace and provision.

Hudson was placed in your home. He wasn't lost and then you found him. He was double-loved enough to be placed with you. And the Lord LOVES this. Although it's messy, it's such a blessing.

Ashleigh Gaulke

Hendricks in Mexico said...

I can't see it either - anything disrespectful about the wonderful woman who gave birth to Hudson and made so many brave, unselfish decisions to place him in your home.

I hope that the person who sensed a lack of respect would point out specifically what came across that way.

Maybe it would be more comfortable in an email than on the blog.

But, as Grandma, I hope one day to meet this wonderful lady, and I would cut my tongue out before I would say something to dishonor her.

Please, don't leave us wondering!

Grandmom said...

In 1961 my husband and I adopted a baby boy. He was 5 days old when he was placed in our arms at the hospital. He was then and continues to be the joy of our life.

We talked about the adoption in his presence from the day he became our son. Some folks had strange comments and questions, but I chalked it up to curiosity or ignorance and not rudeness. I'm sure I've asked dumb questions about things I'm not familiar with. But I didn't mean to be rude.

I really don't think there has to be a lot of conversation with other people about the adoption unless they are really interested in learning, or if you feel led that it is a witnessing opportunity.

I think that having a child that's not from your own womb is as miraculous as actually giving birth to a child. In my experience it took a while to wrap my brain around the fact that this little baby had actually been given to us to be part of our family, an answer to our prayers.

As time goes by, your friends and acquaintances as well as your birth children will become accustomed to the situation and will accept it as the way things were meant to be.

Hudson is YOUR son. God has placed him in YOUR care, YOUR family, and in YOUR heart. My recommendation would be that you concentrate more on your precious child, and less on what other people might think or say. Please be sure that I am not implying that you aren't concentrating on your baby.

By the time Hudson knows what is being said, things will have settled down, and he will know that he is your son, totally and completely.

At 40 years of age our son is totally comfortable with the fact that he is an adopted child. He says that he believes he is in the family God planned for him. I believe that too.

Relax. Enjoy this precious little fellow. You're all going to be fine.

I'm praying for you.

Hendrick Family said...

Thank you for your sweet words, Grandmom.

I was so encouraged.


Molly said...

I love it, love it, love it! Thank you for saying that you too are having to train your tongue, because the honest thing is that we are all learning. We are all trying to be more like Christ, whether we are the adoptive parents or the adoptive grandparents or just those walking beside us in this. God is changing and using us all. Thank you for being so aware of what Hudson needs, just like any momma would. I only sense the utmost respect in your writings of J. Maybe I am not seeing it either, but I do feel like I always have my birthmom sensors on. I tend to be overly defensive of comments made (I need to simmer down sometimes!). Thanks for this post and it is funny that we both were "feeling" it and posted at the same time! By the way, I blog stalked you! That's how we met!!

Reba said...

I have to echo what grandmom said...I don't mind at all the questions we get right now (especially at places like church or my school which is also my workplace) because those questions will die down when the kids are old enough to truly understand. In fact, other than "He is so cute" or "She is beautiful" (and she does have this exotic kind of beauty), we really don't get comments any more at church. I do love that in some ways there is some "ownership" (if that is the right word) in our adoption from our church members since they prayed us through both adoptions. They were the ones rejoicing when we came home. As time continues, I think most people who know us will just see them as our children rather than the kids we brought home from Guatemala. (We do hope to always maintain that sense of culture though)


Katie O said...

I just want to say how great I think it is that so many adoptions these days are open and that the children are able to know their background. Like you said, it is obvious that Hudson doesn't look like you, so there isn't much choice in that, but regardless, I think it's a good thing.

I don't have any advice...cause I've never been there. I only know adoptive families.

I did do a very dumb thing with one of these families and it happened to be one in which the adoptive parents are not open with the children about being adopted. They are the same race, so they don't have room to question, I suppose.

There are 4 siblings and I figured (you know what they say about assuming) that the older couple of children were surely old enough to REMEMBER the adoption. I asked their mother, in their presence, how old they were when they got them. She gave me a panicked, blank look and whispered, they don't know... (In other words...HUSH and GO AWAY FAST!) Boy, did I feel stupid!

I still get all weird and awkward when I think about it 4 years later, wondering if they asked what I was talking about...

UGH, makes me sick to think that I (a near stranger) might have been the one to raise questions. SO not my place!

So......all that to say.....

Guess I do have a piece of advice to educate...

Never ask questions in front of the children unless you absolutely KNOW it's okay! I think you kind of already said this...but just thought I would let my stupidity be an example to all.

P.S. Love your blog and your honesty about any and everything...

Amanda said...

Amazing post. With regards to any disrespect towards the birth mom, I didn't see it either. In fact, I think you went above and beyond to express your love and respect towards a incredibly brave young woman who could make such a selfless decision. By your description, she's someone I'd love to know.

As for an Adoption for Dummies book, there is one. Here's the Amazon link:

We have a multiracial family, as well. My husband is biracial (1/2 Filipino, 1/2 Caucasian), and he's very dark skinned with black hair. Our adopted child is fair skinned with blond hair. Particularly when our son was younger and was maybe having a tantrum and had to be removed from a situation, people would express concern if my husband drug him away. A big Filipino man with a screaming blond kid slung over his shoulder always gets some weird looks.

Other than that, we've not really experienced judgement from friends or really even strangers (that, or we're totally oblivious). We have, however, experienced judgement from my extended family. A family member putting together a geneology absolutely refused to list our son as our child, and when we protested, other older members of my family attacked us verbally/emotionally. Fortunately, our close family has never seen any difference between our adoptive and bio child.

We lost another bio child in April 07, and I've found myself responding to many uneducated, thoughtless, careless questions/remarks along those lines. It's amazing what sort of hurtful things people -- even believers -- can say because they don't think through a comment. Because of my experience and the additional pain brought on by others, I've gone back to make some amends to others I've carelessly spoken to myself.

Lastly, I love your idea about writing a adoption-centered Bible study for your children. Our situation was a foster-adopt situation, so the birth parents aren't safe and aren't in the picture. We've always been very open about adoption and very diplomatic in the way we've handled birth parent questions, but we always turn the focus to God and His plan -- how He intended that our son would be ours, how God blessed us with him, how being a part of our family was intended and not a mistake. You've reminded me that I really need to spend time with both kids focusing on how adoption is a big part of the heart of God, and how we're all adopted together into one family.

Thank you for your post, and sorry for the super long reply.

Mikki said...

I would love to have permission to repost this on my blog. We adopted Clara almost 9 months ago. She is our God send along with our other 2 children. I would love for as many people to read it as possible. I will give all credit to you. FABULOUS post!!

Hendrick Family said...

Of course you can use it! Thanks!


Molly said...

Heather, my sister Laura, is the one who showed me your blog about a year ago. She hasn't read your post on the lingo yet. She posted this in response to my post and asked her friends to read it. I thought you might like it because it actually focuses a little more on birthmoms. If you get a chance you might check it out, it's short and shouldn't take too long to read. Here's hers

Jenny said...

I have been "blog stalking" you for the past few months. I found it through the Upton's blog, saw that you were going to adopt and now check back regularly.

My husband and I are adopting Int'l right now and have been assigned our child but have not brought him home.

Thank you so much for this post, it was helpful for me to see that even you and your husband have to change your speech when it comes to your newest son.

If you develop a Bible study for children on adoption I would love to have my children go through it. Adoption is so important to my husband and I and I hope that we will have a role in adopting or encouraging others to adopt for years to come.

I have directed others to your blog on several occasions to read something wonderful you had to say about adoption (I never thought to ask permission) I hope it's ok.

I hope to meet you someday, I too live in C.S. I am praying for your wonderful family.


Anonymous said...

I was reading about your conversations with the boys, and something struck me. Kids tend to be very matter of fact about things. They call them as they see them (which doesn't mean they're always correct, but it does mean they're not usually jaded or blinded or confused by "principles of pleasing others"). You mentioned how Ashton wanted Hudson to have skin colored skin and Hayden said that he probably wanted his real mom. It occurred to me that what they were expressing is that "we want things to be like we know them to be" (aka normal as they understand normal to be) - what they think they would want if they were Hudson. And on the one hand, their hearts are beautiful and on the other hand are still yet to expand to something bigger than they know yet. I think we so often tend to think that whatever WE experience MUST be the norm and therefore, MUST be correct. It doesn't occur to us, or is hard to accept, that God doesn't allow everyone to experience everything. We are taught to appreciate and celebrate and work together due to the fact that no one person is, has, or does it all. No one wants to buy a box of crayons that only has gray crayons in it, but we often act, when it comes to skin color in America at least, like that is what we want and should have and that we are right.

I think you've touched on a subject that is similar: adoption of a child (and from another race to boot). We think that is abnormal still in some ways - like it's a taboo thing to talk about. So, I have to say I'm glad you're talking about it, and that people at LHBC talk about it regularly. I cannot tell you the number of insensitive comments I've gotten or questions I've been asked over the years. The thing that I had to realize was that no one else talking to me was in my shoes - they didn't understand and wouldn't unless I was the one to share. So, I decided to be the one who talked openly and honestly instead. People simply will not always know what to do in every single situation they come across in life, and we are all given different situations to learn from, and different people to learn with. I think it's having a teachable spirit that is the key. Being willing to say, "Oops, I'm sorry, what should I say, what do you need from me, how do YOU handle this, teach me what I don't know because I really want to get this, etc." And being willing to be the "guinea pigs/teachers" that people learn with and from. It's a hard calling on both sides of the fence, but like your post from today discussed, "The wisdom of the prudent is to give thought to their ways." And I just have to believe that thought accompanied by practice and teachable spirits will beget grace.

thetysonfamily said...

Thank you, thank you for this amazing post. I appreciate so much your willingness to take the time and effort to build up the body in love!!!!!


Kathy's Korner said...

I was referred to this blog through another blog and love very much how you try to be gracious in your approach to education.

I've been a Mom through adoption transracially for over 10 years now...and "stupid" comments still tend to anger me and frustrate me when I try to laugh off the rude remarks. And then I vent about it later.

With your permission I would like to link to your post too. Your eloquence on this subject is something I'm just not able to say myself.

So, if you don't mind, I'd like to say, yeah! THAT!

Mary Beth said...

I quoted you and linked to this post on my blog. I hope you don't mind. I love what you've shared about adoption. Thank you!

Mary Beth

Hendrick Family said...

Nice to meet you Mary Beth. I dropped by your site. Rejoicing with you over your upcoming adoption. Truly excited for you!


DFC said...

Love this one too. I love how you are hitting on all our concerns. I have been terrified to ask questions of adoptive families because there seem to be so many things you can't ask - at all. And if you do ask accidentally, people are mean! I'm coming here with my questions!