I am for sure that I have said things that have made people cringe before because of my ignorance about a certain subject. I surely hope that I don't offend people with things I say and for the most part I do try to think before I talk. I want to know when I say something that's inappropriate. My best friend Amy has a daughter that has special needs. I have learned so much about appropriate language from her and so today I'm going to help all you people out there that read my blog and have said something silly about adoption lately. I also know I'm not alone in this, so if you are adoptive parent and want to chime in, leave a comment with your advice about stupid ignorant silly things that people can say about adoption.
I used to get really hung up on language when we were adopting Deacon. I would freak if someone asked me if I knew his mom. I knew exactly what they meant, but to me I took it as a personal insult to me. That does not bother me anymore. His first mom is a mom to him too. She is not the mom that will parent him forever, but for the first 9 months of his life she was all he had.
There are a few things that still get to me. I'm gonna go through them and let you know personally why they offend and/or bother me when they are said to me. If you've said this I'm by no means trying to make you feel stupid or bad, but just want you to know how we who are in adoption feel about these comments. All of these have been said to me in the past month.
1. “Do you have any kids of your own”
This is a big one that happens a lot. Even after people hear how our kids came to us they sometimes follow it up with, “so you adopted 3 and have one of your own.” Yes I know what they mean. They mean, “so you adopted 3 and had one out of your body” but sometimes people say it the other way. I get what you mean. Here's the deal though, my kids are usually standing there. Do you see how one of my three adopted children could hear this? They could start to believe the lie that I'm sure will one day be planted in their little hearts that they are not really my kid. They would start to think that we love Cayden more because he's our “own” and they are just adopted. You see how this sounds. All of my kids are my own. Every last one of them. They just got here different ways.
2. “can you bring me back one from ____________”
This isn't really adoption related, but for some reason it bothers me when someone is talking to someone that is going to a country with poor people and says this. I could be way off here, but to me it devalues the people there. Like you can really just go to a country and stuff a kid in your suitcase on the way home. That gives international adoption a bad rap, because clearly that's not how it works. Maybe I'm way off, you tell me?
3. “we're going to buy our next baby”
Yes I can hear you gasping on this one. Yes someone said this. I know they were not trying to be mean. In fact I think after they said it they were truly thinking, what the heck did I just say. They love God. They love kids. They support adoption. Clearly just an un-educated response, and clearly not thinking before you speak. Buying babies is illegal. Also let's go back to this …. would I ever want one of my kids to think I bought them? Are you kidding me? I buy cars. I buy vacations. I buy new clothes. I don't buy my children. I was truly offended by this one, because it shows a very low value in adoption. Adoption is not about buying a kid. Adoption is about loving a child that didn't have anyone to love them. Adoption is about looking at someone and saying although you aren't from my blood, you are mine. Adoption is about caring for “the least of these”.
4. “I'm gonna steal you and take you home with me.”
Yes this was said to one of my kids from Haiti. It seems super innocent, but to a kid that has not known stability in their entire life this is awful. I actually had to look at my kid later and say “don't worry, no one is going to steal you and take you away from me.”. Yes that joking doesn't go well with a child that will always be fearful of his parents leaving him. I was not offended by this because this person was trying to say how much they loved my kid, but just so you know people this is not a good comment!
So, there you go. My rant for the week. I truly don't get offended easily. I am writing this not to point out how stupid someone is for saying this, or to make anyone feel awful and guilty, but yet to show what these comments mean to parents that have children through adoption.
I wrote this last year about POSITIVE ADOPTION LANGUAGE.
I get your #1 asked a LOT. In conjuction with that, I get asked “So they are not really brothers and sisters?” and I really hate that. Often it is by otherwise highly educated people (like staff at my kids school!) And sometimes it is by my children’s peers – recently my 3rd grade daughter told me a classmate said her brother couldn’t be her brother because they are different colors and were born to different mothers. I NEVER want my kids to think they are not a real family, because we ARE in every way that matters – and MORE.
I am interested in how you repsond to these comments. How do you educate these people without coming across as offended or rude in return?
” Don’t you want to give Micah ( our biological son) a real brother or sister?” …that is the one I hate the most !
To sum up my response, AMEN! Our 2 sons are adopted and we face the same issues. Some people just don’t get it and never will. Thank you.
So good Jamie…We get #1 & 2 all the time. I would love to hear how you respond to these questions–we are still trying to work through what to say to people when they deeply offend us–especially when they didn’t mean to. Love your wisdom friend!
These are spot on – have heard most of them. Most people aren’t coming from a mean place with them – but they still hurt or in the case when they are said in front of my daughter – they sting and I get PO’d.
How ’bout this one I got a few weeks ago – while Meron and I were at the grocery store and a lady approaches us and said “Is she lost or something?”
Sigh… I dont even know how to deal with that level of dumbness…
One of the ones that bother my husband and me the most is Christians sincerely talking about how friends of theirs couldn’t get pregnant and then adopted and then God “blessed them” with a pregnancy-baby afterwards. For one thing it makes us feel like this person is assuming we are infertile (we’re not), and trying to offer us “hope”; and for another it insinuates that the adopted child is somehow less of a blessing than the bio one.
What’s challenging is that they are sincerely trying to give God glory. We are still working on ways to gently correct this mindset without hurting their feelings.
People ask me #1 a lot… to which I respond that he is my own, a fact i have never questioned because God entrusted him to me.
i also get the, “So does his REAL mom…” to which I respond that we have an open adoption with his BIRTHMOM so we share information/visits but that i am his REAL mom. Rest assured come illness, injury, or fear i am as REAL as it gets.
another good one, “God is so good to give you a kid that looks just like you so people don’t know he’s adopted.” To which I reply, that God is good and our son’s adoption story is a blessing to share because it demonstrates God’s goodness that was extended to us in our own adoption into HIS family. We did not seek a child that looks like us…and our next adoption will most definitely NOT look like us…but God is still good!
but my favorite as of late, “There’s just no way I could love a child that wasn’t really mine. There’s just no comparison to having one…” To which I reply that I could not imagine loving a child more than I love my son…to me it seems unfathomable.
I’m not a parent but I have a heart for adoption and plan to adopt my own. I have expressed this to some of my family members and they always give me response #2 “just bring one home in your suitcase” whenever I go on mission trips overseas. It frustrates me so much because they put adoption into a box. They assume that I just want to adopt from Africa because that’s where poor children are and I can just bring one home with me. I know they are joking, but it’s still hard to find the right response. I also get advice, like people know what is best for me. I’m a long ways away from having kids of my own but they will still say “you need to have your own kids before you adopt other people’s kids.” It’s hard to keep quiet but that usually is what I end up doing because I just don’t know what to say back to people without starting an argument.
So in the end, I don’t think that you are way off on this. Especially with #2 because they are making assumptions about a large group of people (or even a whole country). In fact, they are way off for thinking those thoughts. Some of them haven’t even been overseas, so how could they even say that about people they don’t even know! Thanks for letting me rant too, I agree with you!
My man was adopted at age 4 from another country- he has told me more than one that his biggest personal hangup is when people ask “ARE you adopted” and he says “no, I WAS adopted”.
He says its a one time thing, and isn’t still currently taking place 🙂
I appreciate your sharing your feelings. It could help alot of people (like me) who mean well, but have never been in your shoes. I could make you a list called “widow comments gone wrong” that I heard personally and which many were pretty shocking, but again people generally mean well, so you get tough and learn to take it and carefully choose your responses! I’m sure there are other people whose place in the world gets targeted by the unknowing, as our world is broken and people are imperfect. In my case it was affecting me, but in yours, there are those little minds and hearts to consider above all. Keep up the good work, kiddo!
You are so right Connie … we have all done it and usually it is out of pure innocence and just ignorance on that subject. The thing that’s different with mine as you stated is little ears are around. 🙂 You are right, we live in a broken world and so this will happen. I have come so far in my toughness in these situations. I used to get hung up on comments and loose sleep over them. Now they roll off and I either thing the person is a huge idiot (if their comment is that bad) or I know they just have never been in my shoes and aren’t sure what to say!
This is very interesting. I have 2 kids (from my body) and am in the process of adopting. Right now I am trying to learn all the correct adoption lingo, but I make mistakes and forget the right words even when I am talking about our process. I’m sure I have offended people. I guess after ‘gotcha day’ and I bring home my kids I will cross over to the other side and go from being offensive to being offended. 😉
I completely understand the emotion from the comments made, but for a moment I am going to express another point of view. I am a 30 year old adopted Mom of 3 biological children, a sister to an adopted out of another gene pool, and want to eventually adopt children of my own! I love being adopted and I love adoption. I love that my extended family portrait looks like total strangers but our hearts tell a different story!
I preface this in saying my whole life I have heard all these comments/questions. From friends, doctors (is there any family history of…. Lol no) family members, strangers etc. I have never been offended. I love, regardless of how uneducated a statement may seem, that people out of curiosity will talk to me about adoption. Even if it’s completely ignorant, I am-you are the best source/advocate for teaching. I have never seen my Mom’s face fall or get annoyed with anyone who asks us any questions. She has taught me to respect and honor my birth parents regardless of bad decisions or irresponsibility on their behalf….they chose life, therefore I live. I do not intend on meeting my birth mom but when people ask me if I have met my mom I respond and say no. I know what they mean and don’t expect them to know the proper adoption terms…however I freely tell my story of love and God’s grace in my life and how precious my family is. My 7year old son asked me who my mom is….not out of stupidity or ignorance but of curiosity and innocence. His response at the end of it all is he wants to adopt when he grows up! 🙂 Unless someone is and knows adoption terms- mom is universal for the one who gave birth…..but we know that it is so much more. Lighten up….relax…it is not an attack on you. Also, in regards to honor and grace, as your children get older they will have more questions…..please, never speak in a negative tone toward your child’s biological background. Blood isn’t everything but it has meaning… It’s apart of their story.
Again, flip side of the coin here…the buy a baby comment can be taken poorly. But one of my favorite things when I was in school to tell my classmates was “My parents bought me!” They did! Not as a commodity or accessory but I came with a price! They got a loan for me! They sold a car for my sister! They sacrificed for me! And not to get on my soap box of how adoption is such an easy format to talk about salvation to people but we were bought for a price, Jesus paid for us and paid the greatest sacrifice. My husband and I want to adopt and financially now is not the time unless God moves in that department. When people say they are going to buy a baby, you cannot deny the financial expense in it. Unless you have true concern they are going to buy a baby on the black market illegally…trust that that person’s heart breaks for the fatherless as much as yours. I have said that we are going to buy our next baby before and my heart is so passionate about adoption and children that God may have already appointed as mine living somewhere, in some circumstance….my heart is full of love for these babies….after all, i was one and so was my sister.
This is not a comment. Lol. This is a blog but I don’t have a blog!
Last one and I am done. When people refer to the blessing of your own….my Mom loves me and it is undeniable. As her daughter, I longed for her to have her own. Some people grieve over being barren and for God to move and give them beautiful children thru adoption and then they get pregnant…. It all is a blessing….but that pregnancy may have been a miracle. If my Mom had gotten it would have been miraculous and we would have rejoiced. People who have seen suffering of physical infertility of a women will understand the excitement of pregnancy. It doesn’t devalue the adopted…. Also it could strengthen someone’s faith. It happened to my neighbor. She was about to adopt twins and the bio mom backed out at the last minute. Year later she adopted a single baby, 3 months later she had her own baby (even though she was “infertile”). She now has two boys, while not biologically twins, they are 3 months apart and fit in the room she had lovingly prepared for the previous set of twins whom she had mourned over. What a miracle! When I was pregnant with my second baby I asked my mom if I would love the baby the same…..until it happens you don’t realize how the heart grows when you hold your child (biological or adopted.). I have asked my mom if she thought I could love an adopted child as I love my own….because it hasn’t happened to me yet. I know that when it happens my heart will grow. You love your children the same and differently. I will love my adopted children because of our story just as I love mine for our story.
I guess before this moves from blog to book (haha) I just want to say as Jamie replied…. Don’t lose sleep. When people ask questions (any question) it is a moment for you to teach people about love. I just told a soon to be sister in law that all I want for my children is love because it was the greatest gift ever given to me. I give God the glory, honor my biological parents, and hug and kiss MY MOM and DAD.
We haven’t even adopted yet and the one we get from our family time and time again is “why would you adopt from another country when there are perfectly good white babies on our own soil who need a good Christian home?” Cue the nausea and the fury over ignorance and judgment. It is so dehumanizing and frustrating and ignorant and it’s couched in this pseudo-righteousness and I have answered it 50 times already. But bottom line – their racism and ignorance is not going to change with my correct answer. So I will do my best to protect my kids and teach them to respect all life – regardless of race or sex, and pray God breaks forever the curse of racism in our family.
Taylor, I am in your exact situation…I plan on adopting someday. Whenever I express this I often get the ignorant comments like “have your own first” and “bring one back with you” from my family members. My response is often something along the lines of this: “I want my kids, my very own kids. God knows who my kids are and He’s known since the beginning of time. He knows where they are and exactly how and when to bring them to me. I trust Him to do so in His perfect timing and in whatever order He wants. I am not adopting so that I can bring a cute kid home from Africa like a souvenir and I am not saying no to biological children altogether…I am just saying yes to God’s plan for my family, whatever that may be.” Explaining it this way really helped my parents wrap their brains around why adoption was not “just plan B” for me.
Andrea, you are the type of woman that I am trying to raise. God bless you for your amazing perspective. My daughter is only 4 now, just brought home 6 months ago, but I could not agree with you more. Having kids from different continents is outside the box. We can’t expect folks to have this perfectly pc thing to say all the time, and I certainly don’t ever want to scare someone off from talking at all just b/c they’re afraid they’re going to say it wrong.
God is sovereign and He is merciful. Armed with that, kids can conquer anything- be it their own internal fears or the comments of others. My hope is that each of our children, whether adopted or biological, come to know Jesus as their savior, and possess a peace that God placed them in our home for a reason.
Most of the off hand adoption comments no longer anger me. What really gets me are the ones that are racially motivated. Some of the dumbest comments I’ve recieved are:
Why would you adopt black kids? You will ruin their life!
Couldn’t you adopt white kids?
Do black children cost less?
Why Ethiopia? You know those children are black don’t you?
Well, at least your daughter has such beautiful tan skin. She’s better off because she looks biracial.
I wouldn’t adopt a black child. I don’t want to deal with their hair issues.
Most of them from complete strangers striking up a conversation. The first was said by a friend though. Most were said “I think” without malicious intent. Depends on my mood whether they get a rational “let’s give you a quick education on adoption” response, a smart-alec “said it without thinking” remark, or my “mad mama” face. It really depends on if my kids are around too. I’m more likely to take the time to educate if my kids heard the comment. First, I want them to know I will always stand up for them. Second, I don’t want them to ever think they are anything less than a wonderfully made creation of God. I also want my kids to have a model of how to act when they are angry. It’s not always easy, but I try very hard.
Sometimes people, feeling uncomfortable, just say stupid things they think are funny. As adoptive parents, we really can’t have thin skins. We also can’t control anyone’s tongue including our own at times (I think James the half-brother of Jesus writes about that some), or their funky minds.
But we can give our kids a consistent message that they are loved and cared for. What I’ve found is that both my adopted child and biological child still struggle with love & trust. I’m sure our next adopted child will be the same way. The problem isn’t “out there”, but inside their own hearts. I need to love them and speak truth to them, both of them.
As an adopted daughter, one comment that echo in my head over and over as a child was one I overheard an adult sharing with my mom…”I am afraid that I could never love an adopted child as much as my own.” OUCH!! I became a perfectionist before I started kindergarten in an attempt to be “good enough” to get my parents to love me enough to keep me. God has revealed through much searching that HE chose my family for me…how He placed me there was in His perfect plan. Sharing His truths with other adopted girls over the years has been a unique ministry that has come from His story of my life.
Andrea, I am glad to share your name because perhaps it connects me in some way to your awesomeness!
I, too, have said statement #2 but from a different perspective. I looonnnnggg to adopt children from other countries, but as an older, single woman working long hours…it’s just not in the near future. So, sometimes, when people are going overseas, to places where I see pictures of sweet faces I would love to call my own….I say things like that. And maybe it comes across as flippant or hurtful, but I don’t mean it that way AT ALL. It’s more like some strange internal defense mechanism that kicks me in and says this casually because it covers that every other part of that wants to scream and cry, “Please let me go! Please let me somehow be able to call one of these children my son or daughter! Please let it somehow be as easy as ‘put one in your suitcase’ because right now the odds are so stacked against me ever starting, let alone, get through the adoption process that I just need to hold on briefly to the possibility that this can happen without me losing my mind or my heart or my hope.”
A lot of things that are said that we consider “stupid” or “silly” often mask hurts and doubts and longings that should drive us to compassion, not criticism.
Loved this post. I also love what someone said their son says, “I *WAS* adopted.”
I wish there was a sign on could wear on me each time I go out. It’d say something like, “Yes, we look different. Yes, they were Plan A. Yes, I am their real mom.” I get comments and looks that allude to pity as if we “had” to choose the route of adoption. I wish people knew we *got* to enjoy the route of adoption. Don’t pat me on the back for doing a good thing. It’s a privilege.
Was speaking to some ladies at church Sunday about an upcoming mission trip and adoption. I was mentioning another couple I know with multiple children (some adopted some not) and I said “they have one of their own, I mean uh, not own, they are all their own, one that they birthed”
Thanks to this blog for the language it taught me to stay away from!
That’s funny. I actually haven’t heard any of those; although I’m familiar with the first one. The one I hear the most is: You must run a daycare.
I did have one man look down at my youngest son (the only one with me at the time), then look at me strangely, and finally say: He’s black!
That one just made me laugh. I said: Yep! He sure is! LOL
I have had one lady ask: Which ones are adopted? (4 of them look like me, and 3 of them are black) That one kinda bugs me since the kids are all right there. They already know they don’t look like they belong, you don’t have to emphasis it!
1. I noticed that there are many many adoptive parents that at the start can not have kids for some reason, so they adopt. Then suddenly a few years later they are able to have kids.. and have a baby.. that baby is closer to them because blood will always be thicker then water.. I don’t care what anyone says.. it’s a fact. The adopted kids get felt left out, due to feelings.. not what someone may mistakenly say in front of the.
3. I know people that have adopted and they in FACT did pay to adopt them. I know others that have adopted for more money, for the amount of extra money get get in their pockets every month. So you can’t tell me any different.. if you adopted.. then you paid to do it. And, no do not even say that you are loving a child that had no one to love them. What about the Mothers that DO love their children very very much ‘because blood is thicker then water” and the CFS or their parents, or poverty has their kids taken from them. < are you trying to say that no one loves them then. < so that is not true.
4. Adopted kids will always, always have fear of people leaving them, of losing something/someone they love. Even in their adult years they are always in fear of a failed relationship. Relationships are something that do not always work out due to that fear of loss once again. I agree that the person perhaps should not of said that, but I think you will find that your Adopted child will feel that inside as the years go by anyways.
Jolly thanks for commenting. I don’t agree with most of what you said, but I value your opinion and thoughts. It sounds as though you have been hurt somehow through adoption and I’m sorry for whatever happened to you.
I’ll address your comments as much as I can.
1. In our family we didn’t adopt b/c we couldn’t have kids. In fact our first child is biological and then we felt instead of making more babies that God wanted our family to grow through adoption. Scientifically blood may be thicker than water, but not in our family setting. You said you don’t care what anyone says that “it’s a fact” that I will love my biological kid more than the 3 that were adopted. I have to highly disagree with that statement. It is NOT A FACT. I love all four of my children dearly and know that God had a plan for all of their lives to join our family. One through birth and three via adoption.
3. Yes we did pay money to adopt, but I didn’t buy my kids. I encourage you to read this post: http://www.rageagainsttheminivan.com/2011/04/why-does-adoption-cost-so-much-and-why.html – it’s by my friend Kristen who has 2 children via adoption. She sums up my thoughts nicely on this subject.
4. I actually agree with you on this one. I do fear that my 3 children will always feel a loss in their hearts from the loss of their first mother. I will never deny that and in fact we talk very openly about all three of their first moms. Since I am a Christian I can only pray and hope that the hole in their soul (which is the same hole my biological son has) will be filled with Jesus one day. I also know that you don’t have to be an adopted child to feel abandoned. Unfortunately many children live with their biological parents their entire childhood and feel abandoned by them in one way or another.
Again Jolly thanks for your comment. I disagree with your first points, but we do share some of the same thoughts on the last one.
Wow…I know I’m commenting like a year late but I just found this. I’m single so kids are still in the future for me, but I want to adopt kids as much as i want biological ones… comments like these are what I’m afraid of getting! I’m from the south, a lot of my extended fam is very racist, so I’m not looking forward to comments along that line. Maybe by that time God will have broken that curse from our family (as someone said earlier in this conversation)… Thank you Jamie for being the great example that you are to those of us who are following in your footsteps! God bless you and your sweet family!
As a mom of 8 who all came in various ways to be in our family then one I get most is “oh, which ones are yours!?” REALLY!? They are ALL mine! Our children are all of similar ethnic backgrounds so its not “obvious” which have been adopted. But it’s “obvious” there’s a lot of ignorance regarding adoption. It’s funny when I read this post years ago I agreed with your list but now feel the need to add this one. As for “buying” a child .. I have never exchanged money for a child nor have a received money for payment of a child. I understand the need for it but we just didn’t have that as a circumstance and clearly I don’t see an issue with it other than I wish is was a more affordable option for many. Thanks Jamie for the rant time!
As an adopted child (now 32, adopted at birth), I hate it when people say “do you know you’re real parents?” Um, yes. They are are the ones who raised me all my life, thank you very much. Do you mean my birth parents?
Thanks for the post Jamie!
Yeah, we’ve definitely heard these types of comments among others. I think it’s best not to get offended, though, because most people do mean well and don’t understand how to phrase things the best because they’ve never been in our situation or in our kids situation. I heard just as many well-meaning yet hurtful comments after having a miscarriage too. All of us are ignorant to what so many others have gone through and I think it’s best to just shrug it off and offer grace to them, just like we hope others offer grace to us when we don’t understand something. I’ve wrestled with this back and forth also because I know that sometimes our kids (both adopted and bio) do hear these comments but I’ve decided that I can’t shield them from stuff like this. It is something that they will always hear throughout their life not just pertaining to adoption. Better than to try to hide them from it, it is a great opportunity for open and loving dialogue and a great time to reaffirm our love for them and how much they are valued and loved by not only us and their siblings but also by the Lord. In the end, they may even benefit from it as they continue to grow and mature because as much as they will be familiar with how people can be insensitive or hurtful, they will also be sure of how much they are loved and cared for by their families and ultimately by Christ despite that type of talk.