Wednesday, September 29, 2010

I Didn't Know

To my family and friends not in the adoption community:

There are some words and phrases that I recently found out are offensive to a lot of adoptive parents.  Most of them, when you hear the reason behind them, actually make sense.  Not that I'll be offended, as the queen of foot in her mouth I don't have the right to be easily offended, but they could unintentionally harm my daughter whom I know you will love and never choose to hurt.  Therefore, I thought I would let you know what these phrases are and help you understand why they are problematic.  I know I haven't learned everything, so there might be some more phrases later. 

Adopt-a-Programs (like at the zoo or a Highway)--This one really surprised me, and I remember actually feeling a little sad when our zoo changed their adoption program to sponsor an animal.  However, there are actually two problems with it--it implies children are animals, like the ones in the zoo, and it says adoption is not permanent.   As an adult it seems obvious that they are not the same, but children are very literal.  While my children think they know all about adoption since we have been talking about it for 5 years, many children have only heard the term when Grandma adopted an elephant at the zoo for them.  Next year she chose a giraffe.  There are stories of children being treated badly by other kids calling them animals or adopted children thinking they could be sent back for a new child because of these misconceptions.  I can totally buy this reasoning because I had the opposite problem--believing Adopt-a-Programs are permanent.  I have never adopted an animal because I just don't know how long penguins, whales, and tigers live, and forget about a Highway--roads are around forever! 

"You are so lucky"--First, I believe in Divine Providence so luck has nothing to do with it, but more importantly, an adopted child is not lucky.  It was not lucky that she lost her original parents, her birth country, and her birth language and culture.  Every child should be raised by her original family, when that cannot happen, the reasons are always sad, not lucky.  Adoption is a bandage over a growing problem, but it is not a lucky thing.  

"Where did you get her?"--Now if you actually know us you know perfectly well we have spent the last 5 years in the process of adopting from China.  That won't change.  However, possibly you see another family who appears to have adopted a child from Asia, and you want to connect us with them.  Thank you.  I want to connect with them, too.  However, the word "get" implies possession and turns the child into an object, an accessory, rather than a child with real feelings and the ability to hear what was not intended.  One could possibly say, "I have a friend who adopted from China, I was wondering what is your daughter's/son's country of origin/ethnicity?"  Of course make sure not to assume adoption--most Asian children still actually have Asian parents.

Which leads to: "Gotcha Day"--now this one isn't 100% banned in adoption communities.  My agency still uses it.  However, since the word Got does have implications, and my friend said her brother who was adopted expressed similar dislike of the word, I am choosing not to use this term.  Gotcha Day is the day when you actually go to pick up your child.  It is a day that needs to be celebrated.  Two alternatives that have been offered are "Metcha Day" and "Forever Family Day."  I think we'll go with "Metcha Day" basically because it is much easier to say than "Forever Family Day."  (Plus some are opposed to the phrase Forever Family, but since I haven't figured out why yet I'm not going to address this in this post.) 

Your Adopted Child--People sometimes introduce families by listing the childrens' names--for example: Huckleberry, SnapDragon, Sunflower, and Sweet Pea who is adopted, or Cedar's adopted daughter, Sweet Pea.  Family and friends usually say this with pride, but not all people view adoption as positive.  The media is often reporting stories of families murdered by their adopted son.  More importantly, it sets the child apart, constantly apart.  Yes, I know we are adopting from China.  The fact of her adoption with be constantly obvious, but words have a lot more power than we give them credit.  Please introduce Sweet Pea as my daughter Sweet Pea.

There are a few more phrases like "Meant to Be" and "You should be grateful" that I would also like you to avoid using with my child, but they deserve a lot more depth and I am not ready to write it yet.

There was one more phrase, "How much did she cost?" that I planned to address in this post (we do not buy babies, we pay for adoption costs), however, this daddy's post addresses it and other additional phrases much more clearly than I can.

Thank you for being willing to become educated on "adoption issues" for the sake of my child.  Our whole family appreciates it. 

1 comment:

a Tonggu Momma said...

We use metcha day, too! And yeah, there is a STEEP learning curve in adoption parenting. I didn't know what I didn't know when we began the process seven years ago. Thank goodness most people are kind and/or have a sense of humor. *grin*