Saturday, November 15, 2008

Two Posts in Two Days!

I'm up at school right now, sitting in my little office waiting to see if any students decide to actually show up for their appointments. This Fall, it's been insanely busy, and I usually end up staying late (on my own time).

Today, though, I've only worked with one student. I'm not used to this kind of down time anymore, but trust me, I'm not complaining!

I've been working on cleaning out my e-mail a bit. I feel too drained to respond to anyone right now (sorry everyone!), but I did get to go through and read my Baby Center and AdoptionWeek newsletters.

I spent quite a bit of time on several adoption sites, including a birth mothers' forum. It's interesting and enlightening to read their thoughts and concerns. I also spent time reading postings on the adoptive parents' forum, and I'm not sure if I've ever been on the adoptees' forum, but I'll have to do that at some point.

Adopting a child is a huge resposibility, even more than raising a biological child. (Don't think I'm saying that raising any child is easy--I know better than that!)

With Steven, and soon with his baby sister, I have so many extra things to consider. What do I tell them about their birthmother? How do I tell them? How do I raise them to be strong black children when the majority of our little world is white? What can I do to change that? How do I respond to other people's reactions?

I could choose to ignore all these things and live life "color blind," but I won't. I certainly don't have answers to all these questions, and I'm not even sure how I got here :) Don't worry, I'll address these sometime in the future, and several of them I've addressed in the past.

My intent for this post is to raise more awareness about the words we use and the connotations they have.

There are certain terms that have been used for years, ones that I've used in the past too. However, as I've researched this out, I've become much more aware of my word choice and have changed what I say accordingly.

The majority of the people who say these things do so because it's what they've always heard, not because they are being derogatory or demeaning. Don't think I'm sitting here thinking of anyone specifically when I'm saying this!

There are two terms/phrases that really bother me and they are "real or natural parents" and "gave up or gave away."

Steven doesn't have both real and fake parents--he instead has two set of parents. One set is his biological (or first) parents. The other set is his adoptive parents. I haven't really had anyone use the term "real parents" with me, but a lot of people use the term "natural parents" or "natural children." It's generally said when the person is trying to be correct by avoiding the term "real." For example, when people are sharing a story, they will often say that a friend had two natural children before adopting. Instead it should be that they had two biological children before adopting. One word different, but it makes a big difference.

The other term is "give up or give away for adoption." Steven's birthmother chose adoption for Steven. Yes, she did give up her rights to him, but she didn't just give him away. Steven's birthmother made a very conscious choice for him.

The opposite of this is "keeping" a child. Steven is not his birthmother's first child. It drives me crazy when people ask if she "gave the others up/away too." I always respond that she chose to parent them but chose us to parent Steven. Again, a small difference in wording but two completely different connotations.

I know that some people think that some of us just liked to get all worked up over nothing, but it really isn't nothing. I don't want Steven to hear anyone say that his birthmother gave him away or that I'm not his real mother. It's just not true.

For other adoptive parents, have you had any comments like these, and if so, how did you handle them?

I'm interested in hearing other people's thoughts and experiences, whether first hand or not, but I've also added comment moderation to my blog :)



Megan said...

I hear what you're saying about the terms you mentioned. I don't know that I completely agree with you though.

I feel that our society is finding fault where no fault is meant. We're becoming very legalistic in how things should be said etc. I feel that it's impossible to please everyone by using the exact terms they prefer. (I'm speaking of more than just the terms you addressed).

I understand that I am not experiencing adoption and all that comes with it as you are so I have a different perspective, which I admit, might be wrong.

However, my husband lost his biological dad (whom he usually refers to as his first dad) when he was one. His mother remarried within a year and although he was never officially adopted, he has always referred to his second dad as just "Dad". When I speak of his first dad, I am usually just looking for a term to distinguish between both of his dads. He has never found any terms I've used offensive. I know I've used the term "real dad" in the past. I don't think that implies that his second dad is a "fake" dad.

So, all this to say, I respectfully disagree with you. I prefer not to worry about the words people use unless I know offense was meant to begin with or it's a known derogatory term. I hope I made sense and didn't offend. I respect you and all the challenges and differences that adoption brings.

I think Steven and Taeya would have great fun getting into trouble together. hehehe

Earl's Family said...

Well, because Baby T is most likely Half-hispanic (darker skin, but not EXTREMELY noticable), I am wondering if we will get these kinds of comments? Most people think he is my second biological unless I choose to inform them. I do agree that we have to be careful in what we say, however. It is amazing the insensitivity that is shown in so many comments. I have gotten so MANY of those dealing with our secondary infertility. And you are correct, people mostly do not do it out of malice, but it does feel like an attack. The ONE time that I addressed an insensitive comment (and I had given myself time to cool down because boy, was I inflamed), it blew up in my really did. I got told by an authority figure that I was "hearing things through my emotional filter," and even heard this line. "How DARE you say that you are upset because you can not have any more children when you have a beautiful daughter. That is completely selfish of you." (I amde myself so mad and sobbed my eyes out in front of him ).....I mean, this is not the same thing as hearing comments about adoption and "real" children etc., but it at least addresses how some people think. I am interested in other comments you may get on this blog and what people say. I am usually "too nice." and just don;'t say anything at all....and because of this past conversation, it has scared me off. I am not normally bold anyway, and when something like this happens.....I don't know. But, I whole-heartedly agree with your views. Thanks for sharing them. I have to say that I am thrilled to see your ticker at the top of the page announcing your "baby girl!" :)

Pam said...

This type of language has always been very frustrating to me, also, and I'm glad God has put you in a position to educate more people about their words sound! Years ago when I began working at a CPC, we taught all our counselors how important their choice of wording was. As you say, small changes in wording but they signify a huge difference in perspective. I personally counseled many young women who did not think of adoption as a viable option because they just couldn't imagine "giving away" their own flesh and blood. One young lady even said she would rather abort her baby then give it to strangers. Um, what???? So I agree this is a very important distinction. May God give you grace as you continually educate those you come in contact with.

Sarah said...

Thanks for sharing. It gives one a lot to think about.