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 :)