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My Adopted Child Can Hear You

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Jackie: Before curiosity gets the best of you - take a breath and think about what you're saying.


International adoption has gotten a lot of attention recently with Brad and Angelina regularly expanding their family, and Madonna getting the government go-ahead this week to adopt her son David from Malawi. An article in this week's Newsweek sheds light on the difficulties, sadness, and potential devastation behind international adoption. But the challenges outlined in the article aren't the norm for most adoptive parents. Sometimes, the biggest obstacle is not the adoption itself, but the comments and questions tossed out at parents while they're in the grocery store, at the dry cleaner, or in line at Starbucks. As it takes a village to raise a child, it's the (perhaps unwitting) village idiot who feels compelled to ask stupid questions, not even considering the damage their words can do to an innocent child.

One of our own momlogic Moms is in the process of adopting a baby girl and has already endured the "You're so nice to adopt a kid who's unwanted" and "That's much easier than giving birth" comments. She's now preparing herself for some of the outrageous questions that fellow adoptive parents have been asked by "curious" onlookers like...

• Why didn't his/her real parents want them?
• How much did he/she cost?
• Can't you have kids of your own?
• Watch, you'll get pregnant now and have your own kid.
• There are plenty of American kids who need homes, why did you go there?

Do you want to help someone who's adopting or has already adopted a child? Recognize that, like all new parents, they need support and friendship (and a solo trip to the bathroom)--not judgement. Here are five things you can do to make a difference:

1. Feed them. Like new parents, there are sleepless nights and a period of time where everyone is trying to get to know each other. A warm meal would be a huge help to a transitioning family.

2. Skip the daily reminder. Parents are well aware how their child came to be in their family. There are enough challenges with multi-cultural families without it being pointed out every day.

3. Let them talk. Motherhood is tough regardless of how one becomes a Mom. Adoptive parents sometimes feel afraid to share their struggles or frustrations. Be a good listener--it's the best way to show you care. It is said that 65 percent of Moms who adopt experience some sort of post-adoption depression. Keep your eyes and ears open, and help out where you can.

4. Pop the cork. When new babies are born, everyone lines up to ooh and aah over the newborn. Adoptive families are just as excited about their new addition, and it would be nice if others joined them in the celebration.

5. Give them a break. Whether your friend or sister has adopted and never calls back, or a Mom at school is behind on her bake sale duties, remember, a new child is a big change. Be kind and cut them some slack.

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16 comments so far | Post a comment now
Teresa December 13, 2007, 11:16 AM

Wonderfully written! There is so much more that could be said on this topic, but this is a great eye-opener. Sensitivity is a wonderful thing!

Ally December 13, 2007, 11:36 AM

It seems like it is the words that hurt adoptive families most, and actions that help them. So actions really are louder than words!

Mary December 13, 2007, 11:49 AM

I am 48 year old adoptee. Adoption should be very well thought out. Don’t do it if you are not in it 100% no matter what. A few comments should be the least to be worried about!

Lori December 13, 2007, 1:23 PM

For people who are close to the family taking the older child/ren for a few hours of play would give them a break from the difficult/stressful early days and give the parents time alone with the baby.

SH December 13, 2007, 1:26 PM

Here’s my quick two cents:

1. If it is a question about whether a child is real, real siblings, real child, pretty much anything with the word “real” in it, that’s a rude question.
2. Any references to Chinese or those children being smarter, better behaved, etc are stereotypical racist comments and drive me nuts.
3. “She is so lucky to be in our country and not in China” Actually, no, having her birth family unable to raise her in a healthy home in her birth culture is not lucky, it is a loss and something to grieve.
4. Never, ever make comments about infertility or adoption being a second choice. We chose adoption to start our family and for those people who have dealt with infertility you are being cruel
to make references to it.

Things You Can Do to Help Adoptive Parents

1. If you want to acknowledge how cute/pretty our daughter is that is fine, but also recognize the other children too, not just the one who is Chinese.
2. If you have questions about adoption, call an agency first, and don’t interrupt us at the grocery store/ family event/mall to deal with your curiosity.
3. Don’t assume infertility, we chose adoption to start our family, assuming we have.
4. Really, we are just a family, and want to be treated as such.

Claudia December 13, 2007, 1:27 PM

The number one rudest question - So how much did she cost?

Well, when you consider hospital and doctor bills, childbirth
classes, maternity clothes, and all the food I ate while pregnant
(and believe me, I ate alot), bringing her into our family probably
cost less than it did to have my bio son. What bothers me most about
this question is the implication that I “purchased” her, like a loaf
of bread. No bio child enters a family without considerable expense,
so why do people view adoption fees as paying for a child?

And if it is payment, then I “paid” for my bio son in a shockingly
large sum of caesar salads and cheese in a can. (What can I say? It
was hormones…)

As for complete strangers focusing solely on the “China doll”
standing beside me - my son recently scolded one lady in the
supermarket with “You know, I’m standing right here!” And although
it was slightly rude and not said in a tone that we allow, I couldn’t
bring myself to bust his chops for it.

Donna December 13, 2007, 1:32 PM

I have standard answers to all of these ill-worded questions. I aim to be informative and not confrontational with my responses. Here are a few ideas:

Q: Why didn’t his/her real parents want them?

A: China’s strict family size policies and centuries old preferences for male children make your question very difficult to answer. If you’re really interested, I can recommend some good books for you to read.

Q: How much did he/she cost?

A: Her adoption cost about the same as a hospital birth of a healthy child here in the United States.

Q: Can’t you have kids of your own?

A: Yes, she is “My Own” and I adore her!

Q: Watch, you’ll get pregnant now and have your own kid.

A: Not unless adoption causes my fallopian tubes to grow back together! (my tubes are fine but this answer always makes them think about how personal their question was).

Q: There are plenty of American kids who need homes, why did you go there?

A: (with a big smile:)Really? Where did you get your kids?

Mel December 13, 2007, 9:32 PM

Thanks for writing this! I enjoyed reading it…and *sighing* as I have heard quite a few of these already. I think the next time someone asks the why or how of our adoption decisions, I am going to ask them what position they were in when they conceived their child, LOL! What, too personal?!?!

Kimberly Cavallo December 13, 2007, 10:03 PM

We have adopted 2 beautiful children here in the USA..We are fortunate to of had so much support but thanks for addressing how people can be so rude…Another answer to how could someone give up their child? I say well they could of chosen the easy route and instead they chose to be selfless and give their child to a family that wanted children so bad…people need to remember that adoption is the ultimate gift of giving. I don’t think people realize that the adoption process is just as emotional and challenging if not more than a natural birth.

Bonnie December 20, 2007, 12:52 PM

Adoption is very rewarding. Being proud of it is key to the parents and children’s attitude. Our son is 12 years old and we have heard it all. We also have a 21 year old biological daughter. Both were “miracle” babies to us.

When someone asks about our son’s “mother”, I answer “I am his mother. Do you mean his other mother?”

When someone refers to “real”, I answer, “Pinch me. I promise I’m real.”

Racism is alive and strong in our diverse country. Unfortunately people don’t realize how racist they are when they open their mouths. Teaching our children to love themselves for who they are will go farther than, in your face negativity. Though, there have been times I have had to speak up and speak out.

Phyllis December 20, 2007, 4:03 PM

I think it’s also a good thing to keep in mind that sometimes people ask questions because they want to adopt as well (or they know someone who wants to adopt). Just because they don’t necessarily know the “politically correct” way to word those questions doesn’t mean they are coming from a place of judgment, ignorance, or mockery.

They may just want to get first hand information from someone who has been there (because sometimes social workers sugar coat things a little). Explaining this to our child helps them understand where the other person is coming from as well as teaches the child tolerance, compassion, and patience. It can be a great learning opportunity for everyone involved.

Sheri January 11, 2008, 11:26 PM

While I respect that there are other people out there interested in adoption first-hand, it is inappropriate to stop me at the grocery store in order to do research. There are plenty of resources for prospective adoptive parents and I would be happy to talk to people about it at the right time and place - not directly in front of my child and not when I just need to get milk and not educate others.

One last thing - if I were deciding on dying my hair and saw a woman with the color I wanted to go with, is it appropriate to stop her and question her about her choice of hair color? I know it’s not the same but one thing remains, it’s personal and not something that should be asked about by strangers in public.

Phyllis January 12, 2008, 1:57 PM

Hi Sherri,

I’m sorry you are so angry.

Take care,

Misty September 4, 2008, 3:14 PM

Thanks for all your comments, I can’t wait to use the line - “Really, where did you get your kids?” My daughter has been with us for one year now and I have heard all of this as well, much of it as soon as people found out we are adopting. I try to be kind and give people as much info as I can - to promote adoption (I was adopted too). But really people, when a child can hear what your saying, think before you say it under any circiumstance. I think my daughter is the best thing that has ever happened to me, she has made me a better person. You bet I’m her real mom - I have been pooped on, peed on,puked on, etc. I have lived on a few hours of sleep for weeks at a time. I have cried over her aches and pains I can’t fix. I have soothed away her tears. And I will be happy to do all of those things for her, until the day I die.

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