Monday, September 29, 2008

"When Do/Don't You Talk About Adoption Post-Placement?"

This was a question posted on a Message Board I frequent. The OP's actual question was:
"At what point do you talk about adoption with strangers? And do you do so more if your child looks nothing like you (where it might be obvious or more obvious that he/she is adopted)? I'm a TMI kind of girl if someone says to me 'I like your necklace!' I'll respond, 'Thanks! I wanted it for so long! Then I found it in Clearance at Macy's for just $5! And it's Tommy H!' I just get excited and I'm a really open person.... I don't want to transfer this to adoption b/c I don't [want] to just scream 'adoption' all the time.... Thoughts?"
I was a little disheartened that some AP's suggested that they don't bring up their child's adoption with strangers at all, while others fear they do so maybe too much; some just say "Thank you" when receiving comments about how good they look for just having had their baby; others answer "Yes" when asked if their baby has his/her Daddy's eyes; still others even answer "Yep" when asked if they had a lot of heartburn while pregnant because their baby has so much hair. Their responses were well-intentioned, as most of these AP's were concerned that talking about their child's adoption too much would label them or would take away from them sharing their OWN adoption story. But after reading SO many of these same responses professing that they had no intention of denying their child's adoption, but rather were protecting their CHILD, it became more and more concerning to me that some AP's seemingly appeared to ENJOY receiving credit for having created their child! After so many of these same responses I finally jumped in as an adoptee and posted the following:
I think from the perspective of the adoptee it's better to be open and honest. I don't mean you tell your child's entire story to perfect strangers, as it IS your child's story to tell. I mean that when someone comments on how good you look for just having had a baby or on the amount of heartburn you experienced because of all the baby's hair, it's perfectly appropriate to inform that person your child was adopted. You see, to just say "thank you" or "yup" in response does the exact opposite of what you are trying to convey. It DOES come across as trying to cover the fact that your child was adopted. I believe you can simply answer with "Thank you. That's very kind. Honestly, we welcomed our child into our home ____ months ago through adoption, and we feel so blessed that he/she is a part of our family." Simple, polite, to-the-point, HONEST. That's all that needs to be said.

I understand and respect the concern of labeling your child as adopted by sharing with everyone that he/she is in fact adopted. But really, the label concern comes in when you introduce your child as "this is my adopted child _____" or when you wish to receive accolades for your sacrifice and kind-heartedness in bringing someone else's child into your home (not that I believe ANYONE here hopes for such commendations...I know just the opposite is true).

Here's some personal experience....
~First, my parents never directly spoke to me about being adopted until, at 7 years old, I overheard my Mom telling a postal worker about my adoption. Imagine the confusion and sadness I felt at overhearing my story being told to someone not even directly connected to our family (we lived in a small town, so it was likely my Mom knew this postal worker as more than just an acquaintance, but still....). I cannot remember any discussions taking place, even after that, until I was 16, and even then it wasn't exactly an "open for discussion" kind of talk. More of an "I'm sharing with you all we know so don't bother asking anymore" type of talk (just the impression I got).
~Second, from as early as I can remember, even after learning I was adopted, the response we gave when people asked where I got my red hair was "from God." When a car salesman commented that he knew where I got my good looks my Mom and I just looked at each other and rolled our eyes. That moment was SO awkward for me because I felt that we were hiding something with which I should have felt comfortable and at peace. And sure...I was 17 or 18 years old then...I COULD have made my own decision to say something to him, but because my Mom and Dad never shared that info with people it made me uncomfortable to do so in their presence, out of fear of hurting them. I never felt it WAS my story to share. I felt it was my parent's pain and sadness of infertility that I had to help hide.

So, basically, by being honest even with those unsolicited, off-the-cuff, sometimes rude, "none of their business" type comments, you are showing your child that it's OK to talk and be honest about how he/she joined the family. I believe it better to start off with sharing that your child is adopted and THEN allow your child, as he/she gets older, to decide if it's something he/she wants shared with anyone who asks. So often we say that it's our child's story to tell, but if our child doesn't know, from example, that it's OK to share their story, then it becomes a family secret that your child feels uncomfortable and even embarrassed sharing. Honesty, on the parent's part, from the beginning, removes the burden of secrecy from the child.
As is usually the case when I respond to an AP's thread wearing my adoptee hat, there were only a couple direct responses to me before the thread sort of fizzled out. Oh least I offered my $.02 and while people might not respond hopefully they at least read my thoughts!

1 comment:

Litany said...

I know how you feel but from the other side of situation. Giving a child up for adoption is a very hard topic to bring up when women are talking about pregnancy and children. Even though you've had a child you are only allowed to talk about it after you have made it clear why you don't have one hanging from your arms. It is my story to share but not everyone wants to hear it. On the other hand, his mother wants to shout it from the mountain tops and I simply adore her for that! Why is it that adoption is just as bad as the A word?... I just don't know.