Adoption can be a sensitive subject. Some may even believe that I am not qualified to write this article because I have not faced such hurtful questions by strangers about my children. I am not an adoptive mother.
Though, I have been blessed to receive an education from adoptive families. I also have encountered various adoptive parents who not only corrected me, but helped me understand why the words we use matter. Here are some sentences that adoptive parents would never want to hear again
“Is he your real son?”
This question assumes that an adopted child is somehow inferior to a biological child or that the parent-child relationship is artificial. It’s simple; adopted children are their REAL children. The distinction is offensive.
“Where did you get them?”
This question should not be asked more than asking questions about a baby’s conception. Adoption is a very personal journey. It may be appropriate to let the adoptive parent know that you are curious and that you would like to learn more about the adoption process.
“What happened to her/his mother?”
Adoptive parents are the child’s parents. Asking any question about the child’s biological family without clarifying that you’re asking about the genetic parents assumes that the people caring for and loving that child are somehow not mom and dad. In addition, questions about the biological family should not be introduced lightly, especially in front of the child.
“Is he yours?”
To be forced to point out that the baby you hold in your arms is “yours” is likely to be offensive to a new mother. If she walks like mom, talks like mom, has to spit on her shirt like mom, she’s probably mom. If in doubt, assume that a parenting relationship exists: “Your daughter is so sweet.”
“How much did he cost?”
I am sure we can agree why this is offensive. A child is not a product to buy and sell. Adoption has a cost, yes. Adoptive parents pay for services to facilitate and legalize an adoption.
“She’s so lucky.”
A child was placed for adoption because something about their biological situation was not ideal. Most adoptive parents feel that if their child was lucky, she could have stayed with her birth family. In addition, adoptive parents do not feel like they do their adoptive children a favor by parenting. They are not saviors. In fact, I think most adoptive parents feel like the baby has saved them. From my point of view, both parties are incredibly blessed-luck has nothing to do with it.
Think before you ask someone at Target about their family, especially in front of their children.
What you are asking for is very profound and has implications that you may not have considered. In the right circumstances, most adoptive families are happy to share the blessing of adoption with others through their story. We must have conversations that normalize adoption. Starting this discussion is always a good thing when it is done respectfully.
A statement that will always be welcome?
“You have a gorgeous family.”