|The Hendricks Clan|
"Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me."
Did you grow up hearing that adage? I don't think I reached age ten before I realized how false that saying is. The scars of sticks and stones heal with time.
The scars of hurtful words? Many of us will take our share of those scars to our graves.
If you have adopted, you've heard your share of ill-timed/insensitive questions and comments. Many will come from the lips of perfect strangers. This can be annoying, but in the end, feels rather harmless. Yet sometimes the offenses come from the people closest to us -- parents, grandparents, siblings, long-time friends.
Some of those words have left scars on your soul. And maybe on the souls of your child.
This post is not only for those of us that have adopted. This post is for our family members, our close friends, our fellow church and community members. This post is for our loved ones who may be very happy for us, but curious as well. This post is for those who have questions, but don't know how to pose them in a politically-correct manner.
Here's a list of Things Not to Say to Adoptive Parents:
1. Can't you have your own?
Now there's two problems with this question. First of all, the word "own". When I gave birth to my two biological children, they were my own. When I adopted my other two children, they likewise became my own. All of my children are my "own."
Secondly, this question implies that I have adopted as a second-best, alternative option. Now, while many people adopt after suffering from infertility (I suffered from a secondary-infertility), adoption still isn't a second-class method of having children. I personally like to call adoption, "God's Beautiful Plan A."
2. Which ones are your natural children?
Personally, I don't mind when people ask which of my children are adopted, and which are biological. I sometimes play a game, and have them guess which ones. This is specifically fun with my family, because my biological children have red hair, unlike myself and my husband.
However, I despise the word "natural." Natural implies that adoption is "unnatural." All of my children are natural children. Two just happen to have been adopted, while the other two are biological.
3. Do you know anything about his/her real parents?
I am my children's real mother. I feed them everyday. I help them with their homework. I tuck them in bed at night. Trust me. I'm their real mother.
However, I have talked to my children about their birthparents. They know they grew inside another woman's tummy. It's no secret around our household. But we have learned to use the right vocabulary to discuss our family's history.
And, on that subject, let me add that we have to be very careful about asking personal questions. Some adoptions have very troubling circumstances surrounding them. Anyone outside the immediate family must be very sensitive when asking questions, and truly understand if parents are unwilling to answer them. Many times we withhold information that we wouldn't want our children to know until we're ready to tell them.
4. What's the child's health background?
Again, this is a very sensitive issue. Sometimes, especially in the case of international adoption, adoptive parents may know very little about our children's background. Sometimes we know a lot, but don't feel comfortable revealing those issues. Our children might have mental illness, drug abuse or disabilities in their family history.
But guess what? So do our biological children!
5. Why didn't you just adopt from fill in the blank?
When my husband and I adopted our son Christian from Russia, an older family-friend said, "With all the Black children in the United States that need to be adopted, why would you go all the way to Russia to adopt?"
Now how in the world do you respond to a question like that?
I shared that my husband and I didn't pick my son. God picked him for us. We opened our hearts to the Lord's will in the area of adoption, and He chose to lead us to a little two-year-old boy in a Russian orphanage.
But even though I had a ready answer for this lady, I was offended. Why not adopt from Russia? Are international adoptions only for Caucasian people?
If you've adopted transracially, you've probably gotten some variation of this question. Why go halfway around the world for a child, when there's such a need here? Why adopt from China? Why adopt an African American child, when you're Caucasian?
Well, your answer may be similar to ours. My husband and I didn't set out to save the world. We just wanted the child that God had hand-picked for our family. That child just happened to be all the way in Moscow, Russia.
Praise God we found him.
And I'm sure you feel the same way about your precious ones. Our children are gifts to us, no matter how they came to us. No matter where they were born. No matter what circumstances brought them into our families.
And that's all we really want our loved ones to know.