Friday, January 20, 2012

To say or not to say ("he's adopted").....that is the question....

D looks enough like my husband and me that I don't often get people asking if he's adopted.  But, that jet black hair is the one kicker.  The look at John...they look at me...and they just know that genetically it is unlikely that two people with brown hair will produce a child with such beautiful jet black hair.  So, then the conversation gently turns to "wow, he has some great hair!  What's his ethnicity?"  or "where did he get that black hair?" or, if I'm alone with him, they will ask if his father has black hair.  Which then leads me to usually tell them that he's adopted.  Now, don't get me wrong.  I don't have a problem with telling people.  I'm proud of it.  I couldn't love D any more if I'd birthed him myself, so I don't mind sharing my story.  But recently, I heard another adult adoptee say how he didn't want his mother talking about all the time.  He didn't want it pointed out, and he felt it was his story to tell when he wanted to.  Which has led me to ponder the whole issue again.  I don't want D to feel that it's something to be ashamed of, but on the other hand, I don't want to spend his whole life pointing it out to people, when maybe he just doesn't want it to be brought up all the time.  Maybe he just wants people to think more about the fact that we're a family and not just an adoptive family.  I don't know the answer.  I guess as he grows older, I will let him have a say in that.  It's hard to figure out how to answer questions sometimes without explaining it.  People are just curious, and that's okay.  I've tried to just give general answers, but at some point, you have to just say what it is, or you have to lie or say you don't want to discuss it, which I think is much worse, since it makes it sound like there is something to be ashamed of.  I'm sure this is something we'll be sorting out for awhile.  And as we look to add a second (and hopefully a third) child to our family, I think it may get a little more complicated sorting through how each child feels about their adoption and how much of their story they want everyone to know about.  I don't want him to feel like a conversation piece, as much as I do love sharing the story with people.  But I have to remember he's not just the subject of an incredible story, he's a person with feelings and thoughts and a history that already includes some pain, even if he doesn't understand it all just yet.

6 comments:

  1. Both of our children were told they were adopted before they knew what it meant. As they grow older, the questions get more complicated, but that's just a sign they are using their brains. The topic comes up a few times a year.

    With technology and electronics secrets are getting harder to keep. We were comfortable enough with the situation to discuss it honestly with them. Guess the trick is to keep the conversations age appropriate. We only speak of the positives, in respect to the birth parents. Do what you know is right in your situation and the kids will respect you for it. Try to be something your not and they will see right you.

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  2. Thanks for your thoughts. We are definitely open about it with our son, and really with everyone, which is what really made me stop and think when my friend, who was adopted, voiced his thoughts about how he didn't want his parents talking about it all the time. He wanted to tell people when he was ready, and not always have people talking about it. I had never thought of it from his perspective of wanting to just be a family and not have adoption being talked about all the time. It was an interesting insight. We've always just talked about it because it's been such a long and crazy process, but I saw his side, too. It made me think about it a little more, and maybe I'll just have that discussion when it's appropriate. I just don't want my son to feel like he's being pointed out all the time as being adopted, when maybe he just wants to be a family and not focus on that aspect of it. It was a thought-provoking conversation.

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  3. I found that I referred to Emily's adoption in conversation much more when she was younger, but less now that she's older. In an article I read about using positive adoption language, it suggested saying a child 'was adopted' instead of 'is adopted' in order to keep the adoption an event instead of an identity. That has become important to me as I talk about it with Emily and others. It's not who she is, it's how she joined our family. She's not 'our adopted daughter' she is 'our daughter who was adopted'. I hope that makes sense, because it has helped me gain perspective into the issue of adoption not being less than, but different. I'm so glad you posted about this because it made me aware that in the future I'll need to recognize Emily's feelings on her adoption being discussed with others. So far she has been completely comfortable with it and even talks about it with my mom. She even corrected her older cousin who thought that I grew her in my tummy :)

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  4. Thanks Heidi! I love the idea of the adoption being past tense, and also to focus on it being the way she joined the family and how she is. I'm sure different kids will feel differently, so maybe my friend was in the minority in not wanting to be discussed, but it was a different point of view I hadn't considered. It did make me think a little more about Dylan's feelings in it being discussed with others, and I am glad, because I want to be aware of how that comes across, too. It's all a learning process! I love that Emily correct a cousin. I think that says that she is comfortable with the topic, which I think is really great.

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  5. Heidi, I love your idea to talk about it in the past tense. That makes so much sense! It's what I think I normally do anyways, but I will definitely make a conscious effort to do it from now on.

    It's definitely true that every child is different, and I believe it's best to take every child on a case to case basis. My boyfriend doesn't mind that he was adopted, he's never wanted to meet his biological parents, he doesn't mind when people ask questions or make jokes about it, and he's never felt like he was different or unwanted. His sister, who grew up in the same exact household with the same exact parents plans to find her bio parents as soon as she turns 21, and talks often about where she might have gotten her features from and makes passing comments like "even though you're not my real parents." it's amazing how different the experience can be for every child!

    Also, I just want to tell you how much I LOVE your blog! It's given me so much insight and things to ponder; I can't wait to read more!

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