The Language of Adoption

Recently there has been a video that has gone viral titled “If you wouldn’t say it about a boob job…”

Basically it is a video saying that if you wouldn’t say something about a boob job, you shouldn’t say it to an adoptive parent. There has been a little bit of backlash towards the video from some adult adoptees, but I for one see the video for what it is: A funny, gimmicky way to bring to light the importance of adoption language.

I grew up around adoption so for me these “rules” weren’t exactly new once we became adoptive parents. I won’t say I was perfect and haven’t said anything stupid in my life, but I have been more aware than most about what you should and shouldn’t say when it comes to these circumstances. Mostly it comes down to ignorance. A lot of people just are not surrounded or familiar with adoption so they do not know any better. That is why I liked the video, it promotes education.

For the most part we have not encountered too many instances where people have said the wrong thing. Overall the response to Muppet has been extremely positive. However people aren’t perfect. The biggest offender is when people ask about Muppet’s “Mom”. They are almost always referring to A and that hurts. By asking about A in this manner it makes me feel like I will never be Muppet’s “real” mom. That I am always going to be the pretender or stand in.

This isn’t the case though, and I know it. I AM Muppet’s real mom. I always will be. This in no way diminishes A’s role in her life, she created this little creature. That is not a little or insignificant thing. But despite that she chose me to be Muppet’s mom. Now I have no problem with people mentioning A. She is and always will be a huge part of our life. The correct way to mention her though is to call her Muppet’s Birth-Mom. That is what she is.

I understand that people don’t automatically know this though. I know most people are not wanting to hurt or offend me, they just don’t know any better. For my family it has come very easy, not only because they are surrounded by adoption as well but also because they are concerned and aware of my feelings. J’s family however, has never been around adoption so this is a whole new experience for them. My mother-in-law is a wonderful, kind-hearted woman but she is one of the biggest offenders. I know by asking questions about A she is just trying to be involved and understand what we have gone through, but she always refers to her as Muppet’s mom. I’ve mentioned this to J and he has offered to talk to her about it but so far I’ve declined. I know that if she knew that her language has hurt me she would feel just awful and I really don’t want to cause an issue. So I’ve tried to correct her language by calling A “birth-mom” whenever she is mentioned. I’m hoping in time this will correct itself.

When Muppet was about 3 months old we started attending a Mommy and Me Music class. It goes without saying that she was the only non-caucasian person there. But people were awesome and very accepting. Towards the end of the class I struck up a conversation with another mom. We were getting along well and she finally got up the courage to ask the question that I’m sure had been plaguing her all class. “So, um, is she…? I mean is your husband…?”. Part of me wanted to wait for her to finish her question but she was clearly feeling embarrassed. A lot of people assume when they see Muppet and me together that my husband is black. I decided to put the poor girl out of her misery and told her Muppet was adopted. Relief flooded her face and she gained 10 respect points by asking me what was the proper way was to ask that question. I love when people try to learn from their mistakes.

I of course can’t speak for all adoptive parents but I personally have no problem when people ask me if Muppet is adopted. I mean, it isn’t like I don’t know. I would much rather people ask me than stare at us. My daughter is not a an object to be examined, but a person who deserves respect even though she is only 8 months old. And we are a family. We may be a little different from the typical family but that does not change the fact that we are human beings who have feelings. So I would encourage anyone who has someone who has adopted in their lives to really think about their words and how you would feel if someone said them about your child. I don’t ever want to make people feel bad if they happen to say one of the inappropriate boob job statements but I want to inform them on what it feels like to be on the other end of the statements. Adoption language is important people. Just as important as infertility language.

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5 Comments

Filed under adoption, Baby Girl, Birth Mom, Motherhood, People suck, Trans-racial adoption

5 responses to “The Language of Adoption

  1. I know what you mean. My children are adopted. Blessings to you.

  2. I’ve seen this on the other side too. I have a gf with a bi-racial baby who is always asked if her child is adopted (her dad is black) rather than about her father.

  3. This is great Trisha! And I really agree, I think adoption language is a lot like infertility language, until you’re around it, you just don’t know. We’d all like to assume that everyone knows it’s rude to ask “when are you going to have kids?” just as it’s rude to ask, “is she real?”, but the truth is, people don’t. We all assume that we are excellent communicators while in fact we aren’t (umm, hello marital disputes). I’m sure most of the questions directed at adoptive families aren’t intended to be hurtful, the people just don’t know how to ask the question (or whether they should). I loved the video for that reason too… such a great, humorous way to bring attention to this topic. I’m glad to hear that things are going well for you and Muppet with your families… I know that the family interaction with aunts, uncles, grandparents, ect is one of my biggest fears with adoption, so I’m glad to hear it’s working out well for you!

  4. Ohmygosh! OK so I may not be an adoptive parent, but that video was hysterical! And seems spot on 🙂

    I’m sorry you have to struggle with this. It’s like you were thrown out of the pot and into the fire. But you are a blessing by sharing this info with others!

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