My 14 year old has become an indignant defender of positive adoption language. Of course this tickles me to death. The best part is that she is actually quite fearless in whom she will take on in this debate. Check out the situations she has found herself in just during middle school.
Teacher Situation #1:
In a Health class the teacher was discussing genetics. At one point in the discussion the teacher actually said conversationally, “So when you see a grown up of one race walking down the sidewalk with a child of another race you know that that is not the child’s real parent.” My child bristled at the comment and immediately raised her hand. When called on she stated that the parent in the scenario could be the adoptive parent. The teacher dug her hole deeper stating that she was talking about how you could tell the parent was not the real or genetic parent but that indeed they might be the adoptive parent. My child raised her hand again and pointed out that her big sister was adopted and that she was her REAL sister and we were her REAL parents but that her big sister did have a different biological beginning in life. She suggested that some people call this “birth parents.” She also added that our family refers to the woman who gave birth to her sister as her “birth giver.” The teacher answered my daughter in a short and somewhat irritated way and basically told her she was off the subject of genetics. Sigh.
Teacher Situation #2
The teacher in a different class asked the students to come in each day and respond to a journal question. On this particular day the journal question was….”If you just found out today that you were adopted would you want to meet your REAL parents?” Again my child raised her hand. “Do you mean would you like to meet your biological parents? Because adoptive families are REAL families.” This teacher also quickly diverted my daughter back to the task at hand and basically dismissed her concern. Sigh again. (You’ll be glad to know that at this point Heart of the Matter Seminars offered to do some staff training on inclusive language (for adoption and other situations) for the school and they graciously accepted.
Peer Situation #1
Just last week a girl in one of my daughter’s classes told a group of students that she had been adopted as a baby and had not met her REAL parents. My kiddo began in again without hesitation. (This surprised me even more than her taking on the teachers.) She said, “Yes you have. Your parents who love you and take care of you every day are REAL parents. I think you mean your biological parents or your birthgiver.” Of course in the teen world this met with a “whatever” response from her classmate. Even so, when my daughter told me about it I couldn’t help but think that this girl might later process what had been said and gain something from it.
I have to admit that it doesn’t surprises me but it does dismay me how much bad adoption language and reference is still out there. At Heart of the Matter Seminars we have long believed that this kind of language only helps to create more adoption angst for adoptees. When they are trying to figure out who they are and deal with the real challenges that can come with being adopted, the rest of the world is out there with that bad adoption language just intensifying that angst they feel. If they are listening to the kinds of adoption language referenced above they are encouraged to feel that they aren’t even part of a REAL family.
And don’t think we hide from talking openly about adoption with our kids either. Far from it. If we did I doubt my daughter (or other two children) would have the words they needed to defend or even know what they thought about such topics. We have always told all of our children’s stories openly and proudly (birth and adoption). We acknowledge and respect the way each of our children came to be part of our family. Also important we have strongly claimed not only the children themselves as our own, but our title as parent—Mom—Dad— Mother —Father —Sister— Brother—etc. as our own as well.
If you are part of an adoptive family stop reading and reach out with one hand to touch your other hand. Squeeze. You are real! You are not a figment of anyone’s imagination. You are not pretend. You are not a fantasy. Your family is real as well. Make sure you take the time to teach your own family positive adoption language and that you challenge negative adoption language or reference when you hear it.
Tags: adoption, adoption and school, adoption angst, adoption education, adoption is real, adoption language, adoptive families are real, Adoptive Parenting, claiming, international adoption, new adoptive parents, politics of adoption, positive adoption language, talking about adoption