Sunday, April 20, 2008

Adoption Etiquette

On a more serious note, I decided to write a bit about talking about adoption with adoptive families. This comes from several comments I've received from well intentioned friends or family concerning what to say or what not to say. I must preface this with the warning that this advice is my opinion as an adoptive mom only. I can not speak for all adoptive families but will give you the truth according to my personal preferences.

Tip 1: Asking if a child is adopted does not offend me (again that is personal, others might feel differently). Asking where my child's real mother is, is offensive. Are those your real breasts? Also, don't introduce my family as Dave, Justice, and their adopted son. This is John, Mary, and their C-section twins!

Tip 2: Don't pretend my child looks like me. First of all, my child is African-American and Puerto Rican, with curly black hair and brown eyes. I am white with blonde hair and blue eyes. My husband is covered in freckles. There's no way he came from us. We don't pretend he did, so you don't have to either. We do like to talk about his looks and heritage because we have a deep appreciation for all the parts of who he is. We love to collect Puerto Rican recipes and ideas for hair and skin care. We don't, however, like to hear any stereotypes about his heritage or anyone else's. Are you a drinker because you are Irish? Or in the Mafia because you are Italian?

Tip 3: Asking questions about the adoption is okay, usually. Where, when, how, are good questions to ask. Asking personal health questions is not okay, unless you are a close friend or family. I am not going to tell a virtual stranger about my son's birthparent's healthy history. We are proud of our decision to adopt and our experience with our son. We love to brag about him and more than just the fact that he is adopted. He is a remarkable kid with many gifts to offer. There have been challenges along the way and we are happy to talk about them with people who are invested in our lives, not with those we have just met, no offense. Does your daughter have a milk allergy because she wasn't breastfed? Does your son have asthma because you sat in the smoking section of a restaurant once?

Tip 4: Phrases we don't use: give away (as in why did she give him away?)
real mom or dad - substitute "birthmom" or "birthdad"
of your own (as in are you going to have a child of your own?) duh, we have one of our own, by love and law. Substitute - "biological child"

Tip 5: If you have a question about if something is okay to talk about, just ask. It doesn't bother me if you ask what the right terminology is or if it is offensive to talk about something. I will tell you honestly and have more respect for you because of it.

Tip 6: This is a big one. Don't, don't, don't make jokes, even if they are really really funny, about my son's birth culture, birth parents, disabilities, race, or otherwise. Even if it is not directed at him, if it is about his culture in anyway, it is offensive! Because Mateo is in our family, so is his culture and ethnic identity, and because we love him so much, we also must love his culture. So please, as harmless as it seems, don't make ethnic jokes. This may seem obvious but I have actually heard offensive jokes about my son's ethnicity in my own circle of friends. So just think before you speak.

I hope this helps some people to connect with families that have adopted. I know it's hard to talk about some of these things honestly with people. We don't want to offend one another. But to me, it shows people care when they ask about my son and allow me to talk about him. Just like any other mom. If you are overstepping what I feel is appropriate, I will tell you that the topic is too personal for me to share. It's as easy as that, so don't be afraid.

I love this T-shirt! It says, "I tried to be good, but I got bored"

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