“How much did he cost?”
“Where are his real parents?”
“He is so lucky to have you.”
“Why did his birthparents not want him?”
These are just a few of the many comments that I many adoptive families hear on a regular basis. I believe most offensive comments are made out of ignorance and not intended to be hurtful. But they do hurt, and can feel like a punch in the gut.
Many people harbor misconceptions about adoption, and those misconceptions can be hurtful. Here are a few positive ways in which you can respond during those times when you are offended by the way someone asks about, speaks about, or portrays adoption.
You are with a family member and they ask you how much you paid for your baby. You can take this time to explain that you didn’t “buy” your baby, just like biological parents didn’t buy their baby when they paid their medical hospital bills. If the individual continues, you can politely say that you do not wish to discuss your finances with them.
Your child comes home from school one day and tells you that one of her classmates asked why she doesn’t look like her mom and dad. This is a great time to speak to your child’s teacher and offer to come into the classroom to explain adoption at an age-appropriate level. There are many resources available online that offer tools for educators and parents on how to address adoption issues in the classroom.
Write a letter.
If a movie or television show with a negative adoptive message is released, you could write a letter to the television and/or movie company firmly but politely stating why you feel that the show or movie was negative portrayed adoption in an inaccurate, negative way. Request that the producers consider rethinking their representations of adoption.
A stranger approaches you and asks why the child’s birth mother “didn’t want him.” You can just walk away from the stranger and not say anything. Sometimes that shows a bigger message than responding to the comment. If your child is with you and is old enough to understand their comment, talk to your child about the comment and ask them how they feel when someone says something like that.
Make a joke.
Depending on your personality, you may or may not feel comfortable with this solution. An stranger asks if you are your child’s “real” parents. You can pinch yourself and say “I don’t know, I feel pretty real!” I listened to a transracial family webinar that included a a similar response. I had to laugh because the stranger will not expect this type of response.
If you are an adoptive family, you will often experience inappropriate comments, questions, and stigmas. But there are many appropriate ways to respond to these when they appear. Take time to think about your personal family and children and what would be most beneficial for them.