I’ve never been a big fan of kids wearing shirts with slogans on them. The slogan might be something as inconsequential as “Future Doctor” or something far more debatable such as “My mom chose life!” But it doesn’t matter. They all irk me when I see them on a child. First of all, I don’t think the child is old enough to understand the slogan they are wearing, the parent is usually the one who picked it. Second of all, it turns the child into a poster child for the topic on the shirt, which is something they may or may not agree with when they finally understand it.
A few years ago one of my blog readers sent me a batch of t-shirts that said “I want you to foster!” There was one for each member of my family. Honestly it was the first time I had really seen an adoption promoting shirt. Excited for new clothing, my kids happily wore them. The gesture was nice, but it made me feel very uneasy to see my children wearing such a shirt. Especially because they were still young and didn’t have a firm grasp on what the t-shirts even meant. I couldn’t fathom myself wearing the shirt either, as it seemed like a way to draw unnecessary attention to my children’s status as foster children in a public space. Did I want others to think about fostering? Sure. Did it seem like an appropriate conversation to elicit at my son’s soccer practice? Not exactly. I wore my shirt a few times to foster recruitment events, but ended up purging them all after a few wears.
Since then I have seen numerous adoption shirts. People sell adoption tees for fundraisers, wear them at adoption events, and of course dress their children in them. I can’t take issue with an adult wearing one, it is their voice and their choice. But I am a tad bit uneasy about people dressing their children in adoption themed clothing. I recently saw a sweet family on the subway who had a little girl wearing a “Hand Picked” shirt. I looked closer and they appeared to be an adoptive family. I’m glad they feel their daughter is special, and was hand picked by them. But how does she feel about advertising she is adopted in a subway car full of people? A friend posted a picture of her son on Facebook wearing a “I love my moms!” shirt. Implying that he loves both his birth mom and adoptive mom. I’m glad his birth mom is being included in his life, but how is he going to feel about being made a poster child for open adoption?
Slogan t-shirts take away the voice of the child wearing them, and fill it in with the voice of the adult who dresses the child. Adoption can be a sensitive topic for many children. If an adult wants to wear an adoption t-shirt, that is their choice. But don’t take away your child’s voice and privacy by dressing them in a shirt they likely don’t understand, and may or may not even agree with when they grow up.