Friday, January 13, 2012

Unnecessary Qualifier

I have a new pet peeve: pointing out when a child is adopted in any form of media.

Why do we have to mention that a child is adopted? We don't point out when they are born c-section, or conceived via IVF, or delivered by surrogate (except perhaps at birth in People magazine), so why is it so important to point out that adopted children came into a family that way? What is added to the story by knowing that detail?

I find it particularly disturbing because in most cases where adoption is mentioned, it is seemingly excusing the bad behavior of a parent, or trying to deify them for "saving" a child. For instance, in the past two months I covered two stories involving children that were very pointedly described as being adopted. In one case a father had raped several of them repeatedly. In the other the mother had killed her child, but now was begging to get out of prison to take Linkcare of her "biological" kids.

My daughter is adopted. However, I never think of her as my adopted daughter. I don't think of her adoption when I comb her hair in the morning. I don't think of it when we are driving in the car singing "Bohemian Rhapsody" at the top of our lungs together. I don't think of it when she has a nightmare and crawls into bed with me, rubbing the peach fuzz on my cheek to go back to sleep.

That is not to say I don't acknowledge and appreciate her adoption. I do every day. I see her birth mom in her all the time, and we talk about her "Mama" (I am Mommy). However, the fact Meg is adopted does not affect how I care for her, or my hopes for her, or how much I love her. I definitely would never use it as a justification for ways I failed her, or hurt her, nor would I ever use it to try and make myself seem like a better person.

No one else should either.

So, here's my thought: unless it is absolutely pertinent to the story, adoption status should not be mentioned. Oh, unless the adoptee themselves wants it so. After all, most of them had no say in the adoption, so they should have a say in how it is perceived now.

Deal?

27 comments:

Mandy_Fish said...

I totally agree.

My sister and I were talking about this in terms of genealogy, which has been her passion for the last 15-20 years. Our maternal grandmother was adopted and my sister is always put off when she communicates with other genealogist and they say things like, "Oh, well she was adopted" as if her lack of the same DNA makes her insignificant to the line.

We've talked a lot about what makes a family. Is it DNA or is it family culture / heritage? We both feel very strongly that it is culture and heritage, not DNA.

Because really, how many of us have had DNA tests all the way down the line to make sure everyone perfectly matches up? Not to mention all the secret within the family adoptions that occurred and were never mentioned or written down.

Sorry to rant on a bit. But it is a pet peeve of mine.

Sam said...

Totally with you. Also peeves me. "She's not my adopted daughter. She's my daughter. The adopting took place in 2 1/2 weeks in China, and it was done a long time ago. But she's been my daughter all along."

BugginWord said...

I agree. We should follow the adoptee's lead.

I have a friend who was adopted and it's a big part of how she defines herself. Its one of the first things she tells new people. She plans on someday adopting children of her own.

Gina said...

This is one of my biggest pet peeves. And there is no history of adoption among my family or close friends, either. I just think it';s insensitive and implies a difference between adopted & biological. The same goes with the calling biological parents "real" parents. It makes me stabby (in fact, I am in the middle of writing a post that talks about that).

The very worst example I have ever witnessed of this kind of behavior was by my former boss (who was the devil) - he used to introduce his kids to people as "my biological son & my adopted daughter." If those kids don't grow up to be a sociopath & an abused woman, I will be shocked.

makingmonkeysoup.com said...

Libby, as usual, you are so right on.

I have had a friend of my sister's introduce me and Mea to their mutual friends by saying, "This is Kelly, and her adopted daughter Mea."

The last time that she did this, I called her out on it. It shouldn't be part of an introduction, and it is definitely not her place to tell someone that my child was adopted.

missohkay said...

Reminds me of "This is Margot, my adopted daughter" from the Royal Tenenbaums. So unnecessary. (Well, in her case perhaps it was necessary w/ the whole her brother being in love her thing, but you get my point.) Though I do sometimes like to hear that someone was adopted just to be like "oh cool," I don't need the implicit point they're ALWAYS trying to make (see also Steve Jobs)

Serial Monogamist said...

A-freaking-men.

My mom and most of her siblings were adopted, I was adopted by my dad. As a result, I have very few biological relatives. And the people who have treated any of us as "adopted" have inflicted so much pain. This issue has been a long-term interest of mine (for obvious reasons).

And it's funny what missohkay said about The Royal Tennenbaums. That plot element really bothered to me. Otherwise, it's one of my all time favorites movies. There is a natural, human aversion to being sexually attracted to those you grow up with closely, biological siblings or not. I found the "they're not real siblings so that's why they fell in love" thing was offensive and gross.

p.s. Your daughter is beautiful and is lucky to have such a great mom.

Jen said...

I completely agree.

LL Cool Joe said...

As someone who is adopted with adopted children I've always felt it's up to my kids themselves to tell people when and if they want to, that they're adopted. I've never volunteered the information myself, even with teachers etc. I work on the assumption it's none of their business really. And I certainly didn't want them labelled "Ah well she's like this because she's adopted" etc.

G said...

A good friend of mine is a foster parent and has adopted the younger sister of two siblings.

Not once did I ever hear her say "this is my adopted daughter."

I have heard her say repeatedly, "this is my daughter."

Riot Kitty said...

I don't understand why reporters do that, unless it's because they (and this was drilled into me when I worked in newspapers) are trained to include every fucking detail they can get their hands on in their stories.

I've written about it before and I will probably write about it again - blood isn't thicker than water. A friend of mine and I refer to our biological mothers as our "incubators." You get the idea.

Phil said...

I absolutely agree. Meg is your child. To add a qualifier is to imply something different and that is not fair to Meg or you.

mommyodyssey said...

Hear hear!
Really, that's all I have to say. I get annoyed when I hear that as a "qualifier" as well.

Cindy said...

I completely agree!
That is a pet peeve of mine as well.

Katie said...

Excellent post!

Danielle-Marie said...

Great post. And I agree!

quin browne said...

I have five children, who now range in age from (doing the math here) 35-24. My youngest daughter married a man who brought two children with him to the marriage, and, they've since added a baby boy. She was young when she married, and, I worried as she'd never babysat, yearned for a child--nothing. She's rocking the mom thing.

Yesterday, we were driving somewhere, and started to talk about her children. She said, "I knew you'd never call them anything but your grandchildren. And, I knew I could do this, because, until I was 12--I didn't know (here she named her two oldest siblings) weren't my full siblings. You never, ever mentioned them as anything but your kids. I knew I could marry a man with children and love them totally, because I grew up in a family like that"

Best. Compliment. Ever. I, too, married a man with two children. The moment we married, they became my children, born not beneath my heart, but, in it. Their mother was in the picture, there on the edges. Her new husband had one child only--his biological child with her, so, she gladly handed over full custody and declined to remain involved. meh.

Your child is how you present it to the world. People are not going to question what you hold forth as fact--my eldest daughter is a blue eyed blonde and I am a brown eyed brunette. I cannot tell you how often people remarked on how much we look alike. Perhaps it's mannerisms, who knows. One story we still laugh about is the time I was scolding her, and fell into the guilting mode, "I cannot believe I went through all that labor for you, and you are being such a poo!" "Um, Mom?" "Yes???" She grinned. "Oh. Right. I forgot. Go to your room." Both she and her brother chose to call me Mom--she was 3, he was 12. A 12 year old choosing to call you mom is a huge thing.

I only know when I count my children, they are always the first two names. When their father and I divorced, they came to live with me. Stranger things, eh?

People do not question--I have a cousin who still puts 129 lbs on her license, when it is so very obvious she's closer to 300. Every time she renews, they say, "Anything changed?" (eyebrows raised) She responds, "Nope." No one says a word.

So, you say, "This is my son/daughter" even if your race/coloring/height is far different, because, in your soul, where it counts--that is your child.

Reagan's Mommy said...

I so wish the media would pay attention to this. Many people have been putting it out there in their own ways that the media is behind the times when it comes to adoption and adoption language yet they continue to write like it is the 1960s! Besides the topic of this post, I also cannot stand when people refer to adoption as "giving away". My children's birth parents did not give them away - my children were not puppies in a box outside the grocery store! My children's birth parents placed these precious babies with us knowing we would love and care for them and do our best to raise them to be productive and happy adults.

Aunt Juicebox said...

OMG She's just gotten even more gorgeous! How the heck do you stand it?

Patty O. said...

I agree, totally! My sister adopted her two children a few years ago and she has made me so much more aware of the stupid things people say when it comes to adoption.

I like your point that the kids had no say in their adoption, so they should have a say in how it's discussed.

for a different kind of girl said...

Very much agree. My brother-in-law is adopted, but if that wasn't something I'd picked up on in passing, I don't think I'd even know. He never addresses himself as an adoptee or mentions his status as an adopted child. That's something in his past he's chosen not to, but regardless, children brought into loving homes and raised as part of those families are 100 percent a part of them as far as I'm concerned.

Stopcallingmeshirley07 said...

Agreed. Just yesterday there was something online about Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman's "adopted" children being all grown up now. There was no qualifier attached to Suri, however.

The Twisted Tine said...

I think that's a totally fair deal right there...

But, shame on me for thinking, I thought that it would be hilarious in a twisted kind of way that when introducing our kid, to always mention in a hushed voice with the back of our hand shielding the side of our mouth, that he was a C-section child.

Although I doubt his mom would go for that, so... nevermind.

Egg said...

My mom is 62 and when someone will ask her about her "adopted" mother, she's like, the other lady had me 8 days. My mom had me 62 years. She's my mom. Thanks! ;)

harriet glynn said...

I'd like to know how you talk to her about adoption. I'll check through your blog...

harriet glynn said...

I had the oddest conversation where my client said she was "going to ask her 13-yr-old adopted nephew to write some blogs posts" for an arts festival.

Huh?? Um, it's 2012 you know?!

Deathstar said...

I have a friend who's well known and every time she's mentioned in the press, it's as the "adopted child of ____". It's maddening to her. She's only ever known him as her father. She even asked one website to take it off the biography of her and they REFUSED. Can you believe it?