Thursday, July 21, 2011

Say WHAT?

I have good news and bad news.

The good news is... more children are being adopted who wouldn't otherwise have a family, and more communities are becoming diversified when families bring their children home!

The bad news is... strangers are still allowed to speak since we haven't created a "people remote" with a "mute" button yet.

Why is this blog-worthy, you ask?

Well, none of us wants to be the one to ask the lady when she's due... only to find out she's not pregnant.
None of us wants to say to the lady next to us at the playground "Sheesh... doesn't that kid have parents?!" only to find out that lady is the mom.

We don't WANT to offend people unnecessarily, at least MOST of us don't go around trying to tick people off.

Thus, I give to you...

Chrissy's Average Person's Guide to Positive Adoption Lingo! 
Or CAPGPAL, for short... ha ha!

My only question-asking rule:
If you don't know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that your statement will not offend, hurt or otherwise harm the other person... make sure you ask permission to ask the question, 
and make sure the kids are NO WHERE around. 
I can handle just about any crass comments thrown my way...
but I don't want you saying them in front of ANY of my children.

Now... for the real stuff.

Instead of:
"Hey... did you get those kids from Africa?"
Try this:
"Gorgeous kiddos! Are you an adoptive family?"
(Why? "get those kids" implies we took a vacation and brought home souvenirs. It demoralizes my children, the adoption process, and assumes all black children are from Africa. Many are from your own county, you know. They could have been adopted from Foster Care, they may be neighbor kids, they may be Haitian. You just don't know.)

Instead of:
"Do you have any REAL children?"
Try:
"Is this your whole family?"
Why? Because you may get some smarty pants like me who would probably say, 
"No, just these 7 imaginary ones."
(Caveat: This is SUPER touchy. I wouldn't just blurt out to a stranger anything about "real kids" or "kids of your own". What if they struggled with infertility for a decade first? What if their first child died? What if they have 4 homemade kids at home and your question is overheard by a struggling adopted child who already feels different and strange and like a mis-fit. It may just be the dagger to their heart they didn't need today.)

Instead of:
"Woah... you guys must be RICH! You adopted THREE kids??"
Try:
Shutting up.
Seriously. Use duct tape if you must.
Adoption IS expensive, but we feel that the Lord provided the funds when we needed it through yard sales, t-shirt sales, family and friends donations, and grants I spent hours and hours preparing.
AND... unless you want me to ask you what your net worth is... 
just don't ask.

Instead of:
"Those kids are SO lucky you SAVED them!"
Try:
"What a lucky mom you are to have so many children!"
or
"I bet they are such a huge blessing to YOU!"
(because it's true. They aren't the lucky ones. Their part in the adoption process was built through loss and grief. OUR role in the process was the lucky part. The kids lost their first family, their home, their language, their culture, their favorite foods, their familiar sounds and smells... 
WE gained three wonderful children. WE are the lucky ones.)

Instead of:
"When did you get them?"
Try:
"How long have you been a family?"
Why? They aren't a disease, or a purchase. We didn't GET them. This is also why I don't like the term "gotcha day" that the majority of adoptive families use for the day they took custody. It's parent-focused instead of child-focused. A child may call it "the-day-I-finally-lost-everything-I-knew" which, to ME, doesn't seem like something I would want to celebrate. 
We will celebrate our Family Day on August 3rd. 
We took custody July 26th. It will likely pass without notice. 

Instead of:
"What happened to their real parents?"
Try:
Yeah, there's no reason anyone outside of a child's inner circle should need to know this.
If you are curious as to what makes children orphans, go go0gle some humanitarian aid non-profits in Africa. Try Compassion International, or World Relief...
Just research it on your own.
FYI... in order for a child to be internationally adopted into the USA, they must have either lost both parents or one parent and the other can not possibly provide for them. That's the legality of it.

Instead of:
"Why would her parents give her away?"
Try:
(see above)
Children aren't GIVEN AWAY. Their parents sacrificed first, no matter the country the child is from, to give their child hope and a future. Parents in the worst possible conditions who fear for their child's life, or when both parents die, they have no other options. It's not like they just wanted to go party every night and the kid was cramping their style. 

Instead of:
"Yeah, I heard of this one lady who adopted this boy and he wound up killing their dog and then..."
Try:
For real??
Why don't you go tell bother someone else.
Go tell a pregnant woman some labor horror stories, 
or tell the nearest 4 year old there's no Santa.
Sheesh. NO ONE wants to hear your horror stories. 
Besides, we know more horror stories than you do.
We could scare the crap out of you with our friends' stories, if you like.

Instead of:
"What if they want to go back to their real parents when they are older?"
Try:
(not that it's any of your business...)
"Have you made plans for a birth parent search when they are older?"
Why? Ultimately, it's up to them when they get old enough if they want to contact any relatives.
We will have that information available for them when they are mature enough to handle it.
Don't worry.

Instead of:
"These are Chrissy's adopted children..."
Try:
These are Chrissy's children.
Why? Anyone with functioning eyeballs can see that my kids are different colors. 
However, I don't go around introducing which ones were unplanned, which ones are below-average readers, or any other type of qualifier. How would you like to be introduced as 
"This is my constantly-complaining-about-her-husband friend, so and so."
Qualifiers. They stink. Don't talk about people with qualifiers.

Instead of:
"...is/are adopted..."
Try:
"...was adopted..."
Why? My kids WERE adopted, but now they are just my kids. 
They don't have a disease called "adopted".
It's not who they are, it's merely how they entered our family.

See? That wasn't so hard, was it?
It just requires a mental turn-around from the prior way people thought about
adoption and children in general, to a more compassionate, child-focused way 
to discuss them and their status in our family.
Try harder.
Or just keep your thoughts and questions to yourself.
And start a blog so you can talk out loud to yourself. 







22 comments:

  1. thank you. thank you. and thank you again. i have a smile for the first time in three days. now can i carry you in my handbag to pull out when necessary? appreciate that. :0)

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  2. see you were meant to have this crazy horrible conversation to help others....i bet you handled things with grace- you should profile what your responses were so i can learn not to bite someones head off...b/c i wont have as much grace :)

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  3. once again.....brilliant! Gosh, I just love you!

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  4. Awesome post! There are entirely too many nosy people in the world who don't think before they speak. I'll buy them the duct tape if they'll use it. :) Neither my child nor I are "fake" and we're just a family like most others. Thanks for sharing it so well.

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  5. YYYYYEEEEEEEESSSSSSSSSSSSS!!!! Thank you!!!!

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  6. Just laughed....we get "which ones are your REAL children" all the time. We love to say "None, they are all gummy bears. We just lick their backs and stick them to our forehead." Our kids get a giggle from it. WELL SAID, and a resounding AMEN!!!!

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    1. hahaha! ove ethe gummybear response! litteraly laughed out loud!

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  7. yes yes yes yes yes! it's so so hard to have grace in the situation and even harder when the people look at you like you have 3 heads when you ask them to rephrase the question.

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  8. Bravo! My fav was this "Try: Shutting up. Seriously. Use duct tape if you must." That slays me.

    :)

    Donna

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  9. This should be a mandatory read for EVERYONE IN AMERICA.

    Although, funnily, we have gotten very few stupid questions in the almost a year we've been home. I chalk it up to there being a few other kids in our church who were adopted and our city being very diverse. A lot of (well-meaning) people do ask if we know why our son was in an orphanage. We say we do, but that we are leaving it up to him who to tell what when he is older.

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  10. I think I need to make a copy of this and carry it with me for reference. Loved the last line and had a good snort!!

    Gloria
    Mom to Kevin, 9 1/2

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  11. I have several friends who have chosen to adopt for various reasons.

    Friend #1's little punkin had to have surgery on her leg right after she came home. Some stranger (whose own child was about to jump out of a shopping cart) commented to Mommy, "Oh, you already let her get hurt?" REALLY???

    Friend #2 has adopted several children through foster care, domestically, and internationally. She has knowingly taken in children with disadvantages and given them a loving and nurturing home. Yet, some of her "friends" told her "When you become a real mom, you'll understand." Excuse me?? I have two homemade children, but this friend is more of a mom than I will ever be. She is amazing.

    Had to add my piece! Can't wait to see some Jensen babies soon!!!

    Brooke B

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  12. Thank you for putting into words what I could not. I wholeheartedly agree with your 'gotcha-day' thoughts. I have children that weren't adopted and they felt left out on our lone gotcha-day celebration. We now just have a family day celebration, and it works much better.

    Best,
    Laura (in Poland)

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  13. Well said..can i borrow it for my blog

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  14. thanks for this! even when im trying to say sensitive things i still have a "doh!" moment! im not an adoptive parent (yet) but its on my heart. its good to know how to word things nd also how to respond when i am blessed with more through adoption (im sure i will get every one of those from my relatives alone!)

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