When it comes to utilizing positive adoption language, Guest Blogger Eden Fried believes it’s not a choice….it’s a responsibility.
My first week of college I decided to venture out with a group of complete strangers partying super hard (that was a joke) and ended up at religious event hosted by leaders in the community who were very well known and respected.
It wasn’t long before one of the leaders approached me and started asking me questions. She’d recognized me and once we’d gone over the basic pleasantries, she was finally able to place me. Buffalo is a small community, and given that it was a religious event, there were bound to be some close ties and shared connections.
We rambled on for a bit and after a few moments, she blurted out the question that probably had been sitting on the tip of her tongue throughout the entire (seemingly long) 60-second interaction.
“Isn’t it hard for your mom to love all of your siblings the same?”
To give some background, she’d known my family and I guess she’d heard, through the grapevine, that much of my family was created by way of adoption.
Still, like a knife to the heart, her words pierced me and they’ve stayed with me for years (6 years to be exact).
It’s funny because growing up in a large family built mostly by adoption, I’ve dealt with my fair share of people asking silly questions, or spewing negative adoption remarks. You’d think I’d grow numb at some point. But I never have, and something tells me I never will.
I think I took her words particularly hard because she was a prominent figure in the community. She should be a better example (at least that’s what I thought to myself at the time). In protest, I didn’t affiliate myself with that organization for quite some time. It took me a few years to stomach going back there, until finally I let it go and moved on.
Now, I’ve grown older (but barely) and just a tad bit wiser (still barely), but I’ve learned that not everyone will please you off the bat with expert and politically correct adoption language. In fact, most people won’t.
To be clear, I’m not an adoptee and I’ve never adopted. But I am touched by adoption. Positive adoption language is as important in my life as it is in anyone else’s. That said, I think it’s our responsibility to educate, rather than to respond with equally disrespectful language or weak (yet emotional) responses.
Here are 5 things to keep in mind when you encounter negative adoption language, because you absolutely, most certainly will… and you should be prepared.
Stop. Pause. Take a deep breath.
You’re okay. The words sting, yes. But think of the words as an opportunity for growth. This is your chance to change the way someone thinks for the better. It’s all in the perspective.
Remember, their intentions are probably good.
It’s important to remember this because we can easily get swept up into the emotionally overpowering rage that swoons within when we hear someone utter something particularly cruel. People, just like you and me, don’t know how to respond to things they aren’t familiar with. That’s just the way of the world. It doesn’t mean they are bad people or that they mean any harm. It just means they don’t know any better… so help them!
Always (always) respond – positively
Perhaps this is just personal preference. I’ve had people tell me to ignore negative adoption language or to “let it go.” In a way, ignoring negative adoption language is just like taking part in it. We have a responsibility to educate and to spread positivity especially when it comes to adoption, which is misunderstood far too often.
Responding is particularly important if you happen to be with an adoptee (especially a young child). Your response (which should be carefully crafted and filled with positive adoption language) will not only teach young children how to identify negative adoption language and to discredit it, but it will also provide them with the tools to respond when they encounter it on their own (and sadly, they will).
Humor is okay – you should try it sometime.
Everyone could use a good laugh, and sometimes humor (or wit… wit might be the better word here) can show someone just how ridiculous they sound.
Growing up, I was asked this question a million and one times: “But how many real siblings do you have?”
My response was always something along these lines: “Well, all of them are real. What about you?”
Some appreciated the humor more than others, but all of them got the point. And that’s what’s important… which brings me to my final remark.
Positive Adoption Language is not a choice, it’s a responsibility.
Parents – this one’s for you. Along with all the other glories that parenthood comes with (I’m not a parent, so I’ll stick to just the adoption topic for now) – positive adoption language is one among the long list of items you need to be responsible for. As your child grows up, you’ll encounter the uncouth neighbor who drops rude comments, the naive teacher who doesn’t understand your child’s family tree project, or even the extended family (or immediate family member) who treats your child differently. Your job as a parent is to take pride in the way your family came together and to share that joy with your family, friends, neighbors, and strangers by way of positive adoption language. It’s not a choice. It’s your responsibility so speak with pride and speak well.
If you have experiences responding to negative adoption language, we want to hear them. Share your stories in the comments section below.
Eden Fried is a book nerd, an exercise junkie and a freelancer writer and blogger. She’s the daughter of Michele Fried (Founder & CEO of Adoption STAR) and sibling of several adoptees. She’s not adopted and has never adopted, but she’s been touched by adoption and that’s been enough to fuel her lifelong passion and advocacy. Follow Eden’s journeys by checking out her blog or drop her a follow on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or LinkedIn (because who’s not on social media these days?).