I have good news and bad news.
The good news is... adoption is becoming more "normal". 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 a woman 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
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 nowhere 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.
"Hey... did you get those kids from Africa?"
"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, or a private domestic adoption, they may be neighbor kids, they may be Haitian. You just don't know.
"Do you have any real children?"
"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 a super touchy topic. 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 misfit. It may just be the dagger to their heart they didn't need today.)
"Woah... you guys must be RICH! You adopted THREE kids??"
Seriously. Use duct tape if you must.
Why? Adoption is expensive, but we feel that the Lord provided the funds when we needed them through yard sales, t-shirt sales, family and friends donations, and grants I spent hours and hours preparing. If you are truly interested in adoption then I can provide you with a list of agencies who would be happy to discuss their fees with you. AND, unless you want me to ask you what your net worth is...just don't ask.
"Those kids are so lucky you SAVED them!"
"What a lucky mom you are to have so many children!"
"I bet they are such a huge blessing to YOU!"
Why? 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.
"When did you get them?"
"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.
"What happened to their real parents?"
Yeah, there's no reason anyone outside of a child's inner circle should need to know this. In order for a child to be internationally adopted into the USA, they must have lost either both or at least one parent and the other can not possibly provide for them. That's the legality of it. If you are curious as to what makes children orphans, do an internet search for some humanitarian aid non-profits in Africa. Try Compassion International or World Relief or World Vision. Just research it on your own.
"Why would her parents give her away?"
Children aren't GIVEN AWAY. Their parents sacrificed first, no matter the country of origin, 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.
"Yeah, I heard of this one lady who adopted this boy and he wound up killing their dog and then..."
For real?? Why don't you go 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 already know more horror stories than you do. We could scare the crap out of you with our friends' stories, if you like.
"What if they want to go back to their real parents when they are older?"
(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.
"These are Chrissy's adopted children..."
"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.
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.
Or just keep your thoughts and questions to yourself.
And start a blog so you can talk out loud to yourself.
Eight years ago, with 4 children at home, Chrissy & her husband thought their family was done growing. Then, a couple of years later, they began to feel the pull to have another child, but both felt strongly that this time around it would be through adoption. Years later, in 2009, when they were both "ready", they found their three youngest kiddos on a waiting child listing. Eight short months later, they were home from Ethiopia as a family of 9, but also still feeling that unsettled "not done yet" calling on their hearts. Now, they are a family of 9, in process to adopt their newest kiddos - a sibling group of 5 precious children - from Ethiopia again! They could not be happier and their children are also very excited to bring their new brothers and sisters home. You can read about their adoption journey on Chrissy's blog, Injera & Chocolate Gravy.