September 22, 2008

Family Member Follow-up

I wanted to pull a couple of things from the comments to my post on supporting family members who are adopting. A number of people made similar remarks and as soon as I read them, I was slapping my forehead saying, "How could I have left that off?" That's what I get for writing after midnight. Like I am right now. Ahem.

A theme quickly emerged in the comments: respect.

Respect our decision-making process
It never fails. Anyone adopting domestically gets told, "You should go international." Anyone adopting internationally gets asked, "Why not adopt a kid here at home?" People choosing out of fertility treatments get encouraged to "try this procedure I saw on Oprah" and those choosing treatments get asked why they don't "just adopt." You may think you're offering a much-needed piece of advice. But unless asked, don't offer. There are many, many choices we each face on our paths to parenthood. Trust that we've considered them and know what is best for us in this moment.

You rarely know someone's whole story. And the parts you don't know are often more important than the ones you do.

Respect the other triad members
A number of commenters brought this up, and I completely agree. There is no such thing as an isolated individual in adoption. The child your family members will adopt already has a history and identity--even if he is an infant. She has a family of origin and perhaps another country of origin. Speak positively of those people and places. Respect the privacy of her adoption story by not prying for details and not sharing the ones you know.

Also, the first family members. Birth families are not mysterious folk--they are regular people you likely meet every day without knowing it. The stereotypes about them in popular media are pretty absurd. Any assumption you make about them is likely to be wrong. If you're lucky enough to be part of an open adoption, take the time to learn about them as full-fledged people, not just characters in your family members' adoption stories. In closed adoptions, acknowledge their importance in the child's history. Use positive language and respect their privacy (you would not believe the personal questions people ask me about my kids' first parents that they would never normally ask). Even in more difficult situations, such as cases of abuse, remember that they are still the child's biological family and kids will absorb any comments you make about their first family as comments about themselves. It's possible to be honest without demonizing or insulting.

15 comments:

Cynthia Samuels said...

I"m so glad I found you! Someone I love has two children from a semi-open adoption (first parents approved and chose them but they don't really see them) and also know a son for whom one of them was a first parent. I've seen so much. So to have such an articulate and loving voice: it's a gift to all parents on this particular path to have such a loving, articulate spokesperson.

Lori said...

I have a feeling this topic could be a series of posts! Having adopted twice, I feel very confident in correcting people (with love and compassion of course) if they make hurtful or inappropriate comments. My friends still slip and call my kids' birthmoms their "real moms." Yes, they are a real mom and so am I. Or was that diaper I just changed imaginary?! ;)

Thanks for helping well-intentioned family members find the right words and appropriate questions.

M de P said...

Excellent additions!!

We had a baby shower for little A this weekend and so it was the first time I'd seen many of my friends since bringing her home. Many people were curiuos about A's first family, and some would preface their questions by saying, "Is it okay for me to ask about the first family?". I thought it was a nice way to say they were interested in knowing more, but also respecting that I there may be things that I don't feel at liberty to share.

Megan said...

"You rarely know someone's whole story. And the parts you don't know are often more important than the ones you do."

Well said. I think that's something we all need to remember about every situation, not just adoption.

luna said...

excellent additions, and I agree with lori, this could be an ongoing dialogue. I'd like to gather posts like these in one place and either link to them or print them out and circulate to family and friends who don't read my blog. each point is so important. thanks.

Portraits In Sepia said...

I am in Mexico City right now and one of my brother´s in law mentioned to my husband that he heard we were planning to adopt. He suggested that we visit one of the small towns near here where there are Curaderas {basically witch doctors} that could stimulate my ovaries and he heard they have helped lots of women get pregnant.
Whatever. We just laughed and knew he meant no harm. It was obvious though that he sees adopting has a last resort and admission of failure. Whatever.

Martha said...

Thank you so much for this great post. My cousin adopted three girls in open, domestic adoptions, such a blessing for all.

Aunt Becky said...

You really, really, really need to make a pamphlet about this. You're so spot on and I know many people that could really use this advice. So glad to have met you.

Here from ICLW and I'll be back.

Jenn said...

These are great tips, thanks. (ICLW)

Kristine said...

Very good points!

Anniep said...

This advice is SO needed. I know everyone means well, but come on, do they really think we haven't thought things out? Best wishes,

Annie (from ICLW)

Rachel & Jacob said...

what interesting points. like your thoughts and like your blog!

I Believe in Miracles said...

I love this list and tips. Thank you. We're considering adoption so this is something to keep in mind. Thanks!
ICLW

DrSpouse said...

That's a really good post - especially about the nosy questions about birth families etc. We have been told that a child's birth family history and situation, especially with anything they may have suffered in that family, is their story. Adults would not like it if someone else shared the whole history of some trauma they suffered, and children shouldn't have to put up with it either.

(Via IComLeavWe)

Country Chick said...

Actually I WOULD believe the questions you get asked about your kids' first parents. Me too, and I tell them it's his business, not theirs (as politely as possible).

Good to find you.

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