Lauren Casper » Embracing the Story

stuff people say to adoptive families

About a month ago this video popped up on one of my favorite blogs. Hilarious. And true. I think John and I have heard just about every comment with the exception of the ones about Asian adoption and large families. Go ahead and watch … and feel free to laugh yourself silly! My thoughts are below the video.

First off, there are of course many comments that are obviously rude and intrusive. Anyone with common sense can pick those out of this video easily. But there were some that are trickier and maybe you watched the video and thought to yourself, “I’ve said some of those things and I didn’t know it was wrong.” I’d like to share my perspective as a white mom of two black children.

  • It doesn’t bother me one bit when someone asks me where Mareto and Arsema are from. “Where’s he from?” is perfectly fine with me and I am more than happy to tell you that they are from Ethiopia. I’m proud of their heritage and want them to be too! If, however, you ask by saying, “where’d you get that baby?” I may scowl, tell you, and then walk away quickly. Why? Because of the tone and wording. Asking that way makes my child sound like an object and that’s offensive.
  • Do not ask me how much my babies cost. My answer will always be “they are priceless.” Again, asking that way makes my child sound like an object to be purchased and that’s just plain wrong. I do love sharing about creative ways to fund adoption, though, and I am not uncomfortable sharing about the costs involved. So if you are really interested for yourself or a friend you can ask me! Just do it appropriately. My suggestion is to say something like this… “I (or a friend) am really interested in adopting but the high cost of the adoption services scares me. Can you offer any helpful insight into how to fund an adoption?
  • I love my kids’ hair!! I think Mareto’s little corkscrew curls are awesome and Arsema’s fat, silky curls are just gorgeous. You can tell me all day long how awesome their hair is because I agree! I also used to not mind friends touching Mareto’s hair. (Strangers – keep your hands off my kids!) Now it is an issue only because of his sensory processing disorders and the fact that he is sensitive to touch. He really doesn’t like his head touched. Arsema is still tiny and we are still working hard at attachment and bonding so I prefer folks to try to restrain from touching her too.  Close friends (you know who you are) and family… feel that hair all you want! Because I know you will understand if Mareto ducks away and Arsema knows you well and I’m comfortable with that.
  • Tell me that Ethiopian babies are so beautiful and I will have one response – “yes they are!!” I think that Ethiopians are gorgeous! Tell me all day long – I agree! However, if you encounter a family with children of other ethnicities I would keep that comment to yourself. How is that supposed to make the sister from China or Russia feel if you’re gushing on about how beautiful Ethiopians are and not mentioning how gorgeous the Chinese or Russians are too? Since both our kids are from Ethiopia I am not bothered one bit by that comment, but use discernment with other families.
  • The birth mother/family questions — 100% never ever okay. You can ask me 100 different ways what happened to my children’s birth families and I will never share. That’s personal information that belongs to my children and them only. They deserve to hear their histories from us and know that there aren’t tons of people out there who knew before they did. If, when they are older, they choose to share that is fine. But it’s their story – their choice.

Bottom line – use common sense and don’t stress! This goes for us adoptive parents too. I think we can be an oversensitive bunch at times and forget that those who  may say “inappropriate” things or ask questions the wrong way really do not have bad intentions. Generally people are just curious and think our families are special. A little grace goes a long way.

Don’t forget to enter the Lisa Leonard necklace giveaway here.

To read the rest of the posts in the series for National Adoption Month click here.

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