Let's talk about adoption language.
I've written extensively on the things people have said (still say) to our family regarding race and adoption. I've shared how I feel about the terms "real family" (or "real sibling" or "real parent), when someone had the audacity to call my toddler son a "thug," and the horrific time this past spring when a stranger drove by our home and shouted the n-word twice at my girls.
"Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me."
It's just not true.
Words hurt. Words carry weight. Words can stay in our minds forever.
We've been the target of a lot of really inappropriate and uncomfortable comments and questions. And I've worked diligently to respond in the ways I feel are most correct. I'm well aware that I'm modeling for my children how they might respond on their own in the future. I'm teaching them to respond with grade, strength, and confidence. I'm showing them that boundaries are healthy, privacy should be valued, and they have every right to stand up for themselves.
The Bible shares some wisdom on the power of words:
Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.
A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.
Gracious words are like a honeycomb, sweetness to the soul and health to the body.
A good person produces good things from the treasury of a good heart, and an evil person produces evil things from the treasury of an evil heart. What you say flows from what is in your heart.
A joyful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.
The truth is, there will always be individuals who don't get it right, even those within the adoption community. I see online posts where an expectant mom is referred to as a "birth mom" or a "BM" (even worse). I hear people refer to babies as being "given up" rather than "placed"---words with very different connotations. I see moms refer to themselves as their child's "adoptive mom."
Just last week, a nurse at a medical appointment asked me if I was my child's foster mom. I said no. She says, "Adoptive mom? Because I'm just trying to figure out what to put in the chart." I said, "I'm her mom." (I later chuckled to myself. As if my daughter, when she has a bad dream in the middle of the night or hurts herself calls for her "adoptive mom" rather than just "MAW-MMMMMMMMM!!!!!!!!")
In my seven years of parenting and almost nine years in the adoption community, I know that there will always be those who can't, don't, or won't get it right. And what is "right" is ever-changing as our culture and understanding of adoption (and race) changes.
I sure cannot control naive, ignorant, or rude people. But I can control how I choose to respond. Because how I respond teaches my children a lot: about others, about how I feel about adoption, about how they might define themselves and how they feel about adoption (and race), and much more.
Responses should be strong, grace-filled, cheerful, and honest. And not just responses to others, but how we (as parents) respond to our children, and even within our own internal dialogue.
It's certainly not easy. Choosing anger, frustration, snarkiness, sarcasm...these are naturally where our minds go when someone says something hurtful to our children, our families, or about adoption in general. But there's simply too much at stake to choose the easy road over the higher road. Choosing the "road less traveled" really does make "all the difference."
Now on to the Adoption Talk Linkup!
Today's topic is Names. Grab a button for your post and join Erin, Jamie, Jenni, Jill, Madeleine, Rachel, and me!
New to linking up? We'd love to have you join us, here's how.