Thursday, November 9, 2017

Dear Sugar: The Three Places Where It's Challenging to be a Mom-By-Adoption

Dear Sugar:

I'm not one to complain much.  Well, except to my husband.   (Lucky him.)  Generally speaking, I'm a SUCK IT UP, BUTTERCUP kind of girl.  I take more of an activist approach. Something not-so-great happens, and I write about it. Then that spreads, getting the message out that saying or doing a certain thing isn't cool.    

If you're already a parent-by-adoption, you've probably encountered at least one of these situations when it's challenging to be the "adoptive" parent.   

1:  The medical office.  

First, health history forms.  Those can get tricky.  Many parents-by-adoption don't have a complete health history on their kiddos, a reliable health history, or some don't have health history at all.  This of course leads you to explain that your child was adopted.   It's not a secret or anything to be ashamed of, but it can open the door to irrelevant questions and undesired judgments.  

Here are some for-real things that happened to us at medical appointments:

-"So you're foster mom?"  No.  "Um, adoptive mom?"  No.  Just mom.  "Well I have to put something on this form..."  

-"I'm going to finish registering your daughter for her tonsillectomy.  I need to see your papers."  What papers? "Adoption papers."I don't carry those with me.  She's my child.  We have the same last name and she's on my insurance card.  "Your doctor might need to see those papers."  Her doctor knows she's my daughter, and she was adopted at five days old.  I don't carry around any papers.   

-"Are you going to tell your girls their adopted?" (They were sitting RIGHT next to me.)  

We've had stuff like this happen so many times that I wrote an entire blog post to medical professionals that got some STRONG reactions from the adoption community.  

2:  The mommy get-together.

There's a Mommy Club that we moms-by-adoption simply aren't a part of.  The Club emerges when conversations turn away from the basics (names of children, ages, funny stories, quirks, developmental milestones) an to the moms:  childbirth, breastfeeding, who the child looks like, etc.  Usually these do not bother me, but sometimes I'm just not in the mood.  No one likes feeling left out, isolated, or othered.  Though most mommies are perfectly nice, supportive, kind, encouraging people, their mommy-boasting can get under our skin, reminding us that we are different.  

3:  The school. 

The school presents similar problems to the medical office.  Forms and school projects can be particularly unnerving.  School projects involving family trees, timelines (like draw and label five significant events from your life), and family photos can present extra challenges for kids and their parents.  Some schools even present forms to parents asking if the parent is a biological parent, guardian, foster parent, or adoptive parent, even asking similar things about the child, outright asking on the form, "Adopted?" Of course, some information is relevant.   

Oftentimes, all of these awkward-uncomfortable-frustrating situations occur due to lack of education.  This is not be excusing people who are rude and intrusive.  There's a difference between ignorance and nosiness.   

I want you to know that the longer you are a parent, the more confidence you will gain.  (I packed my education and experiences into my latest book:  for you!)  You'll have tried-and-true responses to some of these situations.  And if you feel so inclined, especially in situations where the problems involve someone who will have a long-standing relationship with your child (say his/her doctor or teacher), provide education.   Books, blog posts, articles.  And finally, remember to ALWAYS ALWAYS ALWAYS do what is best for your child, the adoptee.  

Those who are truly good people will take Angelou's truth to heart: that they're trying their best, but after learning, they do better next time.  

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