On Adoption: Part Two – Things not to say to an adopted person

please note that these comments, opinions and experiences are my own, your mileage may vary

opinionThings not to say to an adopted person

1. Please don’t tell them to be grateful

All children should be grateful to their parents, not just adopted ones. They supported you financially and emotionally (hopefully) and you owe them a debt of gratitude, even God made it one of the big 10 (top 5 even so it must be important!). Why then would an adoptee (what adopted people call themselves) be singled out and told this?  Well the truth is it’s ignorance but the underlying message re-affirms the belief that adopted people are somehow flawed or broken, or at the least, less than. I should be grateful because my biological parents abandoned me and as something unwanted and unloved I should be grateful someone took me in and gave me a home?  Like I am some neighborhood stray?

Please be aware that I didn’t choose to be born, the same as you, I had no say in the matter. Perhaps you had the good fortune to be born into your family so you don’t feel the ‘otherness’ that an adoptee feels, knowing that you don’t really belong, even when legally and culturally and socially everyone says you do.  To be adopted is to fit in when you know you don’t, to be family but secretly, internally to feel you’re not.  Some are better at hiding it, some choose to ignore it completely but every adopted person I have ever met has a sense of  ‘otherness’.  It’s hard for you to understand if you’re not adopted, just be aware it’s there.

2. Please don’t ask about my ‘real’ parents

The notion of ‘real’ seems to imply that my adoptive parents, the ones who love and raise me are some sort of illusion, that because we don’t share DNA that our family is somehow less real than a biological family. My mother would argue that point vehemently and point out that she and my dad put in more effort, more love and more thought into making a family than many biological families. She may be right; she certainly is real. To reverse this, I doubt anyone would be so cruel as to ask a mother with an adopted child about her ‘real’ children. Families are what we make them.

3. Please don’t ask, let me offer

If you’re interested in knowing about the biological parents of an adopted child, you can ask, they of course are not under any obligation to reply or to sate your curiosity. Our stories are our own. Some people want to tell you all about being adopted but please respect that many do not. For many it is an intensely personal thing only discussed with those close. Don’t pry.

4. Don’t ever ask whose “fault” it is your adoptive parent’s couldn’t conceive!

Someone out there right now just said “Oh that’s ridiculous, who would ask such a personal question?!” and my answer to you kind and polite person is… lots of people. You’d be shocked at how many times I’ve been asked that after having mentioned that I’m adopted. Like it’s anyone’s business. Let’s just file this away under ‘nosy people should butt out’ and move along.