conversation starters, emotions, General adoptee thoughts

What not to Say to Me about Adoption

“Oh! I didn’t know. I’m sorry.”
“Do you know where your real mom is?”
“Well, you must feel very blessed. You might not be here otherwise.”

What do all those statements have in common?

They are things that people say when they find out I’m adopted.  I know. #NOTALL people say these things. Enough people do and have that I have scripts that I could repeat in my sleep in response.

The title of this blog is Adoption Conversations and instead of popping you over the head and saying “BAD HUMAN! Don’t say these things to an adoptee!” I’d rather talk about each of those and how they make me feel. Know that my feelings are just that – feelings. They are not facts or logic and often times they pull up my shadow side that I’m working to uncover in an effort to BE.

If you have ever said these things to an adoptee, let yourself off the hook. Maybe the adoptee you spoke to didn’t even notice – some don’t. Just because I feel a negative charge when these statements come up doesn’t mean that they trigger everyone. It doesn’t mean I think you’re a bad person either.

“Oh! I didn’t know. I’m sorry.”

This usually comes up in social situations during small talk. Most often when I’m talking to someone I’ve just met, or know as a friend-of-a-friend. It’s also the most awkward situation to be sharing your deep feelings about the institution of adoption.

When you say this it’s obviously your most innocent and honest response. You say, “I’m sorry,” not because you’re sorry that I was adopted (I hope!) but because you’re like most of us who say I’m sorry all the freaking time. (Probably a post for a different venue – but I am on a mission to stop saying I’m sorry all the time and I wish you would too!)

Like I said, I know you’re not sorry I was adopted, right? You just didn’t know what to say when I threw the little fact of my adoption in when you were commenting how unlike my sister/brother/mother/father I seem.

The fact is (in case you really are sorry that I’m adopted) that you had nothing to do with and you are off the hook! You also don’t need to be sorry for bringing the topic of my adoption into the conversation. I already know I’m adopted. I am cool with it and  I’m pretty comfortable talking about it.

Instead of saying “I’m sorry” going forward, you can say, “Oh! I had no idea.” or “Cool! What’s that experience like?”

By the way, thanks for actually listening when I told you I was adopted.

“Do you know where your real mom is?”

This comes out usually when I least expect it. (By now I should know to expect anything when talking about adoption  – but there it is.

This is also a question that really rankles adoptive moms I’m sure. Although I’ve not talked about it with my own mom I can’t imagine how it feels to overhear someone asking your adopted child if they know where their real mom is.

Maybe part of the issue is the word choice. REAL mom. What the actual Ef.  My real Mom walked the halls with me when I had colic, made sure I ate my vegetables, stayed up late making Halloween costumes and listened to me when I was learning to play the clarinet (sorry Mom and Dad).  My real Mom also washed my mouth out with soap when I said a nasty word, fought with me about when I was old enough to wear makeup and had a number of strong opinions that had me slamming my door throughout my teenage years. (Interesting I can’t really remember now what we fought about!)

Indeed then, I know exactly where my real Mom is. Give or take a few miles I’m pretty sure she’s at home with my real Dad, either working in the garden, hanging with my niece or socializing with friends.

On the other hand, if you are wondering if know where the precious person who gave birth to me might be, that’s another story. For more than 52 years I had no real idea where that person was. I’ve recently connected with her family and learned that many times throughout our lives we may have crossed paths. Sadly, I also learned that I will never get to meet her as she passed away 17 years before I found the family.

Instead of using the word, real in this question to an adoptee, feel free to use any of these other terms: first mother; birth mother; biological mother.

“Well, you must feel very blessed. You might not be here otherwise.”

I don’t even know where to begin. It’s hard to put a conversation spin on this one! First and foremost because if I weren’t here….I wouldn’t be here! I wouldn’t be listening to you right now. I wouldn’t have made a mark in the world in the way that I get to make a mark t his time around, and, this may come as a surprise to you, I don’t think I’d miss it.

You can’t miss something you have no experience of – if I hadn’t been born, I wouldn’t have the consciousness to know what it meant to be born, right?

I’m not blessed because I was adopted. I am blessed because I’m me. 

You also have no idea how horrific the adoption experience can be for some adoptees. There are many adoptive parents (yeah, #notall) who adopt children so they can feed their egos and feel like heroes. There are also adoptive parents who are abusive, narcissistic and blatantly horrific humans. When children are adopted into those circumstances they feel anything but blessed and as adults have trauma and scarring to work through than the average adoptee who has loving and selfless adoptive parents.

Instead of telling an adoptee that they must feel blessed because they might not be here otherwise, I advise you to instead ask them about their adoption experience and let them lead the conversation from there if you’re really interested.

There are obviously other things that can trigger an adoptee or any member of the adoption triad – I’d love to hear yours – and your suggested alternatives! Feel free to leave them in the comments.

2 thoughts on “What not to Say to Me about Adoption”

  1. A variation on “you must feel blessed”…… My son is still young, so the statement is usually directed toward me as “he is so blessed (or lucky) that you adopted him”. My response is usually “No. We are the ones who are blessed (or lucky) to have him in our lives.”. Most people mean well and either haven’t thought much about adoption or are caught off guard. I try to take off hand comments in stride and view them as they were intended. Except the “real parent/mother/father” comments. THAT one makes me crazy! I find it hurtful (as a mom) and damaging toward my son. When I worked at a pre-school and the children would say it I would make sure to speak to them about what a parent/mother/father really is. Hopefully if we all keep educating our fellow humans they may hopefully learn to think before they speak! Sometimes a careless word can really hurt.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s