We’ve become sensitive, it seems. Certain phrases uttered by the news media in light of recent celebrity adoptions, or even phrases mentioned by our family, friends, and even complete strangers can make us cringe so easily. I bring you this post not to make you feel badly if you are one of the friends or family who’ve said these things to us or other adoptive families, but so that maybe you’ll understand the weight of what you might say to future adoptive families you encounter.
Please don’t ask us for details about Ben's birth family. We are the guardians of his story. Ben will be told his adoption story a little at a time, and when he is old enough, he will have all the details to share as he chooses. It’s not that we are hiding some juicy secret, it is just simply his story to tell, not ours.
Please don’t tell us that it doesn’t matter what race our son is, that love is color blind, and that our area is “getting better” in regards to diversity. Race does and will matter for our son. He will notice that he doesn't look like anyone else in his family. It will matter to him when his family and friends who love him minimize his experience of racism. Racism continues to exist and it’s a cold hard fact that Ben will face it.
Don’t tell our son how lucky he is that we adopted him. Our son shouldn’t have to grow up feeling indebted to us for adopting him...just the same as Ella shouldn't feel indebted to us for going through labor and birthing her. Simply put, all children should have the right, not luck, to a have a loving family. We are the blessed ones for having the opportunity to parent Ben as well as parent Ella. There is no difference. God has blessed us with finding each other and bringing us together to complete our family. I can't imagine not having Ben a part of our family. He's a natural part of it just as Ella is.
Don’t introduce our son as “Ben, who was adopted from South Korea” or “their daughter, Ella and their adopted son, Ben.” Yes, we did adopt. Obviously. But adoption is not the only part of our son's identity, just as being a biological child is not the only identity Ella has. How we came to be family is only part of who we are. I’m amazed that perfect strangers think it’s OK to ask what happend to our son's "real" parents or if we weren't able to have any other children “of our own.” Imagine how a preschool aged child feels when he repeatedly overhears Mom and Dad being asked about his “real” parents, or overhearing comments that assume he is not a child "of our own". We are a real family. Ben and Ella are both our REAL children and we are their REAL parents. When Ben wakes five times in the night and looks to us for comfort, he is our own. When Ella throws a tantrum in the grocery store and we are left to deal with it, she is our own. When we walk through the door and they have smiles for us, they are our own. When they laugh together like all siblings do, they are our own.