Monday, October 29, 2007

Adoptive Parent Pet Peeves

Luckily for us we haven't received any negative comments about our adoption. People, for the most part, have been positive and supportive through this process. Sometimes though people do say things to us that, although are well meaning, are not considered positive adoption language. Sometimes it is because of a generational difference or unfamiliarity with current terminology. Some may consider us too sensitive about these things but it is really not about us. It is about the little girl who we will soon be adopting. Just wanted to talk about some of the things that are frowned upon in the (Chinese) adoption community.

Lucky Child
Not to toot our own horn but Jen and I think we will make pretty good parents so any kid would be lucky to have us as parents. Sometimes though there is the perception that by adopting from China we are saving a child. We will be taking Grace out of an orphanage or foster care and we do think that we will be giving her many opportunities that she would not have in China. But she will also be losing a lot by leaving China. We will be taking her away from her country and culture and bringing her to a place were most of the population will not look like her. Sometime in her life she will feel racism and discrimination and at that point I am sure she will not feel lucky. We are the lucky ones that China is allowing us to adopt one of her daughters and for that we will be eternally grateful.

I think this is a generational thing as in the past it was acceptable to refer to people of Asian descent as Oriental. This term is no longer acceptable just as it is no longer acceptable to refer to African-Americans as colored. Grace will be Asian-American of Chinese descent. People are Asian, rugs and furniture are oriental.

China Doll
When people refer to Grace as our China doll we know it is meant with the best intentions, that she will be a beautiful child. What people don't realize is that there are sexual overtones in the term. The term is used in countless movies in referring to sexualized Asian women kept hidden away for some westerner's pleasure. Most Asians abhor the term as well as it objectifies them. So it is not really a term we want used in reference to our daughter since she will be our daughter and not a "doll" we went to China to purchase.

Model Minority
Sometimes Asians are referred to as the model minority. The stereotype is that Asians are intelligent, hardworking and successful. A few people have bought into this stereotype and commented that "she will be smart" or "good at math". As a teacher, Jen has seen all ability levels in all races of her students, so we don't expect Grace to naturally excel in any one area just because of her race. We hope Grace is smart but what if she struggles in school? We would hate for her teachers to expect her to be smart or not give her the support she needs just because she is Chinese and is supposed to be good in certain subjects.

Positive Adoption Language
Using positive adoption language supports adoption as just another way to build a family. Adoption is not better or worse than having a child through birth, it is just a different path that we chose to build our family. We will not use the term "real parents" when referring to her "biological parents". It is also not acceptable to call a biological child a real son or daughter when comparing them to adopted children. We will be Grace's parents, and we assure you we are real. Grace will have a biological mother and father in China, she will know and hopefully be proud of this from an early age. But we will never refer to Grace as our adopted daughter, she will just be our daughter Grace. We see no need to make the distinction. One comment we have heard in the past is that we will love her just as "our own". Well of course we will, she will be our own child. The preferred term for "own child" is "birth child" and I think that is what is meant when people use the term. It may seem to some that using proper terminology is trivial but positive adoption language is really about the child seeing their adoption in a positive light and not as something to be embarrassed about or as second best to having biological children.


Wendy said...

Great post!!

kris said...

well said, Steve.

I'm hoping for some great news this month - come on Oct. referrals!

Journeywoman said...

VERY well said.

Bea said...

Well put. I hope a lot of people get to read this.


Kathy V said...

I came via the creme. I have never thought about some of these phrases before but what you said makes perfect sense. Thanks for letting me take a glimpse into something that I have never experienced before.

Jen said...

I think you should print this in brochures and hand it out to everyone.