Several of my Facebook friends recently shared a link to 10 Things Not to Say to Adoptive Parents (Especially in Front of Their Kids). I found it to be an entertaining and valuable read, but I also found it to be too sarcastic for my comfort level. Oh, I love sarcasm...my whole family treats sarcasm as an art form. I just don't find sarcasm to be an approriate method to use when trying to educate others on sensitive and important issues, especially when those we are educating are typically well-intentioned.
I am going to run through some of the topics that Tracy Hahn-Burkett (the author) discusses, but with my own "spin". I tend to be very approachable. I am especially approachable on the topic of adoption, as I consider myself to be somewhat of an advocate of older child adoption. Therefore, I work very hard to remind myself that I was once ignorant on this topic as well...that much of what seems like obvious common sense to me really isn't all that commonly known.
1: "Do you have any children of your own?"
I fully endorse Hahn-Burkett's response to this one. "My children are my own — both of them. Yes, I know what you mean. And I repeat: Both of my children are my own." I tend to brush this one aside, knowing full well that the person asking the question doesn't mean any harm. However, the truth is that it IS harmful, especially if asked in front of either of my kids. If you are curious as to how I got my kids, asking if I have any biological children would be far more appropriate.
2: "I couldn't do it."
Yes, you could! Brock & I are not a level above anyone else. We are certainly not going to be nominated for sainthood. And we are far from being featured in any parenting magazine. If folks as common as us are capable of loving and raising a child, then I know there are hundreds of thousands (if not millions) more out there that are just as capable.
3: "She's so lucky."
I confess. Brock & I both loathe this one. Maybe loathe is too strong of a word, but I know I have to take a silent deep breath and show restraint. And I know Brock has shared feeling the same way with me. Oh, we're not stupid. We know Shaling is fortunate to have a family, but so is Preston, yet no one seems to imply that he should have an overwhelming sense of gratefulness about it. In fact, depending on your point of view, Preston may be luckier than Shaling. Shaling has had to deal with relearning everything she had been taught for 9 years -- her language, her culture, new foods, friends, etc. Her life story will always begin with the loss of family. We love her so much, but we cannot erase that. Furthermore, we aren't being facetious when we respond that we are the lucky ones. She comes with some parenting challenges, but those pale in comparison to the love, joy, and pride she has given us. In the same way, Preston has his own set of parenting challenges, but we are so fortunate to have this sweet, wonderful boy in our lives.
4: "What kind of mother would give up a child?"
While I realize that for most of of us it is unfathomable to consider giving up a birth child, it is important to understand that when you ask this question in front of Shaling, you are criticizing the very woman who gave her life and whose heredity will remain a part of her forever. The cold, hard truth is that a woman that would do this probably made the most heart-wrenching, self-less decision she ever had to make in her entire life. This was not just a casual, "oh, I think I'll drop my kid off at the bus station" sort of thing. She was probably a wonderful person with a pitifully poor economic lot in life that feared she could not provide any sort of healthy life for her daughter. Think about how desperate she must have been to suspect that her daughter was better off with strangers. If there were any possible way for me to find her and let her know how much Shaling is loved, how smart she is, how beautiful she has become, etc., I would do it in a heartbeat.
5: "Why go to China? Why not adopt a kid from America?"
My skin bristles as I am made to feel defensive...as if I am unpatriotic or something. Our personal story is that we actually pursued a few domestic adoptions and hit dead ends. We never set out to adopt internationally. We actually wondered if we were simply meant to be a family of 3. Then, due to my being included in a mass email about a severed adoption of an unrelated child, I was asked if we would consider adopting an 8-year-old girl from China. Voilà! We were on our way to getting Shaling. I don't mean to get too preachy, but God doesn't have borders. Whether you believe it was God calling us, fate, or something else, we were meant to be Shaling's family. Since when did it matter from which country an orphan in need of a family came? Finally, there are certain pluses & minuses when comparing international and domestic adoptions. Anyone considering adoption should read up on the requirements, costs, and experiences of both before making a decision that will best fit them.
6: "How much did she cost?"
Not one red cent. Shaling didn't cost us a thing, just as there was no price tag associated with Preston at the hospital. Now, the process of adoption came with some mighty hefty fees, just as mine & Preston's medical care did. If you are truly pursuing adoption, I will be thrilled to share with you a spreadsheet I kept of all of our expenses. I will tell you up front that the heftiest of the costs were the travel, the orphanage fee, & paperwork processing fees. And yet, added up, those costs don't come close to touching how much we would have spent in child care, food, clothes, medical care, etc., if we had had Shaling in our own care those first 9 years of her life. We were very fortunate to have generous friends & family members that helped us out as we did some fundraising to put a dent in our adoption costs. We also had fortunate timing in that we adopted at a time when we were able to claim a sizable adoption credit on our federal tax return.