Friday, October 1, 2010

Adoption Lingo

Now that Ethiopian courts have reopened (after a two month closure for rainy season), the pace seems to be picking up.  Our family has been submitted to court and, God willing, will be meeting our children very soon.  Which also means, of course, that family and friends will be meeting our Ethiopian blessings in the near future.  Yay!

With that being said, I wanted to share some helpful tips we have picked up along the way.  We certainly do not expect our family and friends to be fluent in "adoptionese", but did want to pass along the latest and greatest adoption lingo.  Below are a few common questions and/or statements adoptive families receive and then a few words on how that statement may be perceived.  I have also included some terms or phrases currently used by adoptive families.
  • Are they your real children?  
    • Some adoptive parents may be sensitive to this statement.  It somehow implies the child/children are not real, or fake.  Parents and children come together in many ways, and everyone in the process is very real and has very real feelings.
  • Do you plan to have (or have any more of) your own children?
    • Again, this statement implies that adopted children are not the parents own children.  On second thought, I think most people would understand how this question could be very hurtful, especially to adopted children.  All of our children are our own, chosen by God specially for us.  Praise Him! 
  • Why are you adopting?  Is something wrong
    • To the contrary, everything is just right.  While it is natural and expected for people to be curious about a family's intent to adopt (and most families love sharing their stories), asking if something is wrong is implying just that, that something is wrong.  Families choose adoption for a variety of reasons and unless you know that person very well, understand you may be entering sacred territory.  If you know anyone who has ever dealt with infertility, you know what an emotional experience that can be.  
  • Where did you get him/her/them from? 
    • The grocery store.  While I was out picking up bananas, milk, eggs, and bread, Whole Foods was having a sale on orphans.  Can you believe it?!  Honestly though, we received all of our children as gifts from God.  Each one of them unique and special, and whether they grew in our bellies or hearts, God knit each one of them together and led the way to bring us to one another.  
For those that know me, you know that I am not easily offended.  I grew up in Philadelphia...enough said.  Please, please do not worry about offending me. (Now, if you offend my children, that is a different story...hee-hee!)  Again, my intent is simply to share what we have learned.  We completely understand that most people ask questions because they are curious.  Please just attempt to think of how your words may be perceived.  Think of the above questions as similar to asking a woman who appears to be pregnant when she is due.  When she states that she is not in fact pregnant, both parties are now hurt, embarrassed, or offended.  Proverbs 21:23 states, "He who guards his mouth and his tongue keeps himself from calamity."  As a woman, this scripture verse proves helpful for me in a variety of situations. 

So, with that being said, are there any terms/questions/phrases that are accepted?  Of course.  Here are some positive terms used in the adoption world:
  • Birth Mother/Birth Family:  The family that gave birth to the child
  • Family or Adoptive Family:  That family that adopts the child/children
  • Transracial Adoption:  Adopting a child of another race
  • Intercountry Adoption:  Adopting a child from a country other than one's own
  • Adoption:  A labor of the heart 
  • Family:  Chosen by God to live and grow together in Him
  • Was Adopted:  Our child was adopted into our family (as opposed to "is" adopted).  This suggests that the adoption was a one time event, similar to birth.  
As we inch closer to the day all of our children will be together, our goal is to make this the most positive, uplifting experience that it is meant to be.  We all know how much words can hurt.  On the contrary, we also know how positive words can build one another up.  Proverbs 16:24 states, "Gracious words are like a honeycomb, sweetness to the soul and health to the body."  Our heartfelt desire is that words, especially directed at a child who has experienced so much pain and loss in his/her life, will flow with love and affection. 

Psalm 19:14 says, "Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer."  Father God, we ask that you help put only words that are useful for building each other up on our tongues, and that you give us the self-control we need to speak only in kindness and love.  
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