Thanks again for letting me join the fun! 🙂
This is a piece I wrote last year after being accosted by a family member with opinions. Readers liked it (they’re used to my mild snark), but I want to change the tone a bit. It’s a little too “finger-pointy,” I think. *When I copied it here, the numbers changed and for some reason I can’t see them to correct in edit mode.
Scientists HATE this Shocking New Trick to Lose 30 Pounds (and to Keep Adoptive Friends)
I heard a story about a guy who grew up to be a scientist because his mom encouraged him to ask good questions.
Any adoptive parent can tell you: people ask awful questions. They don’t intend to be hurtful, rude or insensitive. We watch eyes widen in horror as someone realizes, “I should not have said…”
I’d like to share a few “shocking tricks” to keeping your adoptive friends; things NOT to say or ask.
We’ll also address weight loss.
- “Do you know where their real family is?”
We ARE their real family. We get up in the middle of the night to ameliorate the terror of nightmares. We clean up the puke. We take them to school. We bandage the boo-boos. We hold them tight while they try to understand what the hell happened to all the people they used to know.
We take them to appointments for the counselor, doctor, play therapist, speech therapist, occupational therapist, neurologist, psychologist, psychiatrist and every other type of -ist you can imagine.
We comfort them every time we leave a birthday party, a play date, a family weekend, a camping trip. They freak out with every departure because, in their experience, separation means you might never see someone again.
We stay up all night with them as they scream in the throes of PTSD.
You want to know the whereabouts of the sperm and egg donors who caused these children to end up in the foster care system. I want to know: who gives a Rattus norvegicus’ derriere?
- “Does she look like her birth parents?”
Even if I have this information, how is it relevant—and for that matter, why do you need to know? Adoptive parents generally don’t even want to think about those people, much less consider how their genes may have transferred.
- “Why did you/didn’t you change his name?”
Because adoptive parents are allowed to choose.
However, in the spirit of friendly informing, I’ll add this as follow-up: We gave ours a new name to provide them with a way to identify as part of the new family.
In most of my adoptive friends (and our) cases, we gave the children a name in addition to the name they acquired at birth. We happened to put the new name in the middle, which, in our case, was unfortunate. Both of our children prefer the adoptive name we’ve given them, and get annoyed when people use their legal name (doctors, substitute teachers reading roll call from the “official” list, etc.) instead of their middle.
Our son is adamant that he now wants the middle name as a first name and wants to take Hubby’s middle name as his own. He’s stuck by this for almost two years, so that’s what we call him, but we’re not allowing him to change it legally until he’s 13. By then, he may change his mind.
- “Why did you/didn’t you adopt a child who looks like you?”
Children are children. Children who need homes…need homes. Why should we care whether the children look like us or not? Yes, transracial adoption comes with its own set of issues, but same-race adoption can be just as difficult. Sometimes cultural differences are huge, even within the same ethnic community.
Based on the demographics of where we lived the first ten years of our marriage, Hubby and I fully expected to have a brown rainbow in our house once we started adopting. At the outset, I was pulling for a total of five boys of all different ethnic backgrounds. I thought it would be an amazing way to expand their horizons (and ours), learning about all the different cultures and proving that yes, we really CAN all get along (ah, the sweet innocence of inexperience). I spent four years braiding hair for my African-American neighbor’s daughter in case we ended up with a girl or two (fun fact: my “volumizing” conditioner was NOT interchangeable for her smoothing hair product).
God laughed at all my planning and dropped mini-me and mini-Hubby in our laps. They look so much like us that I have been stopped THREE TIMES by strangers asking if I cloned my daughter. If only they knew.
We all look alike, but sometimes I do wonder…can’t we all just get along?
- “Didn’t you want a child of your own?” and “Did you try everything else already? I hear they’re making great strides with IVF.”
Seriously? These children ARE our own. I don’t understand why giving birth becomes such an important factor. This only applies to “your” children. Did you give birth to your cousins? I don’t think so (unless you live somewhere that doesn’t frown on such things). And yet, no one asks, “Are those YOUR OWN cousins?”
For us, no, we did not “try everything else,” because we had our sights set on adoption long before my Lupus became an issue. Some of my friends were desperate to carry a child; that’s never been a big deal to me. Luckily, Hubby didn’t care one way or the other, either. God matched us up just right and we couldn’t be happier with the way things are.
Except when we run out of ice cream. When we’re out of butter pecan ice cream, I could be happier with the way things are. But lack of ice cream is rare, so…
Several of my friends pursued fertility treatments. Some were successful. A number failed in a miserable mess. So, let me ask you: if you’ve had a heartbreaking defeat, do you want to discuss it? Didn’t think so.
People don’t say, “Hey, I hear your interviews were awful and you didn’t get any of the jobs. Did you try proofreading your resume?” or “I heard you’re trying to build a house but didn’t qualify for the loan. That’s a bummer. Have you tried selling your current home first?” We don’t stick our noses into those situations, because (unless we’re a professional in the field), we can’t help. Why in the world is it okay to give advice about adoption and trying to make babies?
The exception would be if you’re a fertility doctor, IVF professional or are willing to provide an egg / sperm sample.
And even so—be very sure they want the offer of assistance before you start digging that hole.
And now, the moment you’ve all been waiting for—how to lose 30 lbs:
- If you find yourself asking too many questions and you see your adoptive friend’s eye beginning to twitch, get a roll of duct tape.
Cover your mouth securely with the tape. Three or four layers should suffice. Carefully use a pen or Xacto knife to poke a small hole in the tape. Insert straw. Blend up a smoothie. Sip away. Ask your friend to let you know the optimal time for removal of duct tape. Likely, he will suggest a four-to-six week span of silence, followed by a probationary period.
Follow the duct-tape-smoothie diet and you’ll lose up to 30 pounds in six weeks. You’re welcome.
Here’s the thing.
We all know you mean well and don’t intend to cause pain. If you have sincere questions, we’re truly happy to answer them. (But for the love of all that’s holy, don’t ask in front of the kids—or for that matter, if they’re within a football-field distance. Kids have ears like bats, especially if the topic is them.)
I recommend letting your friend know you have questions, then asking if it’s okay to email or call him. Also, ask her if she’s comfortable receiving questions right now. Sometimes, when the kids are crazy hyenas, we just don’t have enough brain capacity left.
- The question that is ALWAYS okay to ask: “How can I help you today? I’m not leaving until you give me something to do.”
Especially if you see your friend’s left eye twitching, she will welcome this question. When you have a zillion questions, first channel that inquisitive energy into doing something helpful. Taking the time for a two minute conversation with the four year old, coloring with the seven year old, helping the ten year old clean up the mess in her room that accurately represents the pre-pubescent-hormonal-angst-disaster in her head…all these things can make a world of difference to a frazzled adoptive parent.
One last thing: take time to ask good questions.*
*Good questions will not result in weight loss but may prevent mild to moderate friend loss. Also, you might become a scientist.