Monday, June 3, 2013


A friend of mine just made a forced adoption joke. This friend is an improv actor who frequently uses Twitter and Facebook as a way to throw out random thoughts he has to test reaction, and the joke was a completely unrealistic one about talking ducks. I'm not going to hold this against him, but it did annoy me.

There's a lot of crap about adoption in our culture--baggage about wicked stepmothers, stories about adopted kids whose "real" heritage comes to light in adulthood, and the general idea that biological parents are always better than adopted parents.

I'm not suggesting for a minute that children should routinely be taken from their birth parents, and I've learned a lot since meeting Boo about how much of a child's personality is innate from birth. But it's also a fact that all this baggage in our culture is damaging for adopted kids. It's not good for a kid to grow up believing that her family is somehow second best, that her parents would have preferred to raise another kid instead of her, or that her biological family rejected her. It's also not healthy to live your whole life thinking that there's somewhere out there where you would fit in perfectly and everything that confuses you about yourself would suddenly make sense if you could only meet those people you were tragically separated from when you were too young to do anything about it.

Adoption happens for so many reasons. Any reason you can imagine that birth parents (and extended families) couldn't raise a child has happened, from death to youth to mental illness, and many, many scenarios exist that you or I have not imagined. Each case is complex. One doesn't place a child for adoption lightly. Adopted children wonder about this ALL THE TIME. It's one of those questions that can hover under the surface your whole life, becoming more important at times and less important at others, but always there. Most adoptive parents these days will share what details they have with their children (hopefully in age-appropriate ways and doses) and many adoptive children in America know their birth parents and can ask questions. But in many other cases we just don't know and will probably never know why our children were placed for adoption.

Because of that, the idea that a child could be forcibly taken from a parent and placed for adoption is terrifying to adopted kids, and to adopted parents, for that matter. I would hate to think that I was complicit in a crime like that. What kind of sick people would knowingly adopt a child under those circumstances?

As I think about it, I think that it would be even more terrifying for Boo to think that she could be taken from us. After all, we're the only parents she remembers. This is the only real home she's ever had, and our extended family is the only family she has ever gotten to know. I guess this means forced adoption jokes just aren't funny because they terrify all children, adopted or not.

Before you go to drop that next adoption joke, to refer to someone's "real parents" or the way you love your friend so much she's really your "adopted sister," or joke about your parents treating you badly because you must be adopted, think about the ideas you're spreading. Families are made by love and by law. Biology is important, but it isn't what makes you a good parent, and it isn't what makes you love your relatives. Boo is just as stuck with me and Hopper as she would be if she was born to us. Her adolescence will be confusing because adolescence is confusing, not because she was separated from her birth family.

Let's just get over this crap, okay?

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