Saturday, September 3, 2011

"Real" - a Rant

I don't know if anyone else does this, but quite often I'll hear someone say something and it will take an hour or two for my brain to process exactly what they said. If I'm lucky, it won't be a big deal, but sometimes it's the sort of thing where I think, hours later, "This is what I should have said."

I had just such a moment this past week. A woman with whom I am becoming acquainted was talking about adoption. I don't know if she reads this blog, but I hope so, because I want her to know what I should have said on Wednesday.

I had mentioned that Roo looks like P and M. It's not particularly important to me that she looks like them, but the fact is that she does, and that's what I said. This woman - I'll call her C - said, "Isn't it funny how that happens sometimes?"

"It is," I agreed.

"I know a family who adopted kids who look just like them. You look at their family and you can't even tell which ones are their real kids."

I heard the words, but I didn't process them properly. If I had, I never would have let them slide like that. I never would have let the conversation continue from there. But I did. And I hate it. I had a prime opportunity to correct a misconception, and I didn't. I want to do it now, as I should have done it Wednesday.

C, I know what you meant to say. I know that when you said "real" you meant biological. But here's the thing - you didn't say biological. You said real. Adopted children are real children. Roo is 100% real, and 100% really P and M's daughter. She is their real child.

You're new to the adoption world, C, so I don't blame you for using incorrect language - most people do. But I want to correct it, because if you're going to be coming to my birth mom group to support your friend, if you're going to be around people who are so intimately acquainted with adoption, you're going to have to change your vocabulary.

All adopted children are real. They are real children. Being adopted doesn't mean they're not their parents' real children. Ask any parent who has adopted - their kids are their kids, all of them, no matter what.

If Roo isn't her parents' real child, what is she - Pinocchio? Psh. Roo isn't going to grow up wishing on a star that someday she'll be real. She is her parents' real child. She was from the moment they first held her. I think they would agree.

Maybe I'm belaboring the point here, but I want to make it abundantly clear. Adopted children are their parents' real children. I don't believe for a second that P and M (or any adoptive parents, for that matter) consider their children to be anything but their real kids.

Blood doesn't make a family. Love makes a family. It makes them real.



Anonymous said...

A HUGE AMEN!!!!!!!!!!! You are wonderful and I really wish Marlee's sweet birthmom knew you and could learn from you! :)

Margaret said...

Oh! As an adoptee I HATED the words "real children". My parents never treated me any different then their biological children but hearing the word "real" hurt so much.

I was a practice person for a psych resident's oral exam. Going over my background he mentioned my "real family" a few times. I politely asked is he meant "biological family". From that point on he would correct himself every time he said "real" but it really hurt even though I am 42 and knew what he was meaning.

BobandColista said...

Thank you for this post. It would be nice if people would think about what they say before they say it. How people choose to talk about kids who were adopted, their adopted families, or their birth families don't understand that their words cut like a knife, for everyone involved. I love your reference to Pinocchio, I'm going to use it the next time someone asks me when we're going to have our own/real kids.

Ashley said...

Totally appropriate rant (parts of which I could have written). Thanks for your honesty.

jordyn said...

I've been a reader for awhile but I've never commented (I don't think..) my husband is a birthfather & the family he placed his daughter with had a biological son already. One of the things I love is that they don't see it as our real son, & the not really ours daughter-they are equally in love with both children. But on the flipsie I have family members who after years of infertility adopted two siblings from foster care, shortly after that she got pregnant & they now have a biological son. On her birthday he wrote on her facebook " my beautiful wife & mother of our child." CHILD. Singular. My mom asked about it & neither of them corrected it, it wasn't a mistake he meant it. & ooh it just breaks my heart.

Wow. What was my point? I hope you see it in there somewhere... maybe this is why I don't comment haha.

Anonymous said...

Beautifully spoken!

Cami said...

Wow. Her comment offends me. That is all.

Lara Zierke said...

It freaks me out to think that people may say this about Jocelyn. Is she real? As opposed to the ghost children? WHA??? Yeah, I know what people mean...but they need to say what they mean. My SIL was asking me the other day about Joci's "other parents." And I'm like "You mean her biological parents?" Because last time I checked, I wasn't sharing my house and parenting responsibilities with two other people. I never want to discount their importance in Joci's life and existence...but I refuse to downplay my importance as her REAL parent. Now I am all ranty.

Thanks, Jill. You're the awesomest.

The Blessed Barrenness said...

Amen to that Jill!
And yes, as an adoptive mom, I'd say I think of Ava as 100% my real child!

Elizabeth said...

Excellent post! Even when done in innocent ignorance it still so hurtful. It's especially important for people to understand this as it is especially hurtful to little ears.

I like the Pinocchio reference, clever.

Thanks for sharing :)

jgirl said...

Amen and well said.

Black Betty said...

People say the dumbest things because they can't wrap their minds around open adoption. All we can do is try to educate them.

Kelli said...

Words are so powerful. Every once in a while someone will ask about our son's "real" mother. It drives me nuts because it implies that one of us isn't real, which discounts both of our roles. We are both "real". Our son's birth mother will always be his birth mother and I will always be his adoptive mom. We are both real, we are both important, we are both mom's, and we both love our son.

Thank you Jill for all you do! You are amazing.

Monika said...

I loved what J & K's family said in the comments. Of course Roo is her parents real daughter, just like you are her real birthmother. But her parents are her REAL parents too. No one should ever make that distinction. I just started recently following your blog, and I <3 it! :-)

Anonymous said...

Just had to echo the "AMENS"! Whether people mean anything by the "real" comments or not, it is ignorant and unacceptable. As more adoptions become open (thankfully) and not a big secret people need to become aware of appropriate language as they have with other things in society and we members of the triad should not have to be forced to just accept that they "didn't mean anything by it". SO, in short, amen and thanks for the post <3

ps-really love your blog :)

Jenn said...

Yes, so well said! I'm an adopted child, and my parents are my real parents, just as I'm my son's real mom. He and I also have birth parents, that are very real indeed, but you're right, some people's language needs to change?

Jewls said...

Great post!

LeMira said...

Yesterday in church, a woman said, "I have 7 children: 6 of my own and 1 adopted." I cringed. So, is that one child feel like he/she isn't a part of that family because he/she is not one of the mother's "own." Ugh, still makes me cringe just thinking about it. I hope I never say, "I have one of my own and one adopted child." They will always be my two children.

Rebecca Hawkes said...

I'm super lucky -- I have two real mothers, two real brothers, and two real daughters, among other awesome family members. Not all of them are biologically related to me, but all are 100% real. (Unless I have actually imagined them all.)
When my first daughter was born my (now ex-) mother-in-law didn't see it that way. She was offended that my two mothers were invited to visit and see the baby before she was. In frustration, she said, "It's not fair! I'm the only _real_ grandmother!"
So, according to her, neither of my mothers were real. Go figure.
(Yes, we did let her visit anyway. I'm very forgiving. But if she ever says my adopted daughter isn't "real" I may not be!)

Rachel said...

Someday I hope to have real children, but I suppose the imaginary one whom I fed this morning and woke up with last night and is sitting on my lap will have to tide me over. Good thing she's not real or else I would love her WAY too much!!

***Disclaimer, this comment is dripping with sarcasm. Excellent post, Jill!***

A Little Time, A Little Miracle

Sarah Weatherhead said...

I am an adoptive mother in a very open relationship with my daughter's birth parents. I love your blog. Thank you so much. I love this post too!

Mystic said...

I can not tell you how many times I have corrected people who have, upon hearing I am adopted, ask, "Do you know where your real mom is?" ARGGGGG yes, I know where she is, she RAISED me.
Thank you for your post!!!