Dealing with Adoptism

19 Feb

After twenty plus years of answering questions about adoption, here are my ways to deal with questions–for those inside the triad dealing with those outside the Triad. The triad is made up of the parent that surrenders legal rights to their child, the child that was adopted and the parent(s) that adopts the child. Also all family involved in any of those three legs.

Firstly, I use birth parent because Google and a bunch of parents have labeled themselves as such. However, I know and do consider this unfair to use in many ways. It doesn’t honor the foster parent. It doesn’t honor the adoptive parents either. However, the English language is limited in this fashion where it thinks that parents are either “adopted” or by “blood” so it doesn’t really honor much. I default to birth parent, though I respect those who want me to use different terms when I am conversing with them.

Secondly, I should emphasize that there is no obligation for you to answer a person who is being rude and inconsiderate. There is also no obligation for you to answer these questions at all. I also think it shows strength to your children to not answer the questions occasionally–and also it shows strength to yourself if you are adoptee or adoptive parent. This is your life, not theirs. It is your decision to give them the power to ask questions about you and examine your life under a microscope, not theirs.

To those outside of the triad, one should realize when you ask such questions, you are asking questions that are more invasive than, “How much money do you make?” and “How much do you weigh?” as well as, “So what is your real age?” These things people don’t do in normal conversation. When people ask these questions, they are invading and questioning the ability of the parents. This plays with an adoptee’s self-esteem. This also plays with the adoptive parent’s ability to parent their own children. To an adoptive parent you are questioning their rights to raise this child.

Thirdly, for years I’ve been wondering what rude questions birth parents get too. As it stands there are no memoirs about the legal surrender of children by birth parents. The rest are in filters through various organizations (Usually orphanage organizations who later edit their messages.) This puts a really big wrench in the works. I wish I really could help with dealing with this part of the triad too, and the grief that’s felt, but I have a true lack of information. I will be sure to add information as I find it. I will try my best to address the questions that might be associated with legal surrender of children. But again, I am short on information. I truly apologize for not being able to direct this part towards birth parents properly. So please write me when I am stepping on toes and correct me.

Fourthly from my surveying and research, the adoptess always get more and more of the rude questions. Prepare accordingly–just because the adoptive parents don’t get these questions, don’t mean you shouldn’t teach other methods to your children.

1. Answer all questions with a question. This is also called the Socratic method.
ex. Who are your/their real parents?
a. sarcastic question– Are yours real too?
b. Make them think–”Which ones?” (said confused) or the more philosophical, “Are step parents real parents?”
c. Make them explain their answer so they can hear themselves– “What are you saying? I don’t understand.”
d. More passive and polite (engage their intellect)–”Do you think that children can have more than one set of parents?”
Pros: This has an off chance of actually making the person think about their questions to you in the future. Also f you phrase your question right, they make be distracted off topic if they aren’t that bright–and believe me, there are plenty of those kinds of individuals.
Cons: They don’t notice they made a social taboo.

2. Answer questions with a rant about the injustices of adoption. (Will not work for adoptive parents that well.)
ex. Do you want to go back to Korea?
a. Make them bored–Hell Yeah. I mean the Korean government won’t even give us Korean adoptees a dual citizenship! What’s up with that? I can’t understand why they woulnd’t give it to us. We were born there. Did we choose to leave the country? No… and so on.
b. Rant about the US if you don’t want to answer questions about Korea.
c. Go on a tangent and don’t answer their question. You can rant about the unfair media representation of adoption and Asians instead.

Pros: If they get bored, they will stop asking questions. And if you have some enjoyment out of making people suffer for asking invasive questions, you get to see them numb. Personally, I think this works best for those who pester you week after week.
Cons: If you see them again, you can’t work with them again. You also have to know your facts so they don’t spread whatever you say around to other people and get it wrong. It won’t work for adoptive parents. This is because it feels fake for you to be angry in the adoptee’s place and most adoption questions I’ve heard growing up directed at my Mom were actually for or about me.

3. Direct approach.
ex. Why did you adopt?
a. honest, but guarded approach–Because family is important.
b. Get lost approach–I don’t feel like answering that question.
c. super-direct–I don’t feel that is an appropriate question to ask. I feel it questions me as an adoptive parent.
d. If you like the person– Because I wanted to build a family. (cut off any questions after that point. This is all your children really need to know. If they ask about why… and if you did it to save your children from a worse fate, then be equally direct by saying that you find this line of questioning rude.
Pros: May work better for adoptive parents who have to see these people over and over again. It also teaches the person the right answer and what not to ask. If this person has to be around your kids often, such as a teacher, it’s best to use this approach.
Cons: This approach is my least favorite as an adoptee. It usually invites a barrage of questions and people start losing sight of the person in front of them.

4. Philosophical platitudes.
ex. Do you speak Korean? (after long questions about adoption–not before)
a. Slightly passive aggressive–It is interesting that people think that because one has a certain blood that they can automatically speak that language. However, we are all of the same species. I wonder what in society and our culture makes people think this way.
b. Softer answer–There are a lack of language programs in the United States. To date, it’s hard for immigrants to even work a job and learn the English language. I find it strange that people are so insistent that one should learn English coming to the Unite States but US tourist are equally insistent about speaking English in foreign countries. One of these major faults in the United States governmental system is that it doesn’t honor many countries outside of Europe in its language programs. I do wonder what brings this about in our society.
Pros: Makes the other person see you as a person and not an object (see below). It shows your competency with the subject asked. It also answers further questions that may lay underneath the original question.
Cons: You really have to be quick mentally to answer in this way. If you’re tired or upset, it doesn’t work. For Dinner parties it might work though. You also have to know a fair amount of information and politics to be this high brow.

5. Meet ignorance with ignorance.
ex. Who do you love more?
a. sarcasm–Myself.
b. alienation (for those annoying people who won’t leave you alone)–If I can help it no one. But don’t worry, you’re sinking fast on my list.
c. gentle approach (more socially acceptable)–I’m not sure what you mean. Please explain. (You have to be willing to compromise your position to do this though.)
Pros: Exasperation. There is a slim chance that by meeting ignorance with ignorance the person will understand their own.
Cons: They ask more questions when they truly don’t get it.

6. Redirection. That is utter avoidance of any questions before they start. So when they ask, you simply redirect their question into a new direction and into a new topic.
ex. I think you should love X more.
a. I think everyone has the right to love everyone in their own special ways. So, how are your children doing? (i.e. ask them a new question)
Pros: Gets them off of the subject.
Cons: They may try to ask you again or ask someone else in your family/friends the question. This can have a major con that they stay ignorant. I generally don’t use this too much unless I know the person they will most likely go to. Then I watch ignorance meet ignorance. It’s rather amusing, because somewhere along the way there is a small inkling in both people’s faces that maybe this is the wrong thing to do.

Generally, as an adoptee, I favor the question approach with a softer side to it. Because there is joy in having a person gage their words. And being able to correct them. I also don’t like dealing with stupidity at all. I have a very low tolerance of it. If the person isn’t getting it by the third question to me, and they aren’t feeling uncomfortable, I find a way to ditch them. Personally, I will never date anyone stupid enough to ask these questions and make these statements. It’s ground for break up if they start telling me who to love and not love. I don’t keep such friends either.

For adoptive parents, I think the direct approach works. Mix in refusal to answer questions with the people you don’t want to deal with because often your children are in earshot. It took me years to realize I had no obligation to answer these invasive questions. Also directly teach your children when it’s OK to answer these questions and when they are OK not to. My parents never gave me this, but I think there is a lot of personal power for the adoptive parent and the adoptees to know this. I also think one should be aware of the children while answering these questions. If the children are anywhere around, doesn’t matter where–if in the same household and they could run up to you, you should be careful of your answers. Also gage if your children at that very minute would be willing to deal with this. Talk to them after answering those questions if they seem upset. When you answer these questions, they are not just about you, they are about your child too.

I also encourage to give yourself time to consider the question and the best way to answer. Don’t answer from your gut. If you don’t think you can answer the question levelly because you’ve never gotten it before, give yourself time to think. Ignore the other person if they pester you. If you can’t answer the question, answer as such directly. This is better than answering the question and hurting yourself, the understanding of the other person and the children around you–adopted or not.

Side Note:
Often the questions are not about your parenting abilities for adoptive parents. And usually they aren’t really interested in you as a person for adoptees. You need to be able to take responsibility for your answers and make yourself more human to them.

I’ve found that the real question they have is if nature or nurture is the way to go. They are viewing you as an experiment of a long question of which came first, like the question of the Chicken or the egg. (BTW, for creationists, it’s clearly the Chicken. For the evolutionist it’s clearly the egg.) The true answer should be, it doesn’t matter. The children/you are you in the moment that you are living it now. So getting the person to realize this is your primary goal–you and your family are not part of a grand experiment.

I found this was the case, because after all of the questions were over, they would often slowly ask that question and try to compile the answer *for you*. This would amount to, “You should love X” more.

One minor thing to adoptive parents:
“Gotcha” day should be replaced with Family Anniversary Day. If you have more than one adoptee in your family, well, there are more days to celebrate the formation of your family. It’s the best language you can use. Because it doesn’t slight the adoptee to an object. If you have biological children, it allows them to be included into the mix. It allows you to celebrate both cultures of the child–not just their birth culture. It also doesn’t slight the birth family. In fact, you can use that day to honor them. I also think you could include them later on if you meet them face to face. This way you thank them. It gives power to you, to your family as a whole, all the parents and finally empowers you to deal with those outside of the triad. Use that day wisely.

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Posted in Adoption Politics, Adoptism, Parenting


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