Marie Dolfi, an adoption counselor in Albany, NY, recently posted a list of suggested responses to insensitive comments and questions about adoption titled “Smart Responses to Stupid Adoption Comments”. The comments and responses were listed separately for adults and for children. I found it incredibly sad that we have to arm our children with ways to combat misplaced comments or questions about the validity of their families and how they are connected to each other. I have touched on tolerance many times in my blog and found it fitting to address it again after my home state of Washington just approved the marriage equality referendum last week on Election Day.
My close friends, who championed this valiant and successful fight for marriage equality because of their own family values, felt strongly that it made sense for the rest of the state (and country). Apparently, most of the state of Washington, as well as two other states that passed their marriage equality referendums, agreed. We all need to develop tolerance and respect for the differences among us and treat each other as we want to be treated. Families aren’t all the same in our country; two parents of the same sex are just as capable of living happy lives and raising healthy, successful children. The stories and statements supporting the referendum that came across my television screen during the political season were inspiring and admirable for any partnership. The people who have strong relationships with partners of the same sex just want what everyone deserves: happiness, freedom, and respect from their community.
I have no intent to incite a political battle when proponents from either side of this issue read my blog, but I do have a strong opinion about how we communicate with each other. Respect is vitally important. When I was young, my parents were extremely strict about respecting other kids’ parents, teachers and other adults in positions of authority. They also expected my brother and I to show respect for our own parents, our friends, and each other. As an adult, I have often wondered why every family doesn’t teach this important lesson to their children. As an adoptive mother, I have become especially aware of naïve or insensitive questions or comments about my daughter.
As I read through Marie’s list, I am grateful that my daughter is resilient and easy-going. She isn’t likely to react strongly to questions from insensitive kids that might inflame another, more anxious, adopted child. The list included questions like: “Where are your real parents?” (Suggested response: “I live with my real parents. That’s why I call them Mom and Dad.”) and “Why did your birth mom give you away? Didn’t she want you?” (Suggested responses: “She didn’t give me away, she gave me parents.” and “Actually I was always wanted. My parents wanted me before I was born.”). Keeping a positive attitude and taking an honest approach to any comment about family background is always helpful advice to children, as well as adults.
I would have a problem with many of the comments and questions on the list that thoughtless adults might ask me like: “How much did your child cost?” (Suggested response: “Children don’t cost anything. Adoption costs are for services only.”) and “Aren’t you worried that the birth parents will want their child back?” (Suggested response: “No, we’re her parents by law. It is a myth that birthparents frequently come back to reclaim their child.”). Some of the questions could be called outrageous or laughable, but the list illustrates my point quite precisely. We all need to think before we speak and be respectful of others.
Gay parents suffer some of the same scrutiny and insensitivity that adoptive parents endure, which is equally disappointing and extremely unfair. I searched the Internet for suggested responses to insensitive comments directed at families with two parents of the same sex but found nothing, except for the infamous comment in 2004 made by former Presidential candidate Mitt Romney who said to a group of gay parents, “I didn’t know you had families” (http://thenewcivilrightsmovement.com/i-didnt-know-you-had-families-mitt-romney-told-group-of-gay-parents/politics/2012/09/11/48832).
As a parent, I hope that all children, regardless of where they live and who their parents are, can live free from callous remarks and inconsiderate questions. I also hope that when those children become adults, they teach their own children how to respect others’ choices and treat everyone as fellow Americans with equal rights and equal access to happiness.