Adopted: not an adjective, but a verb
Who’s choice is adoption?
Eliminating labels for our children…
We are living in a world that expects immediate information and so our society labels everything. And while that may work for food items, self-care products and social medial posts, research has shown that labeling our children does not serve them. The consequences of negative labels are obvious, but even perceived positive labels can have lasting effects on behavior, self-esteem and even character. These labels can pigeon hole our children and ultimately keep them from truly embracing their potential.
And so, as a mother who grew her family through adoption, this notion has profound importance to me. I’m incredibly proud of how my family came to be, and how my children are addressed is paramount. As an exercise, let’s take a look at the following sentences:
We adopted our children.
Our children are adopted.
Sure there’s an obvious structural difference but I challenge you to re-read the sentences out loud for the deeper significance. Because at first glance, one may not be able to perceive the emotional distinction that resonates.
The first one clearly describes an action. We (the parents) made the choice to adopt.
The other describes the child. It creates a label. Our children (who did not participate in the choice) are assigned the descriptor adopted.
So, the question becomes, do our children need this label?
The answer is no. They are quite simply our children. If I’m going to assign my children an adjective, then I choose spunky, spirited, magical, willful, curious to name a few. These are true attributes of my children and who they are as evolving human beings.
Michelle Madrid-Branch, a public speaker and author on the subject of adoption has said her children were “delivered into her life via adoption.”
Now, that’s a mouthful! BUT, I have to admit, my heart clenched when I heard that phrase. She was creating active imagery around the design of her family and I find that inspiring. In fact, I decided to try it out for myself one day and was so affected by the gravity of the statement that a sob caught in my throat.
To those who say that they are proud of their adoption which is why they use the phrasing, I too understand that. But switching from an adjective to a verb does nothing to take away how your family came to be. But it does liberate the child from this label which is unnecessary. Adoption is an inherent part of who they are as human beings and how they came to their family, but it is not the sum total of who they are.
Sandra Bullock said in an interview back in May 2018:
Let’s all just refer to these kids as “our kids.” Don’t say “my adopted child.” No one calls their kid their “IVF child” or their “oh, shit, I went to a bar and got knocked-up child.”
And by the same token I’d like to add that I am the parent, not adoptive parent. There is no differentiation needed.
So, in closing, I’d like to offer a suggestion to keep the conversation around adoption active instead of passive. Let’s continue to speak with conviction and enthusiasm. Let’s embrace the incredible choice we made to grow our family without labeling our children or ourselves. And let’s feel empowered by our responsibility to educate others along the way. For the children are always watching - absorbing everything we say and perhaps more importantly, HOW we say it.