I’ll admit it. At times I find society’s insistence on politically correct language to be a bit over the top. Of course, there are words that harbor severely negative connotations that should never be used, but there are also P.C. terms at which I can’t help but roll my eyes. One that comes to mind is domestic engineer. Really? This is a role I happen to fill, but I find no need to use such an arrogant title. Stay-at-home mother is fine with me.
Like I said, though, there is some terminology that I truly believe is offensive and when I began learning more about adoption and especially once I adopted Rosie, I realized there are several words or phrases that just shouldn’t be used to talk about her and how she came to us.
Language used to discuss adoption should be positive, not negative. Because for adoptive families, adoption is a good thing, a great thing, a phenomenally amazing thing, not a negative one. And we want our children to not only know that from what we tell them, but to feel and sense it based on the words we use to tell them.
I know most people do not mean any harm when they use the following words and phrases. Before I knew any better, I would use some of them too, and I can’t expect people to avoid negative adoption language if they don’t know it’s negative in the first place.
So, I thought I’d share some of what I learned on this subject and spread the word as far as possible.
- Is adopted – An adoptee needs to understand and believe that his life with his adoptive family is permanent. To say a person “is adopted” implies that the adoption is an ongoing event. In contrast, an adoption occurs at a certain time and then it is over. The adoptee joins his family and remains there…forever. Rosie is not adopted. She was adopted last year. Now, she is just our daughter.
- Real mother/father to refer to an adoptee’s biological parents – People often ask me “What happened to her real mother?” or “Where are her real parents?” And even though I know they don’t mean to insult me, this one does get under my skin. Last I checked I am real. And I am Rosie’s mother. It logically follows, then, that I am her real mother. I really feed her and bathe her; I really dress her and comb her hair. I really comfort her when she cries and rock her before she goes to sleep. It all feels pretty real to me.
- Give away/give up baby for adoption: Why would an adoptee want to feel that his birthmother gave him up? I do not know much about the adoption world of the past in which this terminology came into use, but I do know that today the typical birthmother is in her 20s or 30s; she has other children whom she parents but financially she cannot parent another child. Statistically, then, most birthmothers choose adoption because it is the best they can do for their children. It is sometimes the only way that those children can have stable lives. They are not simply giving away their children. They are selflessly choosing their children’s well being above all else and that is what an adoptee should understand.
- Own child/baby when referring to a biological child in contrast to an adoptee: “Why couldn’t you have your own children?” some have asked me. I know I do not have biological children, so people may say I cannot say this unequivocally. But I cannot imagine how anything or anyone could ever feel more like my own than Rosie does. In the first hours I knew her, as I fed her, changed her diaper, and soothed her to sleep, my hands simply knew how to touch her. I had never felt so comfortable with an infant before. And this connection has only grown in the past year. I know her cry that means pain and the one that just means she is angry. I know when she is hungry or when she just wants some juice. I can tell if she will fall asleep by the way she sits in her stroller. Like any other mother and daughter, I know her through and through. She is my own in every way.
Positive Alternative: was adopted
Beyond my aggravation, though, is the idea that an adoptee should not feel that his adoptive mother is not his real mother. Referring to another woman as the real mother only implies that the woman he knows as his mother is not real or permanent.
Positive Alternatives: birthmother/father, bio mom/dad, biological mother/father
Positive Alternative: place child for adoption, make an adoption plan for child
Well, those are some examples of P.C. adoption terms.
No more excuses, people. Now you know. ; )