|Image credit: girudah.ist-in-muenchen.de|
Because this is my last post of this year, I’m taking time to reflect on what I’ve learned. This year, I’ve learned that language and terminology is important. As I’ve gotten increasingly involved in the adoption world as a whole and more connected online and off as a result, language has made a huge difference. Many of you who know me personally would not be surprised by this. I tend to be very obsessive about people using proper grammar and spelling, especially in ad campaigns. This obsession has very easily encompassed adoption terminology as well, since this is a subject about which I’m highly passionate.
I believe I’ve blogged previously about terminology in the form of a mention of using “adopter” instead of “adoptive parent” or simply “parent.” Not being an adoptive parent myself, I’m certain you’re wondering why this irritates me. I’m irritated by this because I not only have friends that are adoptive parents, but I have a good relationship with my daughter’s adoptive parents and feel this insults them as well. I’m also irritated by the fact that this term is usually used by the same birth parents that expect to be treated with respect in terminology or otherwise and yet they can’t provide others with that same respect. Doesn’t make sense, does it?
Many people who have not placed their kids with adoptive parents like to use the term “given up” instead of placement. I, along with a lot of you I’m certain, need no explanation for the irritation and hurt that use of this term can cause. To use the term “given up” implies that we gave up on our children. To some people, this may be an accurate assessment, especially if they’re adoptees that feel abandoned by their birth parents for a “better life without them.” However, I personally don’t know a single birth mom that has abandoned her child, at least emotionally. She may have no control over whether she gets continual contact with her child and therefore that child might feel like his or her birth mom doesn’t care about him or her if that birth mom is not allowed contact. I also know birth parents that have been cut off from contact with their children, and those birth parents have done everything but abandon those children.
We’ve carefully chosen the parents that we feel will raise our child with the things that we feel we cannot provide, whether physically, emotionally, or a combination of the two. Even if we’re not able to communicate with our placed children on a regular basis, we still made that careful decision at the beginning to place them for adoption.
Another term that can cause hurt is “keep.” This is especially relevant when a birth mom becomes pregnant with a child subsequent to her placement of another child, or in discussions between a birth mom and those who know of her placement about whether she will “keep” future children instead of use of the term “parent.” I would argue that support, even emotional, of your child’s adoptive parents is a continual parenting choice and so wouldn’t only apply to the choice to parent future children instead of placing them. However, use of the term “parent” instead of “keep” is a much less hurtful term.
There are quite a few potential pitfalls of terms, and I know that I haven’t been immune to use of a potentially damaging term in reference to either myself or others. It’s still a learning process, and I’m glad that this past year afforded me opportunities to learn and grow.