If you know anyone who is adopted, you need to read this. It might help prevent you from making inappropriate comments that could scar an adopted child.
“Where is her real mother?” a man asked me as I held my toddler in my arms.
“I’m her real mother,” I said calmly, disguising the hackles arising on my neck.
I do all the real things with her. I have real love for her. I am real to her.
The man was not satisfied with the response. “But she has brown skin.”
“I adopted her,” I said.
“Which country is her real mother from? She looks chinky.”
“Her birth mother is from Cambodia,” I answered, managing to control the impulse to lash out my claws like a lioness protecting her cub.
Forget the racist tone, don’t ever refer to an adopted child’s birth parents as their “real” parents. What do you think that does to a kid’s confidence and sense of identity? Children need to feel secure, loved, and relevant. They don’t need people telling them their adopted parents aren’t “real”.
With comments like the above, is it any wonder my daughter recently said to me,
“I wish we had the same colour hair.”
“Why?” I asked. “You have beautiful hair.”
“Then people would know we had the same surname,” she said.
My heart leapt into my throat and restricted my airway. My sadness was not for me, but for my daughter. I have thick skin but children are innocent and impressionable.
So, before you blurt out a thoughtless comment in the presence of an adopted child, stop and think. If in doubt, when the child is out of earshot ask the adoptive parent how to phrase things appropriately.
Can you share other adoption comments you’ve heard that may help readers react appropriately?