This is a post I first started back on March after a very good conversation with Bug, but for some unknown reason I never got around to finishing it. Since it’s now the dreaded National Adoption Awareness Month. Most people may not realize NAAM started as a way to draw attention to the outrageous numbers of children languishing in foster care in this country, a laudable thing. But, the adoption industry has latched on to NAAM and morphed it into Promote Adoption at All Costs Month — mostly ignoring foster care. Thus, it seemed like a good time to revisit this long-forgotten post.
Some of you out there are probably aware of so-called “adoption positive” language. In reality, it’s just adoptive parent-positive language. Adoption positive language started developing in the 70s and 80s as adoptees and first parents started demanding open adoptions. Agencies, fearing that adoptive parents wouldn’t want to keep the industry alive if they couldn’t blot out the adoptee’s past, had to come up with a new way to convince potential APs (“PAPs”) of primacy. Thus the advent of adoption positive language. It sounds cynical, but being on the other side now (now an adoptive parent (“AP”) and not a potential adoptive parent), I can tell you this is not borne of cynicism, but reality.
Two of the bugaboos of the syntactic game are “natural parent” and “real parent.” APs like to crab about these phrases, saying that to call a biological or first parent a “natural” or “real” parent means that APs must be unnatural or imaginary, which of course they aren’t. In reality, what so many APs want is to be the ONLY parent– agencies tell PAPs that a “real” parent is the one who takes care of a child day in and day out, thus obliterating the first parents, and relegating the birth parents to no more than sperm and egg donors.
Let’s think about it. As far as natural parent, is there anything more natural than giving birth? I have a hard time of thinking that natural parent is a slam. As far as “real” parent goes, if I am the real parent, then is Bug’s first mom imaginary? That’s bunk. We’re all real. I for the life of me don’t understand why PAPs and APs get so wound up over that one. When people use it to refer to bio parents, we all know what they mean– what is more “real” than a childbirth. They aren’t intending to demean APs by it. My own Bug even at times refers to her birthmom as her real mom. And it doesn’t bother me one bit. I know she loves me. There’s enough love to go around.
This takes me to my discussion with Bug back in March. Bug likes to talk about all the members of her families– her three moms and three dads. Her first parents, her foster parents in China, and G and me. Most APs like to talk about ourselves as our children’s “forever family” and relegate birth and former foster parents to the long-forgotten past. For Bug, all three are present and fully family. Full stop.
We’re all “forever family.” Bug’s first parents. Bug’s beautiful foster family who though separated from us by many, many miles still loves her and keeps her in their hearts. G and me. None is past family– all are still forces in Bug’s life, and all are her family forever.
APs have nothing to fear from first parents. APs may want them to be past, but for our kids, they are forever in our children’s hearts. They see their first parents every time they look in the mirror. Their presence affects our kids’ daily life in multiple ways. Rather than denying it, we as APs need to embrace all of our children’s family. For our kids.