Thursday, August 20, 2009

Take Out?!

I was looking around at a Q&A website for moms, Mamapedia, and came across a question asking if, when and how to tell a child she's adopted. Naturally, I was interested, and looked at the suggestions in the comments. One comment was from an adoptive mom, and she included this:

BTW, my first two sons are biologically mine. I like to say that we made the first two from scratch and did take out on the third!
I have to say, most of these jokes about adopted children should really be avoided. Yes, I know, most parents don't mean anything by it, they're just trying to be funny. And sometimes APs feel that it's OK for them to joke about it, but bad when anyone else does it.

Like the jokes that might work for biological kids being raised by their biological parents, but don't work for adopted kids. Have you ever had someone say admiringly of your adopted child, "She's a keeper?" Umm, actually, she's wasn't a "keeper" for her birth family. And maybe she worries that she's not a keeper for THIS family, too. So maybe that's not so funny, either.

I don't think anyone would ever call me humorless, and I am capable of joking about ANYTHING, even things I shouldn't joke about (ask my Criminal Law students!). But jokes, quips, one-liners about adoption leave me cold. The authors of The Psychology of Adoption seem to agree with me:

In our family, adoption was a joke. We older cousins would tease the younger ones by pretending to let slip the fact that they were adopted. In reality, no one was; it was simply a way of saying, “You’re different; you’ll never fit in.” We inherited the joke from our mothers, who have been recycling it on their baby sister for nearly 60 years. Since I have come to know adoptive families, the humor has been lost on me.

The home-made v. take-out quip is also a way to say "you're different." And here we're not talking to a child who isn't really adopted, but to one who IS.

I think it's part of human nature that once we recognize difference, we need to figure out what that difference means, and that means ranking it. Is being home-made better? Or is take-out better? Do you think that child is wondering?

And click here to read one adult adoptee's reaction to jokes about adoption.


Lisa said...

I agree 100%! Some "jokes" are not really "jokes" but mean attacks disguised as humor.

I would take it a step further to say that any "cute joke" that attacks one's sense of self, whether bio or adopted, is inappropriate. Like, for example, saying in a joking fashion that a child who is overweight takes after her mother.
Or "funny" remarks about the red-headed child's temper. Or the old "tough it up" jokes for the hurt and crying child. The latter sends a message that his feelings are not important.

The "you are adopted" to a bio child (as if it's leprosy) obviously comes from families who have not adopted. That doesn't make it less painful if (when) our children come across the comment.

Beach Mama said...

I have two bio boys and two adopted daughters from China. I often get asked all of those nosy questions/comments regarding my daughters. When I am asked if my chidlren are adopted my response is, "Yes, but I don't remember which ones." I hope it sends across the message that my children are all the same to me, my children.

Anonymous said...

I think you need to ask the queen of adoption humour, Marley Grenier. Who else would post an *original birth certificate* courtesy the Republic of Kenya Birth Certificate Generator and then declare herself a Romanoff?

You're just not going to get through this stuff without a major dose of humour--sick, delirious, ha ha, slapstick, sad, sane, insane, inappropriate, etc.

It's important never to belittle your kid or his or her family. That's where some jokes are an issue. That is not so much humour as a way to describe something you're uncomfortable with. In these situations, I believe in letting the world feel uncomfortable, but never the child.