Friday, August 7, 2009

Talking to Someone Else's Kid About Adoption

Since the "Are they orphans?" episode, I've thought of other times I've used the "deflect and educate" strategy. I use it with adults a LOT, but also with kids other than my own (it doesn't seem to work as well with my kids -- and I'm not usually trying to deflect with them).

I think part of why I deflect with other kids is that I'm always a little leery about talking to someone else's kids about adoption. Sometimes other parents don't want their kids to hear my views about adoption -- or anything else, for that matter! (There's a little girl who won't be waiting for late parents to pick her up after ballet anymore, I'm sure, since her dad walked in on my addressing her statement that "Obama is BAD because he called a lady a pig." I was explaining the whole "lipstick on a pig" thing. I'm pretty sure they'll be timely from now on, for fear of what "the crazy Obama lady" will be telling their child! (I promise, I did not raise the issue with the child -- I was talking election stuff with another parent when she interjected her comment!). So I talk adoption or China or race with someone else's kid ONLY when that kid raises it. I never do it on my own, though sometimes I have to say something on the topic to Zoe or Maya within the hearing of other kids!

I've never had a parent say anything to me about what I've said to their children, though I have had parents call me about what Zoe has said! The time, for example, that Zoe took pictures of our trip to China to get Maya to Kindergarten -- we had talked about what she was going to say, marked ONLY the touristy pictures in the album, and then she told the whole class about Maya's foster parents, defining foster parents, and saying that they were not her birth parents, and defining birth parent for them! The teacher said the kids were mesmerized! I can't even imagine all the conversations at the dinner table that night, but I know of a few of them, because the parents called me. Sigh. And then the time on a play date when Zoe told her friend all about being left in a box and the one child policy and social preference for boys. I got a call from the mom that night -- she was OK with it, but her husband was pissed that his daughter got such a taste of the real world.

So where are the lines on talking to someone else's kids about adoption? Are there any?


Wendy said...

I know I am deflecting the discussion about talking to other people's kids about adoption, but seriously--the guy being pissed his daughter was told by Zoe about her story, I am pissed. It irritates me, his child doesn't live and try to understand the story that our kids share so he can stick it about her sharing it. Do bio kids not talk about their histories (yes, they do). Calling you at home is another thing I am just not getting, is it normal that parents call other parents about what was discussed at school? If you choose to send your child to school, you need to expect that they will hear all types of stories and receive all forms of education.
Sorry, this post just hit me wrong (the man especially). Maybe I can return later and discuss the real topic at hand.

Anonymous said...

Um, yeah, I got the same negative vibe. And I wanted to go so far as to say, why is it so often guys who shut down the discussion? They don't like the messy side.

Witness today's NYT, "Dear Birthmother, Please Hit Reply." It was the husband who shut this one down. Not that it was any of his damned business.

Am I imagining it or are men more inclined to build a wall around their families? This is a gross generalization, I know. Just wondering out loud because adoption brings out some very brutal issues.

a Tonggu Momma said...

In regard to that mom calling you to talk about Zoe sharing her story... my response to her would have been, "I'm sorry your husband felt that was too much for your daughter to hear. I feel it was too much for my daughter to live through - and if talking about it helps her, I will support her in that." If you ever feel you are too outspoken, just think of me. I'm right there with ya.

malinda said...

Well, I can't say the people who called me were exactly mean about it -- they were ostensibly calling to make sure the information their kids had given them was accurate. But I could tell they were less than happy about the whole thing. Oh, well, as you say, Wendy, parents need to get used to the fact that their kids will hear all kinds of things at school. And what Zoe has to say is probably the least of the problem!

And I'm glad you have my back, Tonggu Mama!

It is interesting, isn't it, osolomama, that for both the adoptee and the birth mother, the men shut it down. Is it protectiveness, or not wanting to deal with messy emotions?!