What did surprise me was the name of this prayer program - Adopt a Liberal! They even have a "waiting child" list of liberals you can adopt. Or you can go into it looking for a match by choosing the "Unknown Liberal (Tomb of, implied). I confess, it made me laugh from the sheer ridiculousness of it. What the heck does praying for someone have to do with adoption?!
I've never been that exercised about "Adopt-a-Whatever" programs, despite my preference that Katherine Heigl not put pictures of her newly-adopted daughter just above an "Adopt A Pet" announcement on her website! I understand why many prefer that there not be this usage, and Dawn Davenport of Creating a Family sums up the arguments well:
I don’t underestimate the power of words. Words both reflect and influence attitudes, and attitudes matter. The argument in the adoption community againstShe then goes on to say:
the use of the word “adoption” for highways, rubber ducks, or even pets, is that is lessens the meaning of the word. To adopt a child means forming a lifelong commitment to love, raise, and cherish this child, the same as giving birth to a child. When you adopt a highway or flower bed, there is no life long commitment or even caring, it’s all about money. With the family pet, it’s a bit trickier, but even the most ardent animal lover, like me, feels a different commitment to pets than to children. If one of my children developed an allergy to one of our cats, or if one of our dogs started to bite unprovoked, I would find another home for the pet.
That’s the party line, and it’s true, but there is something about all this that leaves me unsettled. It’s as if our adopted children and the very institution of adoption are so fragile that using the wrong word can cause major confusion or fundamentally undermine self esteem. This simply doesn’t reflect the reality that I see. I asked this question to two adult friends who were adopted, and it isn’t their reality either.
Dawn also offers this conversation with her 13-year-old daughter (you know how much I love conversations!):
Daughter: What’s up with these adopt-a-highway signs? What exactly do they mean?
Me: [Surprised by serendipity and not one to miss an opportunity especially when it drops in my lap, I jumped right in.] Funny that you should ask since I’ve been thinking about that a lot lately. How do you feel about them? Do you think they should use that word? How does that make you feel?
Daughter: [Painfully long pause while she looks at me with an expression that could politely be called quizzical, but more likely could be interpreted as “What planet did you come from?”] Huh???
At this point, I feel a bit like the parent in the old sex ed joke. The kid asks where did I come from, and the parent launches into a complete discussion of the mechanics of sex. The kid responds, “I mean was I born in Minneapolis or St. Paul?
Me: Um, what was your question again?
Daughter: Why is that girl’s name on the adopt-a-highway sign? I thought it had to be a business. [A high school student had adopted the section of the highway running by the school, and her name was on the sign.] And what were you talking about?
Me: [After briefly explaining how adopt-a-highway worked, I explained myself.] Some people think that the word “adopt” shouldn’t be used casually like for cleaning up a highway or giving money to a zoo by sponsoring an animal. They think it is offensive to people who are adopted. What do you think?
Daughter: [Clearly intrigued by the question, she pauses to think it through.] Well, until you just mentioned it, I’ve never thought about it. I hear that word all the time, and it doesn’t bother me at all. It just means to take care of the highway, and that doesn’t have anything to do with me. It’s like with our pets. We adopted them, and they are a part of our family.
Me: But I think adopting a pet is different from adopting a child. My commitment to you guys is totally different and much deeper than my commitment to our pets.
Her: Yea, but you love us both. You can love things differently. Like, you love Thai food, but you wouldn’t want to marry it. You can adopt things differently too.
Me: English is a funny language that way. Words can mean so many different things, but I do think we have to be careful with what words we use.
Her: Maybe, but this just seems silly.
What I love about this conversation is that, despite Dawn's feelings about the word usage, she doesn't direct her daughter to feel the same way, and explains objectively the views of others she doesn't necessarily agree with! Perfect "adoption talk!"What do you think? Would you encourage your child's teacher to change the name of a project from Adopt-a-Zoo Animal to Sponsor-a-Zoo Animal? Do you equate pet adoption and child adoption when talking to your adopted child about your family pet? Have you ever written a letter complaining about that pesky "Adopt-a-Highway" sign? Have you ever spoken to your child about those pesky "Adopt-a-Whatever" programs?