Tuesday, November 1, 2011

"Child of my own"

Zoe had her first experience of that phrase, "child of my own," that people use to mean biological children and to distinguish biological children from adopted children.  No, she didn't hear it from me;  she is my own child!  It happened at school, when the class was discussing the vocabulary word "labor."  Though the teacher tried to avoid any connection to pregnancy, not wanting to talk about THAT in the classroom, that's exactly where the students went!

A boy in Zoe's class said he felt sorry for women, since they had to go through labor.  Zoe informed him smartly that women didn't HAVE to go through labor, they could always adopt!  The little boy responded that he wanted a "child of my own."  Zoe understood that right away to mean that he didn't want to adopt, he wanted to have a biological child. She asked him why he didn't want to adopt, and he just shrugged.

That usage, "child of my own," to mean biological child is something that adoptive parents rail against.  We're driven crazy by statements/questions like this:

Would you rather adopt or have a child of your own?

[P]ersonally, if I do not get married nor have a child of my own around the age of 25, I am adopting.

And whether we adopt or use a surrogate, or have our own natural child. . . .

Now that you’ve adopted you'll probably get pregnant and have a child of your own.

It even makes this list of top 10 things not to say to adoptive parents, in the number 1 spot even, with the appropriate response:
Is it difficult to love a child who isn’t your own?

My children are my own — both of them. Yes, I know what you mean. And I repeat: both of my children are "my own."
Of course, one could object to either adopted or biological children being termed "a child of my own," with its connotation of ownership.  But if you're going to call one a "child of my own," then by golly, call both that!  Any other usage brands adopted children as second-class citizens, Plan B, the last resort.

I was really surprised that the little boy, aged 10 or 11, already knew that phrase, and had already internalized the heirarchy of biological parentage over adoption.

As she usually does, Zoe did a good job standing up for herself and adoption.  It's just too bad she has to.


LilySea said...

This language says a lot about the person using it, frankly.

It doesn't bother me, because I know how I feel about my kids and how they feel about me and we're good. But it tells me that the speaker is a small-minded person who is perhaps unable to imagine love that isn't completely narcissistic.

I suppose that occasionally a person might say it, simply because s/he doesn't know what other terms to use, but I'm only letting someone get away with that once.

For example, I have a good friend who never actually said it, but whom, upon her second meeting with my older daughter and me, noted our interaction and said, kind of embarrassed, "she really is your daughter, isn't she?" I gather she knew that theoretically, adoption "counts" but it took a visceral experience of seeing how my relationship with my child was just like hers for it to really hit home. It didn't offend me at all, I just smiled and said "yep!" Then she got all apologetic. I forgave her instantly because it was clear she wanted to learn and understand, whereas lots of people just don't care.

And even if it doesn't bother me, it would (okay, WILL) tick me off to no end when my kids have to hear it.

The Gang's Momma! said...

I'm not surprised at all. 10 or 11 is just about the right age to be observing differences and repeating what he hears and what he's processing about what he hears. It just sounds to me like his home is likely largely uneducated about the proper ins and outs of discussing adoption issues. He just truly may have never had occasion to learn about it and that's the leap that most folks take when they don't know otherwise. I love your daughter's sense of self-advocacy.

What does surprise me is hearing conversations about "real moms" from the three year old I sit for. THREE?! She asked my four year old where her real mom was. My sweet four year old looked at me, pointed at me, and looked at the three year old like she was crazy. I was so surprised I was speechless for a moment or two. (Which is a big feat, as I'm rarely speechless!)

Anonymous said...

Let's see.
Let me make sure I learn the 80 politically correct phrases so I don't offend adoptive parents.
130 phrases so I don't offend adoptive parents.
4000 phrases that don't offend white people.
3295 phrases that don't offend black people.
1842 phrases that don't offend gays.
20000 phrases that don't offend bible bangers.
2000 phrases that don't offend NRA members.
I have the full list of all groups that would be offended by some phrase or another. Comes out to be about 24,859 groups and 449,000 phrases I can't use.
Can't even say "Hi" anymore. It offends the "Hello Lovers of America."
I'm about to meet a right-wing atheist lesbian handicapped cancer survivor of Native American descent recovering from alcoholism Korean adoptive married to a Black HIV positive illegal immigrant. Not too sure what I can say to him (the lesbian is transgender and preferred to be addressed as a male).

Robin said...

I am surprised by this post. Do you really think that most people are so PC about adoption? Hardly! From my experience, the vast majority of people do not consider an adopted child to be a full member of the family. This is a huge and never-ending issue. And most couples do get medical treatment for infertility first with adoption being a second choice. Adopted children will be subject to this stigma all of their lives. At least adoptive parents had a say in the matter, the child did not.

Anonymous said...

What's wrong with the boy *not* wanting to adopt? Isn't it better that he know he doesn't want to? I'd rather that adoption not be seen as the first and best option for everyone; I wouldn't wish the life of an adoptee on anyone. There is too much loss. Not to mention that there is repercussion for generations!

In my son's second grade class today, they were talking about primary versus secondary sources. Two of his classmates were adopted from China, and the teacher was talking about how it would be difficult for them to access information about their families. My son's hand went up to say that he is the son of an adoptee, that he is also affected by lack of information (although I do know my maternal side now) and that that adoption is complicated. I was so proud of him!

I am with Robin that your daughter's classmate's response didn't seem strange at all. It might have seemed hurtful to her, but it's mainstream. Most of us adoptees are Plan B (or C or Z).

It's wonderful that she is very much loved and wanted by *you*, and that she could stand up for herself: that's what counts most.