Sunday, July 8, 2012

Past/Present/Future Tense

Lisa Belkan writes about media describing Tom and Nicole's kids as adopted, and I don't disagree with the point she ultimately makes that the modifier is rarely necessary and appropriate in media reports, but I could hardly get past her first paragraph:
"Adopted is something you were, not something you are."
That is how parents whose children became theirs describe things. Adoption is an action, they say. And once it is over you are a "child," not an "adopted child." At least most of the time.
Yeah, I used to fall for that line, too, that adoption is a single event that happened in the past and need never impinge on the present.  Here's what I wrote before on this issue:
I remember reading something when Zoe was little that I thought was very clever -- say that your child WAS adopted, not IS adopted, because adopting is just a single event in the past, not part of who your child is now. I thought it very clever because it fit so neatly the "same as" narrative I was sure was right -- adoption is the "same as" having a child by birth, just another way to become a family. What a clever way to render adoption irrelevant to our daily lives, to my child's identity!
What I believe now is that adoption is a life-long issue, and cannot be relegated to a single event in the past.
For an adoptee's view of adoption as past, present or future tense, check out this video blog by adoptee  Astrid of Adoption Mosaic:

5 comments:

Sharon said...

Malinda, it seems like you missed Lisa's point. The focus of the piece was really how journalists talk about adoption in relation to their subjects. She was saying adoption should be mentioned when it's relevant, but "adopted" doesn't need to be used as an adjective every single time a celebrity's child is mentioned in an article. I thought Lisa's piece was sensible and positive.

Do you introduce your kids to people as your adopted children because "adoption is a lifelong issue?" I certainly don't. It is a fact of their lives, and of our lives together. Important for sure, but not the focus or the defining aspect. I don't assume it will be an "issue" for my kids, nor do I pretend that it might not be. My hope is that will be one facet of their identities, but not the overriding one.

malinda said...

No, Sharon, I didn't miss Lisa's point, as I said in my intro to my post: "I don't disagree with the point she ultimately makes that the modifier is rarely necessary and appropriate in media reports." I just didn't want to talk about that issue last night! I wanted to talk about the fact that she introduced her point by quoting adoptive parents' view of adoption as past tense, rather than a more adoptee-centric view of whether adoption is past or future tense! Which has nothing to do with how I introduce my kids to others.

Sharon said...

Oops, looks like I missed that sentence of yours! Sorry.

Mei-Ling said...

["Adopted is something you were, not something you are."
That is how parents whose children became theirs describe things.]

Yeah, she's not saying "No need to emphasize 'adopted' in articles or to the public in a daily basis."

She's defining adoption as something a child *was*, and not *is*, and stating that as fact.

There's nothing there about whether or not modifiers are necessary in the political sense. It's just "This is what you should say", not "This is what you shouldn't be needing to say in xyz."

-J.Darling said...

I hear where you're coming from. I think, ideally, we should just focus on the family as a unit, adopted, biological, premature, hairy, normal, disabled, whatever. In the end, yes, you're a family, and an adopted child is "your child" no matter how you slice it. But totally excluding the fact that a child is adopted is hurtful to the child as well and something that shouldn't be avoided or written of.

I see the author's point too and her frustration with "when will kids just be 'kids' rather than 'adopted vis bio' or whatever other label we feel needs to preceed them." I've often wondered the same thing.