We designed this site in order to keep in touch with friends and family who are far away and in order to communicate with other adoptive families from around the world.

When we first started researching this wonderful way to become a family we read everything we could get our hands on. Even though there are a lot of great books out there, nothing was as informative or touching as the blogs we found by adoptees, biological parents, and adoptive families. So we are writing this blog now in hopes of returning the favor. We hope that if you are dear to us you will enjoy keeping up with our adventures. If you are someone out there involved in a part of the adoption triad we hope you will find information and comfort here and provide us with some of your own!

If you would like to get in touch with us we can be reached at:
Feel free to stop by anytime. We're happy to share our family story.

Take care,
Brian and Rosemary

Friday, April 24, 2009

Vocabulary Test 101

I've been thinking a lot about adoption phraseology lately. Even though so very much has already been said about this stuff I'm really taking some time to think about it for myself. Why? Because words matter. They are arguably one of the most important parts of our lives. For example:

"I do."
"I have faith."
"I love you."
"To serve and protect."

Those are just some famous words that mean something to all of us but in reality the little words that float around every day (and they way in which they are said) are much more important than those biggies. I have never really seen the point in sugar coating things. A lot of people might call me blunt. However, I am not tactless. It is important to say truthful things gently but to say them all the same.

I feel like a lot of adoption lingo is designed to sugar coat obvious truths (and lies). What's wrong with being blunt? Remember, I am not talking about being tactless and hurtful. I'm just talking about plain language. I also think it's important to keep age appropriate language in mind. I might have a certain honest discussion with my teenager at a very different vocabulary level than when she was two. I'm certainly not proposing we tell a 4-year-old they're the product of rape. However, I grow increasingly concerned that giving our kids a song and dance full of empty adoption-ese jargon that has no meaning outside of our carefully constructed mini-society isn't going to help them understand their losses any better.

A survey was done some years ago in which they passed out a vocabulary test to elementary age children from fundamentalist, Christian homes. All the kids had to do was define the terms on the paper. The terms were the everyday jargon used at their church and in their homes. Vocabulary like: "Born again" "Washed in the blood" "The Salvation of the Lamb" "The Mercy Seat of God". Only the oldest children (6th graders) scored higher than 30% correct. But after the written test there was an oral exam and when the children were asked to put the phrase in a sentence almost all of them could use the vocabulary correctly. That is a classic example of speaking to children through the vocabulary of a sub-culture that the parent has chosen. Much like a child repeating a dirty word, kids can parrot their adults all day long but it doesn't indicate they understand what it means.

So the next time we're tempted to explain our children's questions away by bantering around an adoptshop slogan such as: "real mom," "Forever families," "Grown in my heart not under it," "Tummy mummy," "gotcha day is my favorite holiday," "adoption is another word for love," and my own personal horror "chosen not adopted". Lets ask ourselves, "Do my kids have any idea how to define these ideas on a short-answer test?" If they can't then maybe we need to use some plain language. It may not look as good on a bumper sticker but it might just clear some stuff up.

- Rosemary


Wyndee said...

Great post. I'm a firm believer in 'blunt is better'. BUT, the "real mom" questions irritate the heck out of me. If I'm not my girls' real mom, then who is? My girls are notorious for telling people that "Mama's tummy was broken, so I had to get out of somebody else's tummy to get home". I like it just like that.

blackbelt said...

Very thought-provoking post. I'd love to sit over coffee and talk about it!

The phrases we use are "tummy mommy" and "forever mommy." I resisted both, because I wanted feverishly in my mind to live a life as a whole family without conditionals or hyphenations. I didn't want people to know J was adopted, not because I was ashamed! but it was none of their f-ing business and I didn't want my son to be 40 and have people say, "He's adopted," like it has to do with anything.

However. There came a time when I had to explain why he hadn't grown inside my tummy. I chose TM because it was appropriate to the age he at the time. Then, as he struggled with abandonment and trauma, I needed to tell him that I am hi "forever mommy," that I won't leave him. Ever. It stuck in my throat because *I* knew I was his forever, but he needed to hear it from me.

As conservative Christians, we never use a jargon w/o explaining them - he may not get it until he's in 6th grade, but I am getting his mind ready.

I hope I don't sound defensive! I actually just agree with you and wanted to share our thoughts/experiences.

rosemary said...

Wyndee, your girls response is hilarious!! ;-)

rosemary said...

Blackbelt, I don't think you're being defensive (or have any need to be) about the choices you've made lovingly for your family. Nor do I think there is necessarily anything wrong with using phrases like "forever family" or "tummy mummy" when they are used in conjunction with lots of good plain language and plenty of conversations about adoption. Sadly though, lots of adoptees are not being given that kind of information. That's what I was talking about. I'm sure that you are doing an AMAZING job with Boo!!

Robin and Kyle said...

I totally agere with your post. I am really uncomfortable with "gotcha day" and anything similar to "you grew in my heart".

Tangentially, I was in a social situation this week (without my son) and friends were takling about him. One friend (88 years old) said that "even though he's not really yours, he'll look like you and Kyle to the extent that he'll learn your facial expressions, mannerisms, etc." My other friend visibly cringed at the "not really yours" bit, but I wasn't offended at all. She didn't mean that he wasn't my son, just that he's not "biologically" mine. That's very true, and it doesn't bother me. I don't expect my 88-year-old friend to say "even though he was not born to you..." I feel like there's so much adoption jargon that it's impossible for people outside of the adoption world to talk to us without being "offensive" if we are over-sensitive. I have friends who have admitted they are scared to discuss adoption with co-workers and more casual friends who are APs because they are certain they'll say the wrong thing.

Jessica said...

I too struggle with some of the "adoption" words. Not because they're wrong, but because I think the context behind them is oversimplified sometimes. I know what words we're putting into practice now, but I also know that when I'm trying to explain this concept to a three-year-old, all bets are off!

Mireille said...

As a Dutch person, we are called blunt or too direct all the time. We say things as they are, in general don't sugar coat it. But in an over sensitive world you have to watch your words these days! And I agree with Robin & Kyle, people outside the adoption world don't know all the 'right' lingo and I won't be offended if people tell me that they are not my 'real' daughters.
I like your post and agree with you completely Rosemary! Well done!!