Sunday, April 12, 2009

Live Blogging- Adopt-a-family & other pet peeves

So I'm watching Extreme Makeover Home Edition right now. It's the family from Tallahassee, Florida, which adopted 6 children from China using CCAI, our agency. During the home tour, they even zoomed in on the CCAI bumper stickers Made in China, Loved in the USA.

I'm taking this moment, while watching TV, to share one of my adoption-parenting pet peeves. Okay, three of them.

First, I have to say that I love our agency. I would not use another China agency because I think CCAI is that fantastic. They are forthcoming. They are ethical. They do not try to rob you blind in crazy-insane adoption-related fees. They will hold your hand if you need hand-holding. The owners understand adoption first-hand. They have many programs to work with kids post-adoption-- both because coming to terms with being adopted is sometimes difficult for people and because being Chinese matters, and the agency gets it. Generally, I think CCAI just gets it.

But those bumper stickers-- they irritate me. I think the whole "Made in China" thing is cute. Casey and Marcie often dance around and tell us that Marcie came from China and Casey came from Ohio. But the extra phrase-- "loved in the U.S."-- implies that the kid was not also loved in China. I can't believe our agency really thinks that. In my view, adoption from China is not a product of the lovelessness of the Chinese people frequently forced to leave their children with strangers. I believe that Marcie birthfamily, wherever they are, worry about her. Wonder what ended up happening. Pray and hope that she found happiness wherever she landed. I also know that Marcie was loved in the orphanage. I have no doubt that those nannies really did care about her and love her. I'm not suggesting it can supplant a parent's love. But it's really important to me that both my kids know how wanted and loved they were before they found their ways into our lives and our arms. That's the thing about adoption.

And this brings me to the second pet peeve. What is up with that attitude that "these people have done a wonderful thing by adopting. . ."? I mean, of course I think adoption is wonderful. And the mom on the show really did try to put off Ty and the other designers, who kind of suggested the kids should be grateful to find a family here in the U.S., by saying something like "Oh no-- they don't owe us anything!" Well that's definitely how I feel. I have written about this before. I did not adopt my children to "save" them, to give them a "better" life, or because I wanted to do something good for the world. My choice to adopt was totally and completely selfish. I chose adoption because I wanted children. And this was how we could build our family. To suggest adoption is some sort of noble action is to suggest that kids who are adopted are somehow lesser--or less-deserving of family. We don't say, "Oh, your kids are so lucky you gave birth to them. If you didn't, they wouldn't exist. I sure hope they let you know how grateful they are to be alive and to have you take care of them." Of course we don't-- because we expect parents to take care of their children. Why isn't it the same with adoption?

And finally, my third pet peeve. Yes, yes. I'm probably ridiculously overly sensitive about these things. Blah Blah. It doesn't mean I'm wrong. I listened on the show when the builder was talking about how impressed they were by the family for "all they've given" (because they chose to adopt-- see above on how I feel about this). But then he said something else that irks me. He said something like, "And that's why we've decided to adopt this family for the week."

Um. Yeah. That's not what adoption is. The whole point of adoption is that it is permanent. You do not adopt a child for a week. Or a month. Or a year-- or even five years. And when we have "adopt a family" programs at Christmas, or "adopt a family" on Extreme Makeover, it kind of misses the point of what adoption means. And I think it waters it down. When we talk about temporary "adoptions," we are not making a long term, permanent commitment. It's like-- Hey, it will be fun to take care of these people and help them out, and then when we run out of money or get tired of it, we can just move on. But that's the opposite of what adoption is-- or should be. Adoption is the notion that no matter what, this is a permanent family. If the money runs out, if luck changes, if health begins to fail-- no matter what-- you will be there. Because that's what family means.

Don't get me wrong-- I love the idea of lending a hand, in whatever way you can, to people who need help. I just don't think we should call it an adoption. WORDS. MATTER.

Phew. And that concludes my rant for today.

I finished watching the show. Despite my aforementioned irritations, I thought the show generally handled adoption responsibly, highlighting the families adoption has touched, and treating it-- as it should have been-- as just a piece of the much larger puzzle that makes up the variety of ways people choose to build their families.


Anonymous said...

i love your new main photo on your blog. what a cute one! casey and marcie's cute and joyful.

al from dallas.

Laura said...

I totally agree, among other things, with your point about the "Adopt-A-" programs. Used way to flippantly. I annoy the heck out of my school site by protesting every year around the holidays when they have an "Adopt-A-Family" drive. Why can't people use the word "sponsor" instead?!?! Adoptive Families magazine has a good sample letter you can adapt to send to groups to protest the terminology.