Thursday 20 October 2016

Adoption Week: What is a 'real' family anyway ?

I've written about the different types of families before . It's not like as a society we're unfamiliar with the concept of single parents, step-parenting, family carers (eg. grandparents raising children), multiracial families and same sex parents. I realise that not everyone has an enlightened view on any or all of these types of families. It's a shame that for some there is an idea of the 'real' family that exists in their mind - and pretty much nowhere else. Oh and in the christian allegory / family soap from my childhood, Little House on the Prairie. I mean even Michael Landon was pushing custard uphill trying to convince the audience that this was typical family life wasn't he ?

Even thought adoption is no longer kept secret there are still so many misunderstandings about it. I often get asked where my son has come from as there is an expectation that he must be from another country. It's also common to be asked why he was adopted as if there must be some fluffy reason like they had run out of room in the mansion he was born in. There is also the misconception that babies sit around in children's homes waiting until their adopters come to find them. Like Annie, but without the singing and dancing. Or the dog.

When talking about adoption even the most understanding of people struggle with what is appropriate to say or ask. So here's my handy guide to help you stay on safe ground - and some tips on what to avoid:

  • He is my youngest son thank you, not my adopted son. I don't refer to your youngest as 'the accident' or your oldest as 'the result of too much prosecco in Kos' do I ? 
  • Yes he does call me Mummy. That's because I am his Mummy. He also calls Hubbie "Daddy" and his brother "Baba." I'm pretty sure he's going to call him a lot of other names before too long. 
  • We are his family, yes his 'real' family. He also has a birth family and a birth mother - sometimes referred to as a 'tummy mummy' when explaining to very young children. 
  • He has grandparents, aunties and uncles just like anyone else. They are his just as much as they are Brown Bear's. I am pretty sure they do not make any distinction between the boys based on how they came to the family.
  • Our child was not 'taken away' from his family and 'given' to us. He's not a parcel or an unwanted toy. The decisions that have been taken about his life and the choices that have been made are complicated. They are also private. 
  • It is ok to talk about adoption to us, but please show some consideration when talking about him. He has ears and so does his brother. They hear the things you say about them. If it is something you feel the need to say under your breath maybe don't say it at all. 
Blue Bear has been a wonderful addition to our family. He is fun, hilarious and cheeky. He's also stubborn as an ox and gives as good as he gets from his big brother. Anyone who meets them would have no idea that they don't have the same parents. I have been greeted with shock at this news. He looks like Hubbie, he plays tricks like Brown Bear, he dances in the car like me. 

Blue Bear is with his real family. We are his and he is ours. 

Tomorrow: Was it worth it ? 

It's Adoption Week so I'm writing about adoption every day this week.

I'll be answering questions about adoption that you may have. Feel free to comment on here or ask me on Twitter with the hashtag #askaboutadoption.

So go ahead and ask those burning questions. If I can't answer I know enough professionals who I can direct your questions to.

To find out more about adoption week take a look here:

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