What Not to Say

Since we are the parents of 8 beautiful children who by God’s grace have been born to us by adoption we have experienced a lot of comments, questions and curiosity. We do have a core group of close loved ones that we open up to if we choose to. But, not everyone needs to know our children’s private history. It belongs to them.

When I find myself in any new situation, if at all possible I would feel more comfortable if I could learn things that I otherwise would have no way of knowing. How about you? Well, when folks meet us they typically have lots of questions buzzing through their minds. I personally love to meet and get to know other adoptive families, but through living it, I have learned to be respectful with my communication. I want to respect them, each of their children, their family unity and everyone’s privacy.

Therefore, I thought it would be a blessing to you if I shared some things from my very personal perspective as an adoptive and former foster mother. I pray that these tips will be taken to heart in the sweet spirit in which they are given. I know with all my heart that most people do not mean to be offensive in any way. I want to share some things that have been said to us over the years that are awkward, or uncomfortable, or embarrassing and at times a tinge hurtful to us or our children. Please, know we understand that most folks are only curious and most also are simply accustom to terms that are “old-school”, but are not necessarily appropriate. So, here goes.

What not to say and my response:

I thought they all belonged to you. Or…Are they all yours now?

“They do all belong to us!”

“Each one of our children became ours the instant we found out they were coming home!”

Praise God, HE is the One Who created our family; not a court, a judge, the paperwork or any of the legal documents. Of course, we are VERY grateful for the judicial system that legally seals and protects our family. It’s just that we became a family long before any papers were signed or any of the final court dates took place.

Which ones are sisters? Or…Which ones came together?

“They are all sisters!”

Many of our children lived through much heartache and trials before they arrived at varying stages in their young lives. As a family we have overcome many challenges that I’d say typically exceed the challenges most families face. Our daughters have bonded and connected and are building lives together beautifully as sisters forever. We do indeed, privately at home, respect their biological heritage and celebrate the highlights of their history. But, just so you know, it is truly a great blessing when others look at us and revere us for who we are…a whole family unit bonded by God’s great love! So, please, especially in front of our girls, please don’t ask which ones are sisters and please don’t ask me to line them up in their biological groups. (Yes, it has happened to us.)

Where is their real mom?

I hear the term “real mom” all the time. “I am their real mom!” I am not a fake, a stand-in, imposter, and I am soooo not pretending. Think about it. The opposite of “real” is unreal, not real, faux. I am real. I am here everyday, 24/7, all Mommy through and through with my whole entire heart giving my absolute all to my children forever and always and no matter what. Please know I want only to help all adoptive parents and families and loved ones and friends by being completely honest here. If I’m bold I would say that I resent (not in a bitter sort of way, it is just hurtful) that still today so many think that because we did not have the awesome privilege of physically carrying (or for all you everyday real Dads out there…biologically parenting) our children that we are not the “real mom”. Foster parents and adoptive parents do everything past birth that a biological parent does. Everything! We are real parents. ๐Ÿ™‚

Do they know their birthmom?

“Respectfully, that is private.”

Do you or any of the kids see or talk to their parents?

You mean birth parents? “Respectfully, that is private.”

Why were they taken away?

“Respectfully, that is private.

Why did their parents give them up? I can’t imagine how anyone could give up a beautiful child like that!?

When birthparents courageously choose to put their whole heart and will into making the best decisions they possibly can for their child it is out of selfless, unconditional love. Not everyone is ready to parent. Not everyone feels they can give what their child needs or deserves. I have the privilege of knowing this first hand through the friendship I have with one birth mom . She is a precious, dear friend of mine. She possesses character qualities that I have not seen in many other human beings. Her sacrifice is a picture of pure, courageous love. You can find more of our story here.

Please, put yourself in their place. Imagine what they must be going through and how they must feel. Please, be respectful of all birthparents who are only doing the best they know how to do. Be so grateful that they did ultimately choose to give their baby life! Praise and glory to God! And, by all means, introduce them to your Jesus!

In closing, regrettably, I have not always known exactly how to respond to all the questions and comments that have come our way, but I am getting better at it. Oftentimes I have been frozen in disbelief, wishing I had the perfect, polite, yet steadfast thing to say. I’m learning, too. Mostly I am learning that just because someone wants to know something doesn’t mean they should. It is not always in my child’s best interest and that is the most important reason of all.

Anyone who knows me knows how much I love to talk about adoption and share the many beautiful miracles God has performed in our family. Those very, very close to me know that I also share personal trials and struggles along the way. I, in no way, want to discourage great discussions and sharing about adoption or foster parenting. I only wish to encourage each one of us to think of others before we speak, *esteeming others better than ourselves.

What I am saying is, please, do not stop asking me adoption questions! Please, do not hesitate to strike up a conversation with me about the wonders of adoption or our amazing family that we completely love and adore!

I love you all for listening. God bless each of you as you foster, adopt, consider adopting or fostering a child, and as you find ways to love, support, encourage and pray for foster and adoptive families all over the world!!!

Walking with Jesus…Growing in grace,

*For more great advice on this topic you’ll want to visit my friend, Instant Mama.

*Philippians 2:3-4
Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory;
but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves.
Look not every man on his own things,
but every man also on the things of others.

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11 thoughts on “What Not to Say

  1. Pingback: What Not To Say | From Instant to Forever

  2. Girl, we are on the same page today! Love this post. I agree – I love talking about adoption and the beauty that can come from it. But there is a time and a place… Blessings to you all (a real mama with real children!).

    • Mine is actually an older post but I added your link at the bottom because of you today! ๐Ÿ™‚ I read yours this morning. Our posts compliment each other so well that I knew there needed to be a link on the post I had written. I love the advice you gave!

  3. Melissa, this is such a wonderful, well-written post! As someone who has not had the blessing and privilege of adoption, it helps me to know “what not to say.” (Although, much of this seems like common sense. ???) As a mom of four, I have often been amazed at the thoughtless comments of others. “They’re ALL yours?!?!” “Don’t you know what causes that?” “You are STILL homeschooling? How long are you going to keep doing that?” (And previously:) “You are STILL breastfeeding? How long are you going to keep doing that?” “THAT one sure is cute!” “THAT one sure is a smart one!” “They don’t look anything like brothers.” “Why don’t you put them in public school?” And on and on it goes. It’s especially hurtful when thoughtless things are said in front of the kids. I try to remind myself, as you said, that people’s intentions aren’t necessarily bad. So, from someone who doesn’t want to make the same mistakes toward others, thank you for your gentle reminders. God bless you and your wonderful family! ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Amy, I’m so grateful for your comment. I prayed fervently over that post all the way through to hitting the publish button & beyond. I can relate to the comments you’ve received as well…8 children! All girls!? (we must still be “trying” for that baby boy! Or we must be trying to catch up to or be like the Duggars! (Yeah. That’s our goal. Lol!) With the homeschooling there is usually amazement, but there are a few who I sense worry that our children don’t get to socialize enough with their age group. or be like ‘normal’ kids. (Which that is the goal! We don’t want to be ‘normal’.). Btw, I don’t comment often enough, but I am so consistently blessed by you through your blog and I wanted to be sure to tell you that while we are “chatting”! And your baby girl has me rolling on the floor often!!! Especially the “what’s missing in this picture?” When she said, “a human being”. So priceless! ~Love, Melissa

  4. I love your latest blog. I too have run into people who do not mean to, but make comments that can be hurtful because they don’t know how to put into words what they want to ask in an appropriate way. I am always happy to talk about adoption and how God blessed us with the boys, but there is a limit to our privacy. I have always told them that their story is theirs to share when and with whom they want to share it. Adoption is awesome and I’m thankful for the two birth mothers who sacrificed something so precious for me, but we are just like any other family whether our family grew as a result of adoption or biological birth.

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