Talking With Others About Adoption

by Laura Christianson

This is one of the first blog posts I ever wrote, back on November 15, 2004. My son is now nearly 17 years old, and we’re still sharing his adoption story with folks who ask.

When you adopt a child, you unwittingly sign up to be a lifelong adoption educator to everyone around you. Sharing your adoption story can be fun, invigorating, challenging and frustrating. I often bite my lip to prevent myself from making a sharp retort to someone who spouts off some insensitive remark about adoption.

I’ve heard plenty of insensitive comments borne of ignorance. But today, I have an uplifting story. The day before Veteran’s Day, my son’s school had an assembly to honor vets. Josh’s third grade class also had a “show and tell” time, during which the children could bring in mementos of a loved one who had served or is currently serving in the military. Josh’s birth father, who is in Iraq with the Army National Guard, e-mailed him a letter and some pictures of himself with his “big gun” (a thrill for any 8-year-old boy!).

Josh memorized his birth father’s letter and proudly recited it to his class and showed them the photos (that’s his birth father, on the right). It warms my heart that Josh feels so comfortable with his adoption that he’s not afraid to face the inevitable questions that arise when he talks about his birth father. When one of his classmates innocently asked whether his birth parents left Josh in a basket on our doorstep (she must have been thinking of Moses), Josh patiently explained the way in which he arrived in our family.

Two days after Josh’s Show & Tell, I did a little show and tell of my own. I was traveling with three women from work and I told them about Josh’s Veteran’s Day presentation. “I didn’t know you adopted your kids,” exclaimed one of my co-workers. I grabbed the opportunity, and the four of us ended up talking for quite some time about adoption. The others shared their experiences with people they know who have adopted, who were adopted or who’ve placed a child for adoption.

While I did cringe a couple of times at some of the language they used to describe adoption, I got over it. I figure that you have to take advantage of the “teachable moments,” and you can’t get much better than having a captive audience when you’re traveling in a car together!

For me, the best way to “teach” others about adoption is simply to share my own story when the opportunity arises. I don’t constantly talk about adoption (as evidenced by the surprise of my co-worker, who’s shared an office with me for several months and didn’t know I was an adoptive parent). I just incorporate it into normal conversation, the same way a woman who has given birth to her children would talk about her kids. Our situation is just a little more complex, and therefore, intriguing to others.

Because I know people are intrigued and they seek a “safe” place to ask “dumb” questions about adoption, I allow myself to be that safe place. More often than not, I leave the conversation feeling as if I have taken one small step in helping broaden someone’s understanding and acceptance of adoption.