Adoption Language

I will never profess to be an expert in adoption language.  In fact, I know I’ve gotten it wrong before.  And I’m okay with people correcting me.  In fact, so long as it’s polite and constructive, I’m always open to learning.  And my theory is that anything I can learn to help my son navigate his feelings around adoption, can only be good for him and our family.  And so, I expect this continual learning to be a life long endeavour.

Anyways, most recently I’ve been thinking about the normal comment of Little MPB is adopted or Little MPB joined our family through open adoption or any variant of these comments.  While we don’t advertise Little MPB’s adoption with a sticky note on his forehead, it does come up in conversation from time to time.  We are open and honest about his adoption, while also protecting some more confidential pieces of his story for him to choose to share one day.  But, when it comes up it seems like we always say he is/was adopted.  And in doing so, it feels like we always make it about him.

Which makes sense and yet doesn’t.

Yes, he was adopted, obviously.  But, he had absolutely no voice in his adoption.  In fact, it was as his birth mother, myself and Mr. MPB, who made all of the decisions around his adoption. In fact, as with all infant adoptions, he had absolutely no voice.

So, while I may be over thinking this, because I’m known to do that, I’m starting to wonder if always pointing a finger at Little MPB is going to ostracize him in some way, shape or form.  As if somehow it will make him feel different every time it comes up.  And while yes, his adoption makes him different, it doesn’t have to be a bad thing.  And, the last thing we want is for him to feel like he’s all alone in this, because he’s not.  While Mr. MPB and I cannot pretend to understand the emotions he may face as he grows up and understands adoption, we can make sure he knows we understand our own set of complex emotions about adoption.  And, we can make him understand that no-matter what, it’s the 3 of us who are in this together and we will always support him and love him, no matter what.

So, I’m thinking we should say something more like our family was brought together through open adoption.  Something that binds the three of us, rather then isolates him.

Like I said, maybe I’m just over thinking this.  But I also think, what’s the harm in using language that doesn’t make him the odd one out.  Rather our family can be the odd ones out. and we can build our family narrative accordingly.

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11 Comments on “Adoption Language

  1. There’s this story that I heard years ago about two children sitting on a swingset. They were siblings, but one of them was adopted. And the child who was added the old fashioned way was giving the adopted child a hard time. So the adopted child was crying. The father saw everything that was happening and decided to sit down and explain to the adopted child how much they all loved him and chose him to be a part of their family. So, the adopted child ran outside and yelled at the sibling, “I’m special because I was CHOSEN. They HAD to keep you!” It makes me laugh every time.
    All of that to say, navigating this is hard. I have a friend who adopted her son in third grade after he went through a lot. He knows he is adopted. And he has things he is working through all of that, and my friends are patient and loving and protective. But it’s still hard. I know kids who are a different ethnicity to their parents, and it’s a little obvious they didn’t join the family biologically. And they had to work through that as well.
    I say all of this to say, I think that just the fact that you are concerned with all of it just shows how much you love and care for this little boy. But eventually, he may have to work through the tough stuff, no matter how you word it, because it may be worded differently at school or wherever he is. But you will be there for him. to remind him that you and Mr. MPB love him and that you will be there for him no matter what. And I think that will make all the difference

    Liked by 4 people

  2. You are so thoughtful! That is something I would not have thought of, and I am glad you brought it up.

    I think as time goes forward it won’t be much of an issue. My sister is 18, and I honestly forget ALL OF THE TIME that she is adopted. She has just been such a natural part of the family since she was 2 weeks old, that I never even think about how she got there, just that she is there. It is a little different in her case because she is developmentally challenged, so she doesn’t quite understand it all, but from our perspective, there is no difference between her and my bio sister.

    Baby MPB is so lucky to have someone who cares as much about him and his feelings and future as you!!


  3. I’m sure you’ve probably seen the infographics about bad vs good language to use regarding adoption (like this one:…it often reminds me of the “what not to say to infertile couples” lists that I have had to pass along to so many folks over the years. It *will* be a hurdle for your little one, and I disagree with those who say that it’ll be fine as long as you love them. Everyone is different and people deal with these types of things in their own way. And of course everyone’s experiences with the birth parents varies as well which you know personally how impactful that is. If we read enough blogs of adoptees, we see how diverse the experience is, from fairly smooth to very rocky, and just as our other relationships evolve, so would any child’s thought processes as they get older when coming to terms with their adoption. It’s a loss for them of great proportion no matter how fabulous you are, and all you can do is give them the love and resources and flexibility to support them along the journey.

    My biological cousin was placed for adoption when my aunt was a teenager and when she found us at 18 the rest of us were psyched to embrace her, but she herself had to battle and watching what an asshole my aunt was to her (as she is to a lot of people) just broke my heart…she and I have kept in touch but the rest of my family hasn’t lifted a finger. Along with this her parents have gotten divorced. So she’s got a lot of crap to deal with because of how things were handled not to mention the luck of the draw as to who these two families are.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. How you feel sounds totally normal. There will always be times when you question yourself and you may say the wrong thing. But at the end of the day you have the right approach and will be fine. 👍🏻


  5. I like the way you have phrased that “our family was brought together through open adoption”. Very respectful, loving and inclusive. ❤


  6. So … approaching this purely as a word person, how about instead of “he’s adopted”, which I suppose could feel like a label, say “we got to adopt him”, which shifts the focus back to include you, and also stresses how fortunate you feel (and are). In fact I can’t imagine saying those words without breaking into a big smile, because the words will remind you you were chosen, and, well, WOW!

    “Our family was brought together through open adoption” does sound lovely, but it’s not exactly the sort of thing you’d say in a casual conversation, is it? It would be perfect in a speech or something written, but I think it has too many words for ordinary chatting.

    Liked by 1 person

    • A further thought … I wonder if growing up hearing you say, “His birth mother chose us to adopt him” would affirm to him that his adoption wasn’t a random act, but in fact involved a lot of thinking and loving. Maybe that wording will make it easier for him, when he’s ready, to ask why she didn’t choose to keep him. The question is going to come up, as you know, and maybe phrasing it that way would set it in a positive context?

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Totally off topic, but it appears I “unfollowed” then “followed” then “unfollowed” then “followed” you today. I have no idea WTF happened there. XOXO


  8. So, as an adoptee I will give you my perspective. We have this saying in the adoption world, “An adoptee’s story is their own to tell.”

    Personally, I don’t think you need to bring it up pre-emptively as you are doing. It’s not really necessary in everyday life to refer to the circumstances of your birth. If Baby MPB isn’t obviously adopted (as a transracial adoptee I was) then there are few situations where people would ask. Of course be open with him about his adoption, but it should really be up to him how much or how little of his story he wants to disclose, and to whom. “Good” APs will give their child the confidence to decide for themselves how to frame their adoption story. That means giving them the information and freedom to speak about it if and when they want to without fear of censorship or hurt feelings. Adoption is complex and those not part of the triad do not need to have an opinion on it.

    For everyone saying, “It will be fine,” I would counter that with the challenge to listen to adoptee voices with lived experience. There are many adoptees who have reported feeling uncomfortable or distressed at their parents oversharing their stories. As adoptees they have to learn to process the loss of their first family (and there is a loss even if your adoptive family is amazing and you’re happy… It’s not a reflection on the adoptive family – every adoptee has to learn to live with that loss) as well as be an active and happy member of an adoptive family (hopefully). Really it’s for the adoptee to decide how they want to talk about it.

    So ultimately if I were asked I would say, “He’s adopted,” or, “We adopted him,” but anything more and I’d say, “That is his story to tell.”

    Of course people can be impolite and intrusive but is liken it to asking about what positions people used to conceive their child – it’s enough you know they conceived the child but you don’t need to know the gritty details.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Oh I should be clear we don’t regularly tell people who don’t already know unless it sort of just comes up in conversation. Does that make sense? We do firmly believe in respecting his privacy and one day letting him share details when and if he wants to. We are very open in that he will always know hes adopted and we also plan to try to be as open about any conversation he wants to have, when he wants to have it. We definitely understand that with adoptipn its not as simple as it will all be fine so we just want to support him in exploring these emotions as he grows up and starts to experience them.
      As always, thanks for your loving and helpful words of wisdom!

      Liked by 1 person

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