They’ve Brought that Kid Home—More Not to Say
They’ve done it—foster care or adoption. Maybe you warned them with a comment from last week. Maybe you were wise enough to keep your mouth shut. But now the child—or children—are living in their home, going to your kid’s school, attending your church.
Are there additional things you shouldn’t say at this point? Oh, yes. Trust me, these are all real questions that were asked of people I know who’ve adopted or fostered. Some apply predominantly to people who adopt or foster children of different ethnicities; some to any child.
- What’s her real mother (or father) like? (I am her real mother. On one friend’s first Mother’s Day after adoption a guy questioned whether having an adopted child made her a mother or not . Really? Is God your “real” father when you’ve been adopted into his family? If you really must be nosy about the child’s biological parents, call them that or birth parents.)
- What does he eat besides rice (or whatever food is traditional to his country)? (This was asked about a baby from China. The mother’s answer: “Seriously? What baby eats rice?” Oh, and they also asked her if he understood English. Um, about as well as any other 6-month-old baby.)
- Is she YOURS? (Yes, whether or not she came from my womb, she is mine.)
- Don’t you realize your going to drive down the property values in our neighborhood? (Yes, that’s how we make decisions on sharing life with a child—by how it affects property values.)
- You won’t be offended if we don’t have her over to play with our kids, will you? We don’t want her being a bad influence on our kids. (We’d love for you to reject our kids, thank you!)
- You’ve done the best you could, considering where they came from. (I know this comment is meant to be encouraging when your adopted kid rebels or a foster or adoptive placement doesn’t work out, but don’t say it. It’s only slightly better than, “Well what could you expect?” What we hear, as a parent who loves that child, is your child is so damaged, nothing could help, not even your love. Just say you’re sorry we’re going through this and you will pray.)
- You’re too hard on him. OR You’re too easy on him. (You really don’t know the history of this child and what makes him feel secure or insecure or react inappropriately. Allow us to parent as we see fit.)
- She’s darling. I can’t imagine her ever behaving like that! (If we choose to confide in you about our child’s behavioral issues, don’t doubt our word. What you see in public can be a far cry from private behavior, particularly if a child suffers from reactive attachment disorder [RAD]. The closer you are to a RAD child, the more likely you will feel some of the child’s ire. It hurts deeply to think your friends don’t believe you or believe you must be causing the problem by your bad parenting.)
- For foster parents: Do they pay you well? Only slightly less crass than: Are you in it for the money? (Yes, there are a foster parents who take in children and spend little on them and pocket the cash, but most foster parents spend far more on their children than they receive. Unless you see signs of abuse, always assume they are doing this out of a heart of love, not for the money they get.)
- Would you do it again, knowing what you know now? (How is that question helpful? It’s another form of “I told you so” from those who were incredulous when we first mentioned it. You don’t ask people whose biological children rebel if they wish they’d never had them, so don’t ask us.)
So what do you do? You listen. You be supportive. You follow the parents rules when you care for their child. You pray. You treat them as you would any other family, because that is what they are—a family, however God brought them together. If you do that, you will be the people both parents and child will treasure for the rest of their lives.
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Carol has been blogging since 2005. Blog posts prior to 2010 can be found here.