2.09.2012

Lucky Boy

Oh, I have so much to catch you all up on....birthday parties, and other fun things.

However, tonight, I feel like writing about this.

If you are an adoptive parent, you get some version of the "lucky boy (girl)" comment all the time I imagine.

If you are not an adoptive parent, the comment is something like this, "OH, he's such a lucky boy!" Sometimes they'll add that he's lucky to be part of our family or to have been adopted or whatever.

Now, we (adoptive parents) know what people mean when they say that. However, we just don't see it that way, so it's one of the comments that makes us most uncomfortable (and some adoptive parents downright irritated).  I can explain why another time, but check out this small insight from a great post over at We Are Grafted In:

Please don’t make saints of the adoptive family – There are many more families now making the choice to adopt to grow their families for reasons other than infertility. Amen! But, don’t praise the family by telling them how lucky the child is to have them or how wonderful they are to rescue this child. It can be pretty uncomfortable. And, that type of praise actually can be harmful if said in the presence of their children—biological and/or adopted children.
Generally, I am able to understand why people say this, and formulate some kind of response that is tactful and something that hopefully educates them. Recently though, I had a "lucky" comment that downright floored me, left me speechless, and really, really mad.

I was having a simple conversation with a woman who interacts regularly with Cooper. She was asking about his health, and I was saying how excited we were that he "graduated" from twice yearly cardiology visits to just annual visits.

She responded by telling me what a lucky boy he is.

I started to respond by saying, that no, WE are the ones who are blessed.

But, then she interrupted me and said, "No, I mean he's just SO lucky that he was born with that heart condition, because it allowed him to get out of that awful country."

For. Real.

I paused because a) I was literally stunned speechless and b) to give her a second to rephrase that in a way that didn't make me want to scream at her.

She didn't rephrase. In fact, she went on to say, "You know what I mean? Think of the life he would have had compared to the life he has now."

In one fell swoop she managed to say how awesome it is that Cooper has a heart condition, insult his birth country (which we love), and completely minimize the loss and hurt Cooper has experienced in his  life suggesting that living in America outweighs all that.

I have no idea how I responded to her. All I know is that I willed myself to be courteous (because I suppose it was the right thing to do AND there were several other women in the room), and I ended the conversation.

Here is how I would have liked to respond:

"Really? Lucky to have been born with a serious, life-threatening heart condition? Lucky that that heart condition is likely the reason his birth parents felt they had no option but to abandon him? Lucky that he lived in an orphanage for 13 months before undergoing open-heart surgery without a mom or a dad to stand vigil, hold his hand, and care for him as he recuperated? Lucky he has lost his birth parents, his beloved foster family, all his friends, his culture,  his language, and everything that has ever been comfortable and familiar to him and had to adapt to a whole new life that is completely foreign to him? Lucky that he grieves those losses daily in various ways? Lucky that he sometimes sobs because he misses China so much?

Really?

If that were you child or grandchild, just how lucky would that seem to you, I wonder? In what universe would a child who has gone through that be considered lucky?"

Or maybe:

"Yeah, seriously. Being born with a life-threatening heart-condition is such a blessing sometimes, huh? Especially when it results in you losing absolutely everything important and familiar in your life and having to start over completely when you are just about to turn 4. Yeah. He's livin' the dream alright."

You might be wanting to say, "But, Jenna, you know what she means."

You know, maybe I used to. But, what I'm saying is that once you adopt a child, you are acutely aware of the loss that child has experienced and the deep, deep hurt that causes them. In no way does any of that seem "lucky", and someone saying he is lucky because of it seems ignorant, thoughtless, and insensitive.

Am I thankful that he now has a family forever who will love him and walk with him through every bit of that hurt?

Yes, I am.

Should the fact that he is in America and in our family negate all that loss and hurt and grief and make him feel "lucky"?  No.

If my parents died in a car crash shortly after I was born, I was discovered to have a major illness requiring major medical intervention to survive, I lived for a couple of years in foster care and then I was adopted to a (loving) family in Singapore because there was no family for me here in the US, would you say, "OH, what a lucky girl"?

No, you simply would not.

I'm not saying you should say, "Oh, that poor boy (girl)" either. We don't want our kids to act like, be treated like,  or be seen as victims. I'm just pointing out how ludicrous it sounds to say a child is lucky simply because in the end they ended up in America.

And saying a child is lucky to have been born with a life-threatening condition? It doesn't matter "where you are going" with that comment. Shut up.

As for insulting my child's country of birth? Please just don't. We happen to love China, and while it has it's issues (just like the United States I might remind you), the people there are beautiful and our son is one of them. When you insult his country, you insult him and us. I feel like this should be obvious. But, in case it is not, there you go. Keep your thoughts on international affairs to yourself.

Thankfully, this was an over-the-top comment. Not one I will likely get again. I dare say I don't know many people who would be so bold or thoughtless as this woman was.

Hopefully this experience left me more prepared to answer the next question or comment- whatever it might be. I'm thinking it can't get much worse than this!

And, if you want to pray that I can be as successful at taming my tongue next time, that might not hurt either.

5 comments:

La Dolce Vita: The Sweet Life said...

Oh my word. I never cease to be amazed at the new comments that adoptive parents feel. This one truly was over the top. The sad thing s that I think many people share some version of that opinion.

I come up with some awesome responses aftervthe fact as well!

Tara Anderson said...

Some people are just so small minded they can't "get" it. It's really, really sad. I hate the pain that my (adopted) kids have endured due to health issues, abandonement, life changes, etc...and at the ripe ol' age of 3. I'm in my 30's and haven't experienced as much hardship as they have. I'd take it all away from them if I could and give them the "fairy tale" life that I wish they had. But that's where faith comes in. And for me, it takes A LOT of faith to trust God with the hardships my children face.

melrupp said...

Seriously?! I can't believe those words came out of her mouth! I read this about 5 minutes ago and I am still in shock, praying that God will give you opportunities to gracefully educate others in the realities of adoption. Thanks for sharing :)

rachel said...

Preach it, sister! Totally agree. We get these kind of statements from time to time too! Ugh!

On the topic of stupid things people say, one woman from our church, when she found out I was pregnant with iris, asked if the pregnancy was planned. When I said yes, she replied that she doesn't know how I could plan a pregnancy when there are 150 million orphans in the world. I replied that as such we have chosen to this (last) year donate money to help support orphans who will never be eligible for adoption. As if it was any of her business!

Kjernalds in Sweden said...

People will never cease to amaze me! I am sure those other women were amazed at what she was saying also. Sometimes people honestly don't think before they speak. I Will pray that next time you Will keep your calm, but be very direct and honest.

Blessings,
Laurie