In 1995, the TV show Seinfeld had an episode called “The Soup Nazi.” The owner of a soup restaurant demanded that his customers obey his strict ordering procedure, and if they failed, he yelled at them and said, “No soup for you!”
In 2011, as Kelley and I were going through the adoption process for the first time, I read a book on adoption by a nationally known Christian man. As I read his book, he reminded me of “The Soup Nazi.” He was very harsh toward people who asked him adoption questions that he felt were offensive. In the years since, I’ve read a few other things, usually short articles, which essentially repeated the condescension of that book. I read one this week, and that’s what triggered my memory of my 2011 “Soup Nazi” feelings. So, I titled this little piece, “The Adoption Nazi.”
Kelley and I have adopted two girls and have lived through adoption for the past seven plus years. We’ve received ALL KINDS OF QUESTIONS about adoption, our experiences, our daughters’ stories, our reasons for adopting, etc. But not a single time has anyone asked us a question with an attitude of disrespect or with intent to hurt us. So, we just answer the questions as best as we can. Our two adoptions only make us EXPERIENCED, not EXPERTS. We’re experts on OUR story, but that’s it! Our story isn’t like many other people’s story.
A lot has changed with adoption in my lifetime. When I was in elementary school in the 1980’s, I knew one kid at school who was adopted. His name was Anthony. Everyone in our grade knew he was adopted, but we didn’t ask him any questions. I also knew one family at our church that had adopted three boys. One was a teenager when I knew him, and two were preschool age. In time, that family wasn’t able to keep those two little boys. I was too young to be told any details, so my whole adoption experience as a child was, “Don’t ask any questions.”
The older you are, the more likely that your experience with adoption is even more different than people in my generation. For those who are 70 or older, WOW has adoption changed! That generation lived through times when a teenage girl they knew might “go out of town” for a few months. In reality, that girl was pregnant and her parents shipped her off to live with a relative until she had given birth and placed the baby with an adoptive family. A few months later, the girl returned home and went on with her life as best as she could. And kept her pregnancy a secret – to save herself and her family from shame.
Kate is our oldest daughter. Her birth mother was adopted, too, although their adoption stories are much different. Kate’s birth mother was adopted out of a foreign country by an American family. That country changed its adoption policies in the MIDDLE of the family’s adoption. The process was long, intense, and the family wasn’t sure it was going to work until they got off a plane with their then 2-year old daughter in the USA. Therefore, Kate’s birth mother’s father was a little uncomfortable with our OPEN adoption of Kate – his granddaughter. It took him some time to overcome his hesitations and fears. Even though he had adopted two children of his own, he STILL had questions for us. Some of them weren’t easy to answer.
If you’ve experienced adoption from either side, and someone asks you a question that offends you, just show them some grace and remember that not everyone is as “adoption aware” as you are. Then, KINDLY ANSWER THE QUESTION (to the degree that you feel is appropriate)! You have a golden opportunity to share a part of your story and with someone! How often do you get to tell people, sometimes STRANGERS, your most important stories? Everyone with kids – biological, adopted, step, foster – gets asks uncomfortable questions about their kids from time to time. Uncomfortable questions aren’t limited just to families of adoption. So instead of acting rude, condescending, or using the opportunity to write a rant blog or even a rant book, just use it as an opportunity to do a little ADOPTION EDUCATION.