I came across a site selling the t-shirt shown below:
The designer explains the shirt on her personal site: “So many people misunderstand or don’t understand what being an adoptive parents is all about. I think adoptive parents should completely own being an adoptive parent. Be proud of it and confident in it.” That makes sense.
I’m not going bash on the person who designed the shirt, and is selling it. To each their own. But I would not buy this shirt for myself or anyone else I know.
It’s not that I’m ashamed or embarrassed by our adoptions. It is the complete opposite: the choice to adopt is easily one of the best things my wife and I will ever do. Our lives, as well as those of our family and friends, have been forever enriched because of our three kiddos. I may not have enjoyed the paperwork and expense of the adoption process, but I have pride in making it through that process three times. I have confidence in who I am as a parent – regardless of if “parent” needs to be qualified with “adoptive”.
It’s not that I don’t want to talk adoption or advocate for it. The first thing you learn about adoptive parents is that we LOVE to talk adoption. We love to tell our stories, share advice, and many of us will speak up to remove misconceptions or correct outdated language. I’m no exception. I’ve written a ton about adoption, and will continue to advocate for it whenever the opportunity arises.
And obviously, it’s not that I don’t love my adopted kids. They are my world. My pride and joy. I love them with all my heart and would do anything for them.
So why would I never ever wear this shirt?
Because when I look at my kids, I don’t see them as “adopted”. I see them as amazing little people who happened to arrive in my life through adoption. I will raise my kids to have pride in their adoption – as it is nothing to be ashamed of – and to respect the strength and love shown by their birth families when they were newborns. But I don’t want “ADOPTED” to be the label that defines them for life.
I accept that when we’re out in public people probably see my children as adopted (I’m very white. They are very much not white). That is the reality of living in a society that tries so very hard to be colorblind that we notice every little difference. So why should I reinforce that singular, impersonal label by wearing this shirt for the world to see?
If the world really needs to pigeon-hole my kids, I’d much have them defined by their amazing personalities (loud and proud, sweet and shy, loving and laughing) than by a generic label that really doesn’t tell you anything about who they are.
Borrowing an analogy I’ve seen elsewhere, would parents of biological children proudly wear a shirt that says “I LOVE MY C-SECTION KID!” or “ASK ME ABOUT MY TURKEY BASTER BABY!”? Probably not. I mean, sure, there might be some folks out there who are oddly proud of the marvels of medical science that helped bring their child into the world, but most people don’t choose to define their child as C-Section, breech, the result of a fertility treatment, or anything else.
I like that the designer of the shirt is an adoptee, as it tells me that she has pride in being adopted and wants to be an advocate. But I’m guessing that she views herself by other terms (talented designer, independent businesswoman, etc.) instead of having adoption be her identity.
Now, if she comes out with a shirt that says “I LOVE MY KIDS”, I’d consider wearing that – if for no other reason than to see if my soon to be six-year-old rolls her eyes in embarrassment.