Why is This a Headline?

Thu, March 15, 2007


“ADOPTING AGAIN!” (with the obligatory exclamation point, no less), is the headline of a recent issue of People magazine. With the sub-head, “Behind their decision to adopt their fourth child from Vietnam — 10 months after Shiloh’s birth.”

Sure, I understand that celebrity babies almost always get tabloid headlines, but when those who are worthy of gracing the cover of People add to their families, the headlines don’t scream, “MORE FERTILITY TREATMENTS!! How much Clomid is she taking?” or “DON’T THEY HAVE A TV IN THEIR BEDROOM? Isn’t eight enough?”

The underlying message in those headlines (real and imagined) is, “Why can’t these people be normal?”

As a mom who adopted a daughter from China, I can’t help being particularly sensitive to the way the media covers and talks about adoption. The not-so-subtle underlying message in so many stories about adoption tends to be something like, ‘Well, they already had ‘one of their own’ (not-so PC-speak for biological child), so why in the world would they want to adopt?’ or ‘Did they adopt because they couldn’t have ‘one of their own?’ ‘

To those who ask such questions, I say, why do you care how we became families?

Why is it anyone’s business if I or my neighbor or the celebrity du jour add to our families by biology or adoption or by thinking about cloning a little Brangelina? It’s simple — it’s not your business.

There are tens of thousands of adoptive families in this country, and I don’t think I know anyone whose life isn’t touched by adoption in some way — so why do families like mine still get the personal, intrusive questions about how R. came to be in our family — even when she is standing in front of the questioner who knows no boundaries?

Sometimes, there might be a question like, “Oh, is she adopted?” which is bad enough for a first-grader who doesn’t want her family to be viewed as “different.” But usually the questions are actually something even more insensitive like, (1) “Is she your real daughter?” or (2) “How much did she cost?”

I’ve done all the polite responses to those questions, just as we practiced with the adoption agency workers before R. became our daughter, like: (1) Yes, she is my daughter. (2) Why, are you interested in adoption?

But that doesn’t seem to stop it and, in fact, sometimes causes the questioner to keep going, thinking that perhaps somehow I have misunderstood their queries.

So from now on, I’m changing my approach. I will be responding to the questions above as follows:

(1) Are your children real? and (2) How many times did you have to have sex before you conceived your children?

Pretty outrageous, huh? But really no more atrocious than the questions we’ve been bombarded with, and I suspect Brad and Angelina would be getting if they were regular Bradley and Angie down the street, and not a mega-star couple.

Also, I wouldn’t mind getting a little help from the headline writers at People. If you could just take the first step of getting rid of the exclamation point in that headline, maybe we could be a little step closer to having others pay no more attention to us in the mall than any other family on a Saturday afternoon, whether we’re bio, foster, adoptive or alien!

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9 Responses to “Why is This a Headline?”

  1. Lisa Giebitz Says:

    My husband and I have seriously discussed adopting someday. I know it’s something I really want to do. If we do, hopefully by that time, things will change a little and that son or daughter will feel no different from the son or daughter we’ll have in six (ish) months.

  2. Momish Says:

    I have to say, PM, when I saw the headline and the exclamation point, I just interpreted it as nothing more than excitement. If it read “Pregnant Again!” the exclamation point would seem appropriate. So, adopting again(expanding their family and gaining a new child) amounts to the same thing that is worthy of an excitement exclamation point.
    (I can’t read the tiny print, so you may be right about the angle the story is taking though.)

  3. CrankMama Says:

    I think you’re right about people WAY overstepping bounds with questions. I always laugh when people ask me whether i had my twins “vaginally”? or “using in vitro”?

    People often put their curiosity ahead of good manners.

    What I think is totally unacceptable is people being rude and insensitive to your daughter.

  4. Oh, The Joys Says:

    I applaud them. Like Momish, I read the exclamation as excitement, but still… they do come under fire – and WHY? Hooray for them!

  5. PunditMom Says:

    It could be excitement, but for me, I see it more as judging commentary not on adding a child to a family, but how they added the child. Given the history of the media in covering celebrity adoptions, I was inclined not to give them the benefit of the doubt.

  6. Lawyer Mama Says:

    It is funny how our personal experiences affect our responses to things like the People headline. I saw it as a commentary on the short period of time between children – I read it as Adopting Again! *ONLY* 10 months after the birth of Shiloh…. And that’s because my sons are only 15 months apart. You would not BELIEVE some of the comments and inquiries I had from total strangers (and still do have ocassionally). Oh hold it, I know you would understand b/c it sounds like people do exactly the same thing to you & Rachel. People just suck sometimes.

  7. M&Co. Says:

    When I get stupid questions about our children, sometime I’ll say, in as nice a tone as I can muster, “Did you really say that out loud?” or I’ll laugh in that really friendly way you do when someone does something stupid and say, “I can’t believe you’d ask me something like that!”

  8. Lisse Says:

    I’m laughing over your potential answers to rude questions.

    I have to say that we have never gotten a question I have found rude. I’m pretty open about the fact that my kids were adopted. And since they are from Russia and have our coloring, strangers don’t think anything of it.

    My reaction to the checkout headline was much like yours. Why is this news?

  9. Rogue Queen Says:

    Wow! Wow again. (notice the exclamation mark?) All I can say in response to your brilliant post is…. Preach it Sister!
    I am sick to death of the media’s handling of adoption issues. They speak with ignorance and stupidity.
    Even this week just looking at some things on You tube I came across a stupid video about Angelina called ‘Womb’ raider. And also other mockumentaries about Chinese adoptions. How is this helpful to these children we love and are raising who are yes, our own. Not somebody’s elses..not figments of our imagination..but our own children born of our hearts. Ok so I’ll stop ranting now. Excellent post. Thanks for saying it.

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