I never used to worry about political correctness. I suppose that’s because my rich white girl status meant that I didn’t have much of a stake in any of the groups that struggled to be accurately and non-offensively defined.
And then I ventured into the wilds of adoption. Transracial, single-parent adoption at that. And with the bang of a gavel, my new family became a minority of a minority within a minority.
And I started hearing the word “adopt” everywhere.
Political candidates adopt platforms. Until election day when (win or lose), they pretty much abandon them.
Governments adopt policies. Until the political winds shift and the opposing party comes into power.
School boards adopt textbook series. Until something newer and shinier and common-corier comes along.
Corporations adopt new logos and new slogans. Until they’re not cutting-edge anymore.
Civic groups adopt streets. I’m not really sure what this means, but I have seen the signs.
Churches adopt families at Christmas time. This means they buy presents for the kids, maybe donate some canned food, and invite them to services.
And (my personal favorite) idealistic folks adopt needy kids in third world countries. This means they send $30 a month to help make their lives better.
At first, I wasn’t sure what made my jaw clench when I heard the word adopt used in these contexts.
But now I know.
Adoption isn’t a whim. It’s a commitment. Just like choosing to parent a biological child, it is meant to be a forever commitment. Most of the time it is. And in the cases when it is not, it means the very, very painful loss of a child.
Adoption means loving a child that did not grow inside your body just as much as if she had. It means creating a family story that can’t fall back on shared genes. It means celebrating your child’s victories wholeheartedly while knowing, deep down, that your joy is someone else’s loss. It means riding out the hard times and working to heal hurts that have nothing to do with you.
Adoption is the beautiful, hard work of family.
And, for me, it’s personal.
When I hear folks say adopt when they really mean implement or buy or help, I feel like my family is being devalued. I want to cover my daughter’s ears for she, too, is on high-alert for any mention of adoption in casual conversation.
Let’s just be honest.
No matter how passionate you feel about any given stretch of highway (or logo or textbook), you are not going to bandage its boo-boos, watch it practice gymnastics, lose sleep about its social adjustment or save for its college education.
And no matter how deeply I care about the little girl that I sponsor in the Dominican Republic (for just thirty dollars a month!), no matter how often I write to her and how much I would love to see her succeed, she is not my daughter.
Let’s say what we mean. And let’s save the word adopt to describe what it really is… the beautiful, hard work of family.