Tuesday Topic:Hurtful Words

Ashley sent me an email with this great question:

As we move closer and closer to finishing our adoption “work” and the word has begun to spread through our “community” about our adoption, I am being—more and more—confronted with conversations that honestly? Make my blood boil! Typically it goes something like this:

“Oh, you guys are adopting? That’s really great, there’s a huge need” (no harm yet, right??)

“I think that’s really awesome, I have just always wanted MY OWN KIDS”.

That phrase? Those 3 words? They stop me in my tracks. They anger me. They hurt my heart… As if, somehow? My path is less REAL than their path??? BUT. While I know how I feel about statements like that, I am also cautious to respond in an abrasive or defensive manner.

I WANT people to ask questions about adoption. I WANT to have the opportunities to speak freely about our family’s heart towards the need, our desire for children and a big-beautiful-even colorful family, and our trust in God to walk with us on our journey…

But, I also NEED to be able to teach others about the harm that statements like that cause…and hopefully do it in a way that is loving and reassuring so that they can still ask questions and learn more, but also recognize that they should NEVER suggest that our families are any less “real”.

Hoping someone out there can help???

I’m guessing you all just might have some thoughts on this one, so let’s hear them.

I will post your responses on Monday, July 12th.

Encourage one another,


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Let me introduce myself. Russ and I are the parents of twelve children by birth and adoption, and sometimes more through foster care. I'm the creator of One Thankful Mom which has been as much of a gift to me as to my readers. In 2011 I became a TBRI® Pracitioner* and have lived and breathed connected parenting ever since. I'm deeply honored to be the co-author, together with the late Dr. Karyn Purvis, of The Connected Parent; it is her final written work. I love speaking at events for adoptive and foster parents. I'm also the co-founder of The Adoption Connection, a podcast and resource site for adoptive moms. I mentor and encourage adoptive moms so you can find courage and hope in your journeys of loving your children well.


  1. Tracey
    July 6, 2010

    Everyone has to put up with those kind of comments and now I just use it to educate….I have people say to me, "Where is his REAL mom." I very calmly and pointedly say….I am his REAL mom. People usually realise their mistake and shut up right away and even apologize……For the post above…..My comment back would be…."Ya know, this is just how God intended to make our family. He is my OWN CHILD and is no different then a birth child. I would explain that it took me awhile to get over the NEED to have a bio child. I can't imagine loving a bio child more. It takes a special person who is able to put God's wants above their own and raise the child that He has given us."

  2. Danielle
    July 6, 2010

    My husband and I decided to adopt before trying to have a baby, and got comments like this all of the time! I would usually say something like "We really feel that this is the path that God has us on, to build our family, and that even biological children are not our "own"…all children are God's and we are just His steward's of them for the time we have them… so no child is truly mine…!, Since God is the one who gives us the capacity to love anyone….He is able to work within us the same love for an adopted child as He is for a biological child!

    Ultimately, some people will get it and others won't, so at the end of the day, I just pray that God will give those that don't get it, the ability to understand adoption, and know that I am so blessed to be a part of how He has loved my children through me and how He has loved me through this process!

  3. Kendra
    July 6, 2010

    "Oh–do you mean BIOLOGICAL? Because don't you think they'll all be 'my own'?" Then maybe a nice little informative statement of why people should not say "own" when meaning biological.

    I told someone the other day that I feel sympathy for people who never choose to or get to experience adoption, because there's nothing like it and it's just indescribable!

    I've had 2 bio, and now it's just adoption from here on out.

  4. Lauren
    July 6, 2010

    A friend encouraged me on a day when I was feeling embarrassed and silly for having "forgotten" they my two preschoolers had not actually inherited any genetic material from my husband and me, (I had commented that I thought my 3 year old got his long eyelashes from my husband, and that I thought my 4 year old had some of my personality traits). She reminded me:

    God is sovereign, and He planned out for your adoptive children to be your children, just as much as planned on my biological children to my children. He prepared you to parent and raise them because that was how he intended for those children to come into your home.

  5. Debbie
    July 6, 2010

    Oh My! Have I been here. I have birth children and adopted children. Most people say — which two are your children – Or which two are really yours? Like Ashley said — I want people to ask about adoption. So, I keep in my head that they aren't evil and aren't trying to do a bad thing; they just don't know how to ask. So I usually turn it and say, "Well, they are ALL mine! If you are asking about my birth children they are…." I also get people asking me if the kids are get along, "Yeah, like brothers and sisters!" I try to remember that I have probably put my foot in my mouth more than I like to admit and that most people have honest questions, but don't quite know the words.


  6. jennifer
    July 6, 2010

    I've been a part of the adoption community for almost 40 years (since my own adoption from an orphanage). We are now parents to adopted children. I have heard almost every comment (positive and negative) imaginable, I think. I will tell you how I handle these comments, but I'm sure there are many ways. First, I take NO offense! I love the Amplified Version of I Corinthians 13:5b "Love (God's love in us) does not insist on its own rights or its own way, for it is not self-seeking; it is not touchy or fretful or resentful; it takes no account of the evil done to it – pays no attention to a suffered wrong." Secondly, I assume the person is not intimating my family is NOT real; rather has no other terminology to use. Thirdly, if a question about adoption "riled me" I would seriously and prayerfully consider why it bothered me so.
    As for actual statements I have used in response to that very statement, previous to adopting I said things to the effect of, "My parents adopted all of us and we have a very strong bond, much the same as my friends and their biological families." Now that I'm an adoptive parent I say things like, "The miracle in adoption is that they become your REAL kids in every way!" Depending on context (for example if I'm speaking on adoption) I might actually explain more appropriate terminology or refer to studies around the biology of love which show that women need to nurture but when they adopt that physical need we often mistake for NEEDING to give birth, is actually met through the act of mothering. Because what they're really saying is they think they could never feel an adopted child is their REAL child. And isn't that okay?! They're just saying what they, on their current life journey, feel. Their feelings don't (or shouldn't ) validate or invalidate our authenticity as mothers.
    Blessings on your adoption! Jennifer

  7. sandee
    July 6, 2010

    I love her spirit, even in her question. I know how quick my heart jumps to the defensive when I get similiar type questions. I think it is just that the majority of folks can't imagine us doing something like this…and have no clue how to voice that. It is so foreign to them. Maybe laughingly say, well, mine are real…. I am amazed with more and more people adopting, that it is still so strange to so many people. I need to pray for a bigger, more understanding heart.

    I think, for some, it is fear. Fear that something I say or do might make them feel like they need to say or do something….something uncomfortable to them, like adopt a child.

  8. Ajay
    July 7, 2010

    When I hear people say this, I often mention it by saying something like…"You know, it hurts me to hear you word it that way. I think your intention may have been to say "birth a child" and birthing a child is definitely a gift, but so is adoption! After birthing a child and adopting two children I want to kindly share that all three of my children are very much MY children!" People often agree with me after I share my perspective and most importantly I've just stood up for "little listening ears" that want to hear and be assured of how I am proud to say that they are MINE. Another thing that I explain to people- and really it's the bottom line. Our children are all actually God's children in the first place. They are each gifts FROM the Lord given to US to raise, treasure and love. I thank and praise God in our bedtime prayers with our kids for the incredible gift He has given me. Thank you Lord, I am so happy that I am theirs and they are mine!

  9. Patty
    July 8, 2010

    Yes, the comments can be hard. I usually take an internal deep breath & bite my tongue because I know the speaker honestly meant no harm, but yeah, it causes me pain. I have three sons, one bio & two adopted. The most common comment I get that hurts is, "How does your son feel about them?" Ummm…they are ALL my sons!

    It helps me a lot to talk to other adoptive Moms who get it.

  10. Nancy
    July 8, 2010

    I got very little here. This is one of my BIG hurdles. So I guess I just write to commiserate and say you're not alone. We are on the paper trail for #7, our 3rd special needs adoption. The comment, "Don't you have enough kids already?" rings in my ears daily, along with the doubtful well wishers.
    The only thing that gives my heart solace is the certain fact that the Lord has positively called us to this path. I have an adaptation of something I heard once (I think maybe even on this board?) that I repeat in my head to myself… "You think raising 7 kiddos, 3 of them special needs, is tough? Try fighting God's will!"

  11. Mary
    July 9, 2010

    In our own journey towards adoption, we asked ourselves a similar question but from a different angle–can we trust who these children will become if they are not "our own." What we found is we had to redefine "own" and realize that no parent ever has possession of a child, biological, foster, adopted, infant or young adult.

    As parents, we recognize that the sovereign hand of God brings us children, through birth, adoption, foster care, however He sees fit. Our job is to love and train, disciple and nurture these lives and leave the outcome to the Lord. Some of our kids may end up in med school. Others in jail. We love them and trust God.

    For me, whenever people say things like this friend of yours, I have to rethink where I stand so I have confidence in that and then I might ask her a question. I might say, "I guess I don't quite understand what you mean by "our own kids." What are the major differences that lead you to make a distinction between "own" and "adopted."" However she answers these questions will reveal her heart. She may see it then, that she is making a faulty judgment or she may not. I know for me though, it took some people asking similar questions to help me realize–I had to rethink everything about children, parenting and the loving hand of God. Hard to do, but so worth it!

    It seems that underlying every stupid comment is an unexamined fear. We let our fears come out in the open, take them to the cross and watch them disappear. By asking your friend a question, you might help her get her fear out, take a look at it and you never know–she may sign up right behind you for adoption!

    Also, John Piper has an excellent sermon on adoption. You can get to it at urbanservant.com (right side of the page and scroll down). He speaks to this very issue–that God's adoption of us was NEVER Plan B. Just so, adoption or orphans is NEVER Plan B.

  12. Call Me Overcomer
    July 10, 2010

    oooo. My heart is stirred by this. People would ask, "Oh, is he YOUR REAL CHILD?" I responded, while touching him, "Well, he IS real, and he is MY child, so YES…. he is my real child!" Not soul-changing or much of a blessing, but worked to bless Benjie's heart in the moment.
    I also get infuriated when the news say "So and so's adopted son/daughter…" rather than just son/daughter.
    When we are adopted into God's family, He never says to me "I adore you, Diana, my ADOPTED daughter" 🙂
    People mean well, truly they do.
    YOU be blessed, and speak what you need to speak. It is about your family, and ultimately, the family of God. You were chosen for this, and have the exact insight to speak to each situation. Hugs and prayers! Diana

  13. Wendy
    July 10, 2010

    I would try to keep my response short and simply (the shorter it is, the less likely we are to bop them in the nose, maybe)! Something like: "all it takes to create "your own kid" is love and sacrifice…and we both know all about those" Smile, and walk away!


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