A video went viral recently. You know, the one by an adoptive dad about asking intrusive questions to adoptive parents about adoption, or more specifically about their adopted children. “If you wouldn’t ask it about a boob job, don’t ask it about adoption.” Hilarious and helpful, right? Jesse Butterworth, a Christian pastor, created it with his wife, and included their 2-year-old Ethiopian daughter in it.
Alongside the Internet tidal wave of laughter and elbow-poking (adoptive parents nudging each other: So true! Incredibly funny! Can’t wait to share!), there is a small, quiet, reflective pool of thought that says, “Um no, not really all that funny.”
The almost visceral response to any criticism of the video: “Lighten up!” “Where’s your sense of humor?” “It’s a great way to get a point across, with laughter.” “Jeez. Why are you so negative?”
Oh those negative adoptees.
The video was posted on dozens (probably hundreds) of adoptive parent blogs and Facebook sites. The roundtable discussion was on far fewer.
Here’s an exchange that reflects typical responses to the video and the Lost Daughters’ response, from an adoptive parent Facebook group:
(Parent 1): My three adopted daughters watched the video and they all thought it was hilarious!!!!
(Parent 2): Thanks for sharing that. I think sometimes the outspokenly negative adult adoptees can sometimes steal the spotlight from other, more reasonable adoptees.
I don’t think we have to avoid saying/writing anything that could possibly offend any adoptee, birth mom, etc, because that would be pretty much impossible, IMO. Adoptive parents do have a right to be heard as well.
(Parent 3): I laughed at the video and though it was made with the best of intentions, but I am glad someone posted the link to this (Lost Daughters) article. It is a perspective I had not thought about.
In re Parent 1: I don’t know how old her daughters are. Maybe they are all adults. And I know there are adopted adults who also found the video funny.
In re Parent 2: Gak. The outspokenly negative adoptees stealing the spotlight. Kind of like the negative thinkers/speakers in many a civil rights/human rights movement stealing the spotlight from those who weren’t speaking out.
Adoptive parents, in my humble opinion as an adoptive parent, do not struggle with being heard. Look at any adoption agency: their staff, their clients, their policies. Look at the huge Christian evangelical orphan movement: adoptive parents. Look at legislators in adoption policy on a local, state, and federal level: if not adoptive parents themselves, they are heavily influenced and lobbied by adoptive parents. We adoptive parents may have a few problems, but being heard isn’t one of them.
In re Parent 3: There is a hard, real truth: an adoptive parent acknowledging that the perspective of adult adoptees–that the video could be seen as marginalizing or thoughtless–had never occurred to her. I give her credit for saying that. I believe she is not alone in that perspective.
There’s a sea change going on in adoption right now. Adult adoptees are finally being heard. More US adoptees are gaining access to their original birth certificates, a basic civil right denied to no other group except adopted people. Adopted adults are asking for a place at the table of policy and progress: not an unreasonable request.
At the same time, as in any other social change, adopted adults are not always welcomed, especially when they are critical of adoption policies. Lighten up, they are told. Sure, remember how we used to laugh about “women drivers”? Stop being so negative. Sure, remember the word “uppity”? Let’s all just take a deep breath and relax. Let’s be “reasonable.”
No. Let’s not.
I remember being asked all those questions in the video about my own transracial adoptive family, especially when the kids were little. It’s not news. And having a sense of humor is absolutely important in dealing with hard subjects. It’s all that gets us through the day sometimes.
But that said, let’s not lose a tremendously important reality and perspective here. It gets hard to keep smiling through tears sometimes.