That Viral Adoptive Parent Video: Who’s Laughing Loudest?

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.”

One reflection was a roundtable discussion by several adopted adults who participate on the thoughtful, powerful Lost Daughters site. Please take a look at their insights here.

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.

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We Listened to NPR–Now It’s NPR’s Turn to Listen

We listened.

Yesterday, a 6 minute segment on NPR created hours’ worth of responses, frustration, blogging, conversations, tweeting, disappointment, and shaking of heads. The Sunday Morning Edition featured Rachel Garlinghouse, a white adoptive mother of 3 very young black children, and the topic of the show was transracial adoption.

NPR–Your Turn to Listen:

Prior to the airing, at least one transracially adopted adult was considered for the segment, then passed over. In my blog yesterday, I wrote about Angela Tucker. Angela has not (yet) written her own book, though she is among those writers featured in the wonderful, compelling anthology Perpetual Child, which I write about further down in this post. Angela is featured in the highly-acclaimed documentary Closure

Angela Tucker www.theadoptedlife.com

Angela Tucker
www.theadoptedlife.com

I’m very glad she wrote her own thoughts today about the NPR show. Here is the link to her blog. Here are a couple of excerpts from Angela’s post:

“Had my voice been aired on the show, viewers would’ve heard me speak my truth about how I felt when being discriminated against in the town I grew up in. What we heard about discrimination in the NPR piece instead was “…it made my husband and I very uncomfortable, but our kids didn’t notice. They were just coloring and being children…”

“I have allowed my story to be shared in a documentary which is told not just in my voice, but also features the perspectives of my adoptive parents, birth parents, siblings who were adopted, birth siblings who weren’t adopted and my parents’ biological daughter, my husband etc. – all of these voices have a place in the discussion. Closure is a valuable resource, not because my story is the best out of all adoption stories, not because I am an expert on other transracial adoptions – that, I am not. It is a valuable story because there is a shortage of resources where the adoptee’s voice and experience is included.”

We listened to NPR.

Many people wondered why Rachel Garlinghouse–whose children are pre-schoolers–was on the show. There are thousands of white adoptive parents who have raised their transracially adopted children well into adulthood, and learned a lot along the way. I know So Much More now that my children are in their mid-20’s than when they were preschoolers. Parenting is a very humbling experience.

One argument for why Garlinghouse was on is that she’s written a book. That’s an NPR-consistent reason.

NPR–Are you listening? It’s your turn again.

Here are 3 recent books, written by adoptees, that would be the subjects of compelling, innovative shows. None has been featured on NPR, according to their writers/editors.

Perpetual Child: Dismantling the Stereotype. This Adult Adoptee Anthology features a collection of stories, poetry, and essays aimed at confronting the “perpetual child stereotype” faced by adult adoptees. The pieces contained within this anthology will implore readers to look deeply into their own ideas about what it means to be adopted and to empathize with the experience of being viewed as a child into adulthood.” The writers (who include Angela Tucker) are from same race and from transracial adoptions.

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Lost Daughters “The Lost Daughters: Writing Adoption From a Place of Empowerment and Peace is edited by Amanda H.L. Transue-Woolston, Julie Stromberg, Karen Pickell, and Jennifer Anastasi. It features a collection of writings aimed to bring readers the perspectives of adopted women and highlight their strength, resiliency, and wisdom.” Several transracial adoptees are included in this powerful anthology.

Parenting As Adoptees “Through 14 chapters, the authors of Parenting As Adoptees give readers a glimpse into a pivotal phase in life that touches the experiences of many domestic and international adoptees – that of parenting… As (transracial adoptee) Melanie Chung-Sherman, LCSW, LCPAA, PLLC, notes: “Rarely has the experience of parenting as an adopted person been laid to bare so candidly and vividly. The authors provide a provocative, touching and, at times visceral and unyielding, invitation into their lives as they unearth and piece together the magnitude of parenting when it is interwoven with their adoption narrative…Authors in the anthology include (US, transracial, and international adoptees): Bert Ballard, Susan Branco Alvarado, Stephanie Kripa Cooper-Lewter, Lorial Crowder, Shannon Gibney, Astrid Dabbeni, Mark Hagland, Hei Kyong Kim, JaeRan Kim, Jennifer Lauck, Mary Mason, Robert O’Connor, John Raible, and Sandy White Hawk. Edited By Adam Chau and Kevin Ost-Vollmers.”

NPR, if you invited Rachel Garlinghouse yesterday to talk about transracial adoption because she’s written a book, how about inviting the people who are transracial adoptees–and who have written books?

Final note about NPR: If you want to contact NPR and ask them to have a meaningful show about transracial adoption, with the voices of adult adoptees, click here. Yesterday’s show was Sunday Morning Edition, and I wrote about it here.