Monday, May 23, 2011

We wanted to "grow" our family?

Okay, for years now, I keep hearing this from adopters or prospective adopters--the whole, "we wanted to grow our family."

What does that even mean? I'm being serious. [Adoptive parents feel free to chime in and explain what you mean when you say this, because it truly baffles me--but also understand I still might not like it...]

I honestly don't get it. And even more honestly, for some reason that I have yet to identify, every time I hear it, it makes me bristle and cringe. To again be quite frank, I hate the phrase. But I don't know why I hate it so much.

Why does it bother me so much? Fellow adoptee bloggers and readers does it bother you at all when you hear this phrase, or am I the only one? And if it does bother you, do you mind sharing your reasons as to why it bothers you, because maybe that'll help me figure out why in the world I can't stand it?

I often will have a gut reaction to something, but at times it takes a while before I can connect the emotional dots back to their originating thoughts. (The result of years of learning to suppress what I was actually thinking and feeling...)

All I know is that the explanation of "we adopted not to save a child but to grow our family" just rubs me the wrong way, and yet I don't know why...

* * *

Ok, and then, just another random thingy...

When I hear people express all the reasons as to why family preservation programs and efforts won't or can't work in said country, I also bristle and get incredibly annoyed.

Can't, can't, can't.

Anything is possible. The wall in Germany came down. Helen Keller wrote some of the most beautifully descriptive essays I have ever read. Apartheid fell in South Africa. Segregation finally ended here in America. Man walked on moon.

Now of course, Germany still deals with the scars. Helen Keller was still deaf and blind. South Africa still struggles. Racism is by no means eradicated from America. And there are still those who disbelieve the moon landing.

But there are also still those who continue to press on--those who work to learn from the past in Germany, those who continue to seek out solutions to overcome deafness and blindness, those who struggle together toward healing in South Africa, those who fight to rise above racism, and those who actually can personally attest to their participation in moon landings from the crews on the ground to the crews in space.

And besides, "can't" never got anyone or any nation anywhere.

I've heard it said, "don't let what you can't do stop you from what you can do." I say don't say "can't" and watch what formerly impossible feats and tasks finally become possible.

27 comments:

Mei Ling said...

I thought it meant to expand one's family.

You know, how a mother and father birth a child, but a few years later they decide they want another child to love, so they give birth to a sibling?

julieohmchang said...

i rarely hear of biological parents saying they want to "grow their family". usually, it's as simple as "we want another child". as a non-adoptee and non-adoptive parent, that term is confusing to me as well...

Sona said...

So true, only APs use that term, I have never heard a bio parent say that when they want another kid. It's prickling because it's like "grown in my heart" that somehow you grew this baby into your family. That the kid was raised to be in your family or that they created this family dynamic. It ignores the loss and trauma and the fact that the child has another, original family and that child was grown and created by them.

I have a slightly different reaction when I hear this. I more roll my eyes and think how entitled and foolish it sounds.

Joshua said...

I had the "dreaded" conversation with my adoptive mother this morning. I chatted her and said, "call me ASAP, I need to talk". She called a few moments later and I told her that I was searching for my biological family. (PAUSE) Then the most beautiful thing happened. She began opening up about how she knew this day would come and she said that she wanted me to be happy. We talked for quite a while and she told me that after she miscarried a few babies, she wanted to adopt. And then she started sharing about the difference between her biological birth with her own son and the moment she held me in her arms. She was very poignant with her descriptions but I could tell that her love for me was a genuine and heartfelt as it was for her own biological son. So for me, if my mother were to use the expression, "we wanted to grow our family", I guess I could bear it because I now know that her heart is full of so much love for me.

Kate said...

I've also heard it in the context of having bio kids (grow/build/expand one's family), although not as frequently as it gets used by adoptive parents. I suppose it's a way of emphasizing they're not one of *those* adoptive parents, who have an unhealthy savior complexes, nosiree, not them, they're adopting for the "right" reasons, not the "wrong" ones.

Of course, unless the adoptive parents using it have some reason why having biological children isn't practical (gay/single/infertile/genetic disorders/etc), it's a bit disingenuous.

Mila said...

Joshua--I wish my own mom responded as did your mom to my search and reunion...

As far as the "grow" thing...my mom has actually never used this phrase...it's a more recent addition to adoption talk/jargon.

And my mom also is very sincere and heartfelt and loves me as her own--I know her heart is full of so much love for me, no doubt...but her rejection of my Korean family and origins complicates matters...

I think overall, I'm realizing now (thanks, Sona) this phrase strikes me like the term "gotcha day"--it demonstrates a lack of understanding and sensitivity toward the complexities that an adoptee faces...and it once again implies a preference and focus on the AP's wants and desires over the adoptee's...once again subjugating the wants and emotions of the adoptee to those of the AP's...

WE wanted to grow our family...rather than "what is best for this child?"

CherubMamma said...

If something grows, it gets bigger. I suppose the phrase is misused by some APs. But, I guess I've heard it enough from all families that I had never thought about the phrase possibly being offensive.

As a family that fosters we are open to adoption should we have a child in our home, that just happens to have parental rights terminated, and just happens to be a good enough fit with the rest of our family. I've always said I'm open to our family "growing" should these things all line up. Not sure how I could rephrase it. In the meantime, we're not purposefully trying to "grow" our family as we believe reunification is almost always the best thing.

lissa said...

I guess it's never bothered me to hear the term "grow our family", but I might not be the norm...
Definitely can relate with what Joshua said - I know without a doubt that my parents love me and that the reason why I and my sisters were adopted was because my parents LOVE children, it was physically dangerous for my mom to birth more babies, so adoption was how they chose to "grow" our family.. ;)

It's kind of phrased weird - is it the phrasing or the meaning that bugs you? Because someone would never say, "I wanted to grow my savings account" or something like that... nothing wrong with saving money but the way it's phrased is ridiculous... ??

Mila said...

@ Kate--thanks for you insight...that also makes sense--using the phrase as a way to distinguish that they're adopting for the "right" reasons...

@ CherubMama--I'm not trying to be hyper sensitive or exacerbate AP's and make them feel harangued...just sincerely trying to figure out why that term is so commonly used and why it so often bothers me...

All the comments are helping me to do so...

Mia said...

I can't (sorry for that ;P) remember ever having heard the translated term. Here, it's usually always "expand" which I'm fine with. Bio. kid or not, that's what you do by adding, isn't it?

Like Joshua, I think whether or not a certain word/phrase would make me cringe would be determined by my personal experience with the "ulterior" meanings behind said word. Does that make sense in English?
I'm wondering if your own parents have said stuff or sent signals that would make you feel this way today? Did they treat you kids differently or use different terms and behaved in ways that would make you sensitive to this term?

Personally I've never noticed me having any kind of reactions to the different terms - except "save" which makes me angry.

Dunno if this helped at all. I'm finding it hard to make sense today >.<

lissa said...

Oh, I see where you clarified in your post - understood! :)

Mia said...

OMG! How long did it take me to write that comment?! Nevermind what I said, obviously :D

Mila said...

Mia, you crack me up! :D

Mia said...

Me aims to please ;P

Anonymous said...

I actually do hear this phrase from both biological parents and adoptive parents usually just on blogs. Though I did hear it once in person from an adopton therapist who came and talked with our adoptive parent group. That particular theripist also happened to be an adult adoptee, and I didn't really think anything of it at the time, but this post makes me wonder if she has also associated that phrase with adoption.

I think when APs use this phrase they are trying to explain that they want another child, but to also make clear that they did not adopt to rescue a child (which is the assumption so many people always have). Most APs I know want to be looked at as regular parents, and not the charity institutions we always get labeled as. because if they look at us as charity institutions they will look at our kid(s) as charity cases.

Perhaps that's what the anon poster was trying to say - that she adopted to "grow her family" because she wanted spend her money on becoming a parent and did not want to spend it on a charity. Like a bio parent spending money on fertility treatments in order to have a baby instead of spending their money on charity. Perhaps she read your post and thought you were one of the far too many who think APs only adopt out of charity. (Yes, I've been reading your blog enough to know better! :o) ).

Vivian

riversnake said...

I've heard the term used by bio parents and adoptive parents, too. However, I would say it is used most often by adoptive parents. I have always assumed it was because most people say, "We want to have (more) kids" where the word "have" is assumed to mean give birth. In the case of AP's they are not "having" the child by the standard definition so an alternative description was developed.

The word "grow" can trigger many different images, though. It can trigger the image of children being harvested like crops and used only to meet the needs of the consumers which in this case would be AP's. So I can understand why many would bristle at the phrase. However, I believe it is not intended as such and is used out of ignorance over malice.

Great post!

~ Jill (an AP)

Kris said...

I absolutely agree with you on family preservation. In fact, I think it would be easier to achieve than some of the other seemingly impossible things that have come to pass. I think the problem is there is no real incentive for those with the power and the money to do anything about it.

As for the "we wanted to grow our family" phrase, I don't think I ever used it but I think like riversnake said, maybe it is a way to say you will have another child but will not be giving birth. APs are required to state why they want to adopt. I think most just want to have a child (or another child) just like bio families. This phrase just seems to be the one that is used to state that desire. Just a guess.

Linda said...

I have never heard anyone BUT adopters or the adoption industry use this phrase. I have heard terms like, "our growing family", or "our family is growing larger" from biological parents NOT involved in adoption, but not "we wanted to grow our family".

I cringe when I read it. Its yet another way they are trying to normalize adoption, to make it seem as if it is the same as having your own. It's not. It's offensive to me, just as when I hear them say they are "building their family through adoption."

Von said...

riversnake and linda have said it.It's an adoption industry expression which makes it look nicey nicey, sort of organic and somehow acceptable to purchase a baby while a mother suffers loss, grief and pain for life.

Reena said...

I don’t think I have ever used the phrase, “grow our family,” it just isn’t me. We told people, “We are adopting.” I have heard bio-parents say, “Our family is growing,” or “we are a growing family.” Usually the woman is pregnant and the reference is to the upcoming birth.

I do see the ‘grow our family’ phrase quite a bit on AP blogs and now I am trying to think if it is found on more of the evangelical Christian type blogs. If so, maybe that is part of the rub?

Saying “can’t” regarding family preservation initiatives in different countries. I have every hope that someday, China will abolish the One Child Policy and I am helping to support a charity that works along the lines of family unification and preservation in China. Growing-up, my family has always provided monetary support to charities that provide aid and education to children in developing countries, which I think helps families stay together as it alleviates some of the material poverty concerns for those families.

Amy said...

I have seen the term "grow our family" written on many blogs etc... by adoptive families. It seems it is an explanation of why parents adopted. Like Kate said, many people tell adoptive parents how heroic their actions are (this makes me nauseous). Telling those people you want to grow your family lets them know you adopted because you wanted another child not because you are a saint.

I have said grown in my heart many times. I appreciate hearing your perspective on it. What I mean by it is simply my love for him grew as I waited for him. This by no means is meant to diminish the love and sacrifice his mother made for him.

And I agree with the term can't. Throw it out and figure out a way to keep families together. I think can't usually means I don't know how.

Your blog has taught me much about adoption and adoptees perspective. I really appreciate it.

Mila said...

Thank you everyone (everyone--*underlined and in bold*) for your feedback. It has helped me to better understand what is meant by the phrase and why it tends to bother me...

Reena--"now I am trying to think if it is found on more of the evangelical Christian type blogs. If so, maybe that is part of the rub?" (At least in my experience, that also has been my encounter of the phrase--among Christian AP's...)

Another comment made on my FB link: "I always hated that term when it was used for the church, too. 'We're growing the church.' Ugh. How about not?" (This comment was made by a Christian woman whom I respect.)

I think Reena's comment and the FB one allude to why the term makes me cringe...I've got some baggage left over from bad church experiences where the leadership focused on "numbers" and always talked about how we needed to "grow the church"--ultimately the culture became more about how many people were there every Sunday (literally had ushers doing head counts) rather than about just loving the people who were there whether few or many...so I hear "grow our family" and it conjures up bad memories of misguided motivations and perversions of what I believe it means to follow Jesus.

Again, as I commented above, I'm not trying to be hyper sensitive or make AP's feel like no matter what they say or do they're doomed. I was honestly just inquiring...I realize that folks who use the term have no ill will just like those who celebrate "Gotcha Day" don't mean to be insensitive...(although I still think it is even if ignorantly or naively so...and it's not like I've never been ignorantly or naively insensitive. In fact, literally, just last night I said something to a friend after which I covered my mouth and said I'm so sorry, I never thought about that! Gah.)

I honestly just don't like the phrase, "grow our family." But who cares what my small opinion is...at least now I can consider the different meanings it has and the different reasons people might use it.

Mei Ling said...

I think the phrase "grow our family" is different compared to the "gotcha day" phrase.

The second one connotates a more possessive indication.

Mila said...

Yeah, they're "different but the same" in the sense that the phrases focus on the AP's perspective and desires...and that both are prevalent within churchianity...

YoonSeon said...

Yeah, I've seen and heard this pretty often, too. My parents actually have some friends that adopted a child from The Philippines. They already had a daughter when they adopted, and apparently the woman once said to my Mum: "we want a sibling for our daughter: someone she can play with". I was just like WTF?!!! So you adopted another child just to be a playmate for your biological kid???

Sadly, I don't think they were the only people in the world who thought this way...

Anonymous said...

So, if growing a family or rescuing a child are cringeworthy (which I can understand), what would adoptees consider good or valid reasons to adopt?

Anonymous said...

I feel like the term "grow our family" still treats the child as an object to aquire.

I was adopted and my husband and I adopted because we wanted a child, we wanted to be parents.

Thank you for sharing your thoughts. I may not always agree but I do appreciate having your perspective.