Saturday, July 07, 2012 • 5:04 AM Comments (2)

What the Use of "Adopted" in Quotes Has to Do With Smoothies

posted by Sarah Werthan Buttenwieser

Sometimes, blogging, like so many things in life, is about showing up. Seeing what happens? Well, I’d like to do one better than that. Ahem. This may be too lofty a goal, though. Ahem.

But I did want to write briefly about the Katie Holmes’ news, and its coverage. I’ll admit that I spent a little too long the other night on the Hollywood Reporter article that spelled out why Katie Holmes may be the biggest threat to Scientology pretty much ever. I plead rubbernecking? I was, however, like many in the blogosphere, really put out by the way Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman’s children were referred to as their “adopted children.” Though I have very little in common with Tom Cruise—we’re both short, maybe—I, too, am a parent and adopted a child, but didn’t adopt all of my children. I do not think of myself as less of a parent or put-in-the-qualifier parent to my daughter in comparison somehow to my sons. The constant use of adopted in that article muscled in some idea that adoption is different than and possibly lesser than or not quite real.

I wasn’t the only person to take note of this, obviously.

I have written about how language fails us sometimes in regard to adoption (fun fact, an essay about this was just moved into a new gallery at the International Museum of Women and an article about it featured our picture; Internet=small world). Open adoption or not, there are familial ties to the child beyond the nuclear family. Is this complicated? It sure can feel that way.

When I’m hanging with my kids on a hot day and can provide them with cooling smoothies, it feels pretty simple, though. Also, not that you ever doubted it, Team Katie all the way.

Comments (2)
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Talking about a child as an "adopted child" also implies that being adopted is a constant experience in one's life, rather than a singular experience at one moment in life. A child who comes into a family by adoption is only adopted once. Then, that child is a part of the family. The child's experience is that of being a family member with a history of having been adopted. Using the term as a descriptor is labeling an individual by one piece of information that is not relevant to their experience - but doing so might elevate the importance of that experience in ways that could confuse even the child.

A wise teen from the Treehouse community in Easthampton recently pointed out to me that the same is true for the description of youth who have experienced foster care as "foster children" or "foster youth." Having been in the foster system is one experience and is not central to the identity of the individual.

If we want our children and youth to grow up feeling whole, we need to talk about them as individuals and not label them by one historical fact.

Posted by Laura Wenk on 7.8.12 at 5:55

Dear Sarah,

I, too, was troubled by the reference to Cruise's other children as "adopted," and I had the exact same reaction as you did, though I did not put it into words. I am grateful for your very thoughtful post.

I, too, by the way have been rubbernecking about TomKat! it always takes courage to leave an unhappy marriage, but I think her courage is particularly strong.

Happy Summer!
Becky

Posted by Rebecca Rice on 7.9.12 at 6:43
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