Lilypie Waiting to Adopt tickers

Lilypie Waiting to Adopt tickers

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Immediate throat punch

There are several phrases that well-meaning people say that are sometimes not the best possible thing to say at a given time. For instance, a funeral is not always the best place to say “Well, I’m sure they’re in a better place.” We’ve probably all said that. I know I have. And some people may not be bothered by it at all, but there exist safer things to say. Another example might be trying to comfort someone who is going through cancer with “This too shall pass” or the old favorite “Joy comes in the morning”.

But I’m guilty of all of these and I’m not writing to beat you up about what you’ve said wrong in the past. Well maybe a little. I want to give you a few not-so-great things that are often said to adoptive parents, potential adoptive parents, or those struggling with infertility. These are in no particular order and some are completely stolen from friends who’ve shared these with me.

Pre-Adoption No-no’s

For starters, if someone says they’re adopting don’t ask why. A few times people have actually said, “Why would you adopt? You can’t have kids regular?” Immediate throat punch is the result. Instead consider this as an option: “That’s awesome! Congratulations! How can I pray for you specifically?” That leaves it open for the person to share any struggles they are having with infertility or just the adoption process in general.

Here’s a big one. Please don’t assume that because someone adopts that means they will all of the sudden become pregnant. I know right now you are listing off couples in your head that you know personally that this happened to. That’s great! But it DOES NOT happen for everyone. So for you to say, “Oh, I’m sure you’ll get pregnant as soon as you adopt. It happened for Bob & Susie and Bill & Nancy and...” it just causes all kinds of problems. For one, you may be building false hope because you are not, in fact, the Giver of Life. Also, in some people’s eyes it devalues adoption. As if to say that if you’re faithful in doing that then God will truly bless you with a child. It’s just all wrong. The antithesis is also accurate. If someone is adopting and becomes pregnant avoid the oh-I-just-knew-as-soon-as-you-started-adoption rhetoric.

Also, if you hear someone is struggling with infertility Please don’t offer them your kids in jest. It’s not funny. I can’t tell you how often I’ve heard things like that! People say, “Ugh! You just think you want kids. You can keep little Johnny for a weekend and I bet you’ll change your mind.” We want the child(ren) God has for us. So you can keep your rotten heathen and your comments to yourself.

When someone is adopting older children (as in our case) please don’t patronize with phrases about not having to deal with crying at night or diapers, etc. Not all people choose to adopt older children to avoid stinky diapers and sleepless nights. We will have plenty of trials of our own and grieve the time lost with our adopted children, all of the time lost.

I am hesitant to add this one and I want to tread lightly as I do. This doesn’t bring the pain like some of these others might, but it can sometimes be tiring to answer the question “Any news yet?” On the surface the question is obviously caring and in no way is it hurtful, but it is a constant reminder that there is no news. We still want people to care and be involved. Just understand that on any given day we might be asked that same question 5 or 6 times each. I would offer this as an alternative: “We are still praying for you and your kiddos!” or maybe “Let me know if there are specific ways we can pray.” It just alleviates the pressure to share all of the mundane details involved in waiting. And yes, waiting for the elusive travel date is as bad as it sounds. Grueling in fact. Know that we will be glowing when we have news and happy to share every little detail to the point that you will wish you hadn’t asked.

Post-Adoption No-no’s

I don’t have as many of these because we are still pre-adoption, but here’s a couple just for balance.

If it is obvious that someone has either adopted, kidnapped, or is babysitting the children they are with in the grocery store, then it is obvious. No need to ask, “are they really yours?” This could be confusing, especially for older children. Just smile and tell them how cute they are or call the police or both. I can’t wait for the day that someone cocks their head and asks if the four black children are ours. “Yeah, weirdest thing, right? They came out so dark.”

Some people are bothered by being asked if they are all siblings. If they are all adopted by the same parent then they are all siblings! Pop quiz: One biological child, one adopted from Africa and two adopted domestically. Are they all siblings? If you answered ‘No’ then you are on your way to a disgusted look before you know it. Don’t make parents answer the details of that you (a stranger) front of their kids.

All that said...

Please don’t apologize if you’ve said these things to us. You may know who you are, but we don’t remember so let’s leave it that way. We don’t hold grudges and have laughed away most of it knowing that we’ve put our foot in out mouth more than we’d care to admit.

Please feel free to add in the comments your own examples of awkward things people have said to you.

And above all of this please know that the thoughts contained in this email are my experiences and may not be true for everyone. I only offer what’s here as a guide in trying to say what’s in your heart. If you mean well and want to offer your friend or loved one some expression of tenderness and caring in whatever it is they are walking through there’s one phrase that ALWAYS fits: I love you.

Thanks for reading.


  1. Wow, I so concur with today's blog. I am sure I have done a few of these in error, too. Wow, wow, conveyed some of my thoughts and emotions so well on these. Looking back I wonder if we should have even told people we are adopting, yet we need the prayers. There is no question adoption for us. It is God's purpose in His timing and I praise Him for it. Closing reminder - Ryan & Jessica, I love you! :-)

  2. Great blog... I loved it! I tried to learn as much as possible in hopes of keeping my stinky feet clear of my mouth. Love you guys!

  3. Hi, I found your blog through other adoptive families, and I am excited for your journey to your beautiful children! As an adoptive mom myself, I swear if one more person asks me "what happened to his real mom?" or "why didn't his mom want him?" or "why did she give him up?" etc I might blow a gasket!! Seriously people!! My son is only 2 right now, but imagine how he would feel if a stranger asked that in front of him when he was older! Adopted children will deal with the emotional struggles of their own adoption story for life...they don't need those realities thrown in their face each time they leave the house!! Good luck and prayers to your family!

  4. Whew! So glad you didn't mentioned red haired wigs as a no-no...cause I can't find the reciept for the four I ordered you :o)
    Sorry, wouldn't be me if I held that one in. Again I am so happy for you guys and proud to know you my friend. Take care and God bless!
    Ray Fussell

  5. Great Post!! I know I am guilty of mindlessly asking questions like this or having an insincere response to someone's news or lack thereof. Hopefully, this will help me to be more considerate of my words.

    I particularly like the part about people offering their children. I've never thought about how passively rude that is. If someone is struggling with where they are in life, whether it be infertility, waiting, singleness, etc., don't dismiss their hurt bc you have (are) taking your blessings for granted. I don't ever tell my married friends (with a few exceptions) that I wish I were married bc of these same responses. It just goes back to putting others(and their feelings) before yourself. I can hear Jesus's response to yall's struggle though... You want children? So do I!! I am entrusting these children to you and Jessica in order to raise these children in My word and to help guide into a personal relationship with Me. Believers KNOW that children aren't really "ours" they are HIS as we are as well.

    Could you imagine telling Jesus how you feel and him saying, Yeah well this kid over here is a pill, if you had him for a few days, you wouldn't want kids at all! I wonder what God is thinking when a parent says that... knowing what He sacrificed for that child and that snotty parent.

    Another one to add to that list is, "Why adopt internationally? There are plenty of children in the U.S. that need homes." I have so many responses for that, which are about as ridiculous as the question is... however, I will spare your blog of my sarcasm.

    Indeed, you have given me a great deal to think about. I will do my best to stop and THINK before I open my mouth. ;)

    I love you both and am praying for your children.


  6. Hi Ryan,
    I was reading this post thinking about all the great people like you who would identify with this. Then I got to the end and found out that you (Ryan) wrote it! Well said brother! I'm sure that I've said all the wrong things in this arena and MANY others - but just want to say - we love you and Jessica and are praying for the Lord to bring you together with your children. They are a gift and He has them in His care even now, getting ready to come to you guys. Please keep us posted on specific prayer needs.
    Eddie (for Kimberly too)

  7. Our family is now in the "special needs" category, and I've had several comments that have started to get on my nerves as well.

    Because James had a hole in his heart, he was very lethargic from birth, and it was a struggle to keep him awake to even take the smallest amount of milk. So yeah, he slept through the night, and every other time of the day. He also never cried to let me know when he was hungry. But the "You're so lucky!" responses I get...I used to explain about the lethargy and all that, and how much weight he lost, and how scary it was, but now I just agree. Whatever.

    James is also very easy-going--a trait common to many kids with Down Syndrome. Some parents with babies say things like, "Maybe we should trade!" or "I wish my kid were like that." And I want to say, "Do you? Do you want your kid to face a future of physical and mental handicaps all so you can avoid a few crying fits?"

    I've found that suddenly our family faces things that most American families do not. We have to go through things like open heart surgery on a 4-month-old and government aid and weekly therapies...and that doesn't even cover the unknown as James grows up and we continue to care for him.

    It's another world. Thanks for letting us see inside your world a bit. I know it's as frustrating as the comments we've gotten! I've gotta say that what you guys are doing is awesome. God is all about adoptions. He adopted us, and I think that's a pretty good reason for us to do the same. Thanks for your blog to help raise awareness for adoption everywhere!

  8. Jessica and Ryan,
    I wanted to let you know that our family has begun praying for you and your children. I knew Jessica many years ago from youth group and have just reconnected recently through FB. I've read your entire blog and haven't gotten caught up with the process you are in. We will continue to pray for you, the process, and you children.
    By His grace,

  9. How are things going? I have a public blog now if you want to see where we are at now in the process. Hope to have a referral next month!
    Lisa Welling

  10. Absolutely GREAT post - the BEST part being how you ended it. That paragraph saying something to the effect of you "you probably know who you are but we don't remember" was a great way to be informative, but kind. I struggle with finding a good balance sometimes. THANK YOU!