Thursday, June 20, 2013

Sticks and Stones...

It's been a while since I sat down and did a "pour your heart out" blog post. Life with 3 children 5 and under is BUSY! Most days when I sit down at the end of the night my brain is mush and has completely run out of juice to write any coherent thoughts down. But we're still here, living each day one at a time....trying our best to give our girls the life we promised we would give them!

This strange thing has been happening lately. Moreso than usual. And I am still processing it all as I write this. I'm not a very confrontational person, AT ALL. In fact, my dad used to call me a "round-abouter" when I was younger. Even when I played Nintendo (I guess that dates me now, huh?) I never wanted to fight the bad guys, I preferred to just jump over them and go on my merry way, and most of the time it worked just fine! When it comes to confrontation, I'm an all or nothing person...I have no middle ground. I either shy away from the issue and sit on my thoughts, later wishing I would have had enough courage to stand up for what's right, or I go all out "Totally-Lose-Your-Cool-Mama-Bear" on people and then feel bad about that too. Since becoming a mom, I've definitely had more of the "lose your cool" moments and they're always over issues that involve my girls. All you moms reading this know what I mean when I say that Mama Bear Fury can rise up in you faster than lightening.

Anyways....lately we've endured some comments regarding our children that make my skin crawl. I've NEVER had a thick skin, it's a fault of mine. I'm too sensitive and defensive, this I know....but I feel like I'm justified in feeling upset when hearing some of these things. There are two groups of people, the first being those who say nasty things knowingly and because they are intolerant of differences. This is not the group of people I'm talking about...honestly those people are few and far between and I have no problem speaking my mind to those people because clearly their intentions are to hurt. But it seems to me there is a huge growing group of people-many professionals-who just don't seem to have the first clue about how talk to adoptive parents and/or parents of children with special needs.

I hesitate to even blog about this because I never want to come off as the chick who people feel like they can't say anything around in fear of hurting her feelings or in fear that they'll "say the wrong thing." But I feel that doctors, psychologists, school personnel, and other professionals should be held to a higher standard than your average Joe Schmo in knowing how to sensitively and respectfully speak to parents (in the presence of the children) about adoption and special needs related issues.

Imagine sitting down with a professional who is evaluating your child, with your child beside you, when this professional asks, "what happened to her real parents?" Say WHAT? Okay, I get that he needs that information for his report or to understand her situation better (maybe), but something as simple as "do you have any information on the biological parents?" would have been MUCH better to ask. Upon hearing this question, I turned my attention to Zoya, so sad she had to hear that (even if she didn't fully understand what he was saying). I looked back at him, sort of tilting my head to the left and squinching one eye almost closed while wrinkling my nose, because hearing that was worse than nails on a chalk board. It literally sent shivers up my spine. "Real parents" infers that we're somehow not real or not actually parents. I gently corrected him by saying, "We have very little information on her biological parents" (and then shared the little we had). He went on to ask if the three girls were blood related, which we get asked a lot. When I answered "no" he said, "Okay so they are half sisters then." He must have read the look on my face because he quickly changed that to, "I mean step sisters!" I kindly told him we consider them simply sisters and we'd never tell them they are step sisters to one another. I tried hard to remind myself he was compiling a report and needed technical details (or did he?). The rest of the meeting was really weird. I never said anything because he was a really nice guy. He had no idea his words cut so deep, completely clueless. Then when I got home from the second meeting with a copy of the report and read that Shawn and I were referenced as "her current caregivers" rather than parents, I felt shocked and sad. Half of you reading this will say that is not a big deal and there's no reason to be upset over that, and the other half will be as outraged as I was. We've worked DAMN HARD to earn the title "parents."  Please don't call us caregivers.  I've never heard of this in any other report for my children or for friends' children. Zoya is young enough now that she would never read this report, and maybe not understand the words that were said at that meeting, but I swear to you if these type of comments continue much longer in front of her I'm not going to be so graceful. It says to me that those professionals don't think she is capable of understanding what is being said about her and frankly, it pisses me off.

Imagine sitting at the doctor with your newly adopted child while the doctor asks repeatedly if we knew she had down syndrome when we adopted her because he can't wrap his mind around why we would do that. This question is the worst because it infers that she is not worthy of the life we hope to give her...the life we so deeply feel she is worthy of! Imagine going in for a sick child visit, seeing a different doctor than usual, and watching him flounder his way through trying to figure out if we currently know our daughter has Down Syndrome....because clearly, if we adopted her, we must not know that. The good old, "you are saints to adopt those children" also usually punches me right in the gut. The list goes on.....I never want Zoya or Mila or Sofia hearing this or feeling like we did them a favor and they are in debt to us, and this type of comment would surely elicit those thoughts. Zoya's getting to an age where she is starting to understand a lot more, so maybe that's why I've been more sensitive to these types of comments lately. I have this fierce need to protect my children from all things that could cause them hurt. I know I can't protect them from everything, but I'll tell you this much....I'll die trying!

When posting some of these things on facebook, some were outraged (even more than I was), while others felt I should have been more graceful (and maybe that meant not posting it on facebook?). I try my hardest to be graceful with comments such as these, especially when people say them out of ignorance and not out of hate. BUT, day after day of similar comments starts to break me, my tolerance level waxes and wanes based on the type of day I'm having because I'm human. I do often take time and share our girls stories with people whom I think would be touched by them because I believe their stories have power to change people....I've seen it happen many times. We'd be silly not to use this God-ordained story to bring glory to Him. BUT as their Mama, it's also my job to protect them. I wish I was better at letting some of these professionals know how their comments hurt me and my children. Instead, I stir over it wishing I'd have said something when I had the chance. My plea to those reading this is not to always try and be politically correct...that's not what this is plea is to remember that words carry A LOT of weight, so please choose them carefully.

Here's a new twist on the old "Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me."

"Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will make me go in a corner 
and cry by myself for hours." Eric Idle (haha kidding) 

"Sticks and stones may break my bones 
but words can shatter my soul." 


  1. As a mother it breaks my heart to hear that you have to answer such questions. Those questions and comments are simply thoughtless and hurtful. Not having a child with health or cognitive issues, I have been in a position of not knowing what to say that would not be hurtful. I wish it were easier to verbally share love and compassion for each other. Sending hugs.

  2. I get it. You are an amazing MOM!!! You are all very lucky to have one another in this world. I would get so angry over some things people would say about my son. But one day, he reminded me that these were teaching moments. That I could look at these times as a way to inform others and perhaps correct their ignorance. I still got angry a lot but I think his words had a lot of worth. Keep loving. Keep protecting and once in a while teach the world, one person at a time.

  3. I've been following your blog for sometime. My mother was adopted at age 9 and having 3bio children of my own, I feel drawn to adopting. I would like to adopt a special needs child if possible and follow your blog to get a idea of your daily life. I have generally rooted for you and the girls from the sideline. You've help me determine that I should also talk to my pediatricion about anxiety meds for my middle child. So, I'm finally reaching out to say that these same things happened to me as a child at family reunions and big offspring functions.mtime and time again you would hear whispers about not being blood related to the rest of the clan. It always broke my heart and especially my grandparents that considered us blood. I don't know why people are so rude but it is hard to turn the other cheek repeatedly. You are right to feel upset by those actions and to want to protect your girls. Your girls are lucky to have you and your husband to shield and love them.

  4. All three of them are fearfully and wonderfully made!! They are beautiful little gifts!!

  5. Wow. Thank you! So hard to tell people what they say is ridiculous, meaningless, or hurtful. I don't want to be that thin skinned/feared person to talk to, but man o man. Sometimes people just don't get it. As the mother of a 17yo with moderate cerebral palsy, I've heard it all, seen it all, and although I never have the same reaction twice, I often replay scenarios in my head and want to say and do something differnt, but was just to dumbfounded, weak, or emotional to say/do what I really wanted. Thanks for articulating it all so well!

  6. the doctor should have worded that you guys are her parents not her caregivers and as for the whole step sisters thing i would think he should have put in adopted siblings or something. i understand why you are upset i would be too but like you im a non confrontational person as well. i usually sit on my thoughts and think about what i should have said instead

  7. Dear Sarah and Shawn, I am so sad to have read your last post. The professional you saw most definitely needs sensitivity training, his comments were most disturbing. Does he have a supervisor you can discuss the issue with? Just being a nice guy doesn't mean he can make those statements. We all know you and Shawn ARE the girls PARENTS and that they are SISTERS. There are some people out there who just don't get it and will say hurtful things. Please keep your chins up and try not to dwell on the hurtful sayings of others. You are doing a wonderful job with your three daughters. Looking forward to seeing additional pictures of the three girls. How did Mila's and Sofia's hair trims go? Carol

  8. There are alot of STUPID and INCONSIDERATE people out there - it's sad that you have to educate them on simple manners! Good Job Mama!

  9. I hear ya! I went through this with my chronically ill child....professionals who were so careless with their words. Drove me nuts! And I am much like you..would either let it go and stew over it later...or blow a gasket and then be so ashamed of my behavior. I wish people would just stop and think before they speak!! ((((HUGS))))) Mama Bear!!!

  10. I agree that many adults(who should know better) are inexcusably offensive. I have biological children, stepchildren whom I raised from toddlerhood, and adopted children. After finding that out our pediatrician once asked me, IN FRONT OF MY SON, if he was one of my real kids. I was speechless at the insensitivity. I told him that I only take the real ones out in public, I leave the plastic ones at home. One of my least favorite comments is when people ask how many kids I have, I tell them 10, and they say, "yeh, but are they all yours". I want to get very rude and say, "no, I just totally lied to you". Instead, I say, "yes they are, I claim them all on my taxes".

  11. Oh dear Sarah. I know exactly where you are coming from and Harry isn't adopted. I know you don't know me but as Mothers of special needs children we are in an education work. We have to educate the ignorant at our expense (our hearts and souls) unfortunately, or nothing changes. Those who really get it will "pick you up". And I know you know this but God will never let you go beyond what you can bear. Keep fighting the good fight Sarah. You and Shawn are great parents to your beautiful daughters.

  12. As a medical professional, I think it is GROSS that you would be asked such questions or be referred to as "caregivers". What?!!! That would really hurt my feelings too. I would definitely encourage you to firmly correct professionals when they say such inappropriate things. Hopefully they'll never say it again to another parent. And any sane person can see that you are crazy blessed to have three such precious girls as your daughters!!

  13. I am so sorry this happened to you:( People need education. Adoption language is very important. Biological family not "real" family. You are your daughter's real family. Adoption plan not "give away" your baby. Children that are adopted into their family ARE sisters or brothers. So frustrating. I was adopted, my mom was adopted and my husband and I adopted our 2 beautiful daughters. We come against this ignorance at times. I try hard to just rephrase what the person said using appropriate, adoption language. It might not change the world but it may change that person's view of adoption and they will hopefully educate other people.

    You are an amazing family and an amazing Mom!

    Susan from Boston

  14. You responded like a PARENT. Ignorance is apparent in some overeducated people.
    Keep up your great work of raising your daughters.

  15. I'm so sorry you went through that. My heart breaks for you. Caretakers? Step sisters? I don't even get that. I actually paused and had to think...are my children step brothers and sisters? No! No they aren't! They are all brothers and sisters. I would have been hurt. I have been hearing a lot, "are they brothers?" Now I know what they mean but sometimes I say yes. They are. Why should I go into the "not biological but they are now since we adopted them." When will it just be "you have a beautiful family." Rather than the looks and such. Today I got really weird looks from a black boy. He could not get it. All these white people and one black one? Huh..... I said rather loudly to my husband "why is it so hard to understand? Why can't they see adoption rather than nasty looks like they don't match." Sigh
    Be blessed

  16. Ps- look on their birth certificates. Who does it say for mom? (You) and dad? (Shawn) so that means you are mom and dad and they are sisters :) <3

  17. you know... it would be the same with your own children... as long as they are different...
    How often I just bursted into tears once I left the place...
    I was so mad the day we were told infront our 5 children that we were bad parents... :(
    couage !

  18. Sarah, I am so sorry you and your family hear such comments! You and Shawn ARE their parents in every sense of the word-- AND in every way that matters! I don't blame you one bit for being angry at the insensitivity in those that SHOULD know better! I am wondering if maybe you might want to write them a letter expressing your disappointment and letting them know what to do in the future? Granted, it's not necessarily YOUR job to educate them but at the same time it could benefit your family and other families in the future!
    Your girls are awesome! Lori

  19. My son Conor wasn't adopted, but I totally get your feelings here because we get put on a pedestal frequently by well-meaning people. We get pitied a lot too and we do not want pity!! Yes, it's hard raising a child with Down syndrome, Autism and Celiac, but he is NOT a burden because of it! GRRR....anyway, hang in there sister.

    Tracey from PA

  20. Sarah,

    You have every right to be upset. I would not hesitate to ask that doctor to ammend his letter, and to speak to him about his language. I have encountered the same with my children. I even had a college English professor ask me who was going to tutor my Chinese toddler so that she would learn English by the time she started kindergarten.

    Keep your chin up!