The other day I saw the following photo on Pinterest:
You’ve seen or heard this type of adoption humor before. It’s a fairly common joke in movies, sitcoms, and online memes.
I’m writing today as someone who is not at all sensitive or ashamed of the fact that I’m adopted to say that this type of humor needs to stop. Especially in mass media.
I’m not proposing this for me. I’m proposing it for every adopted child out there and every family that has an adopted child.
This type of humor pervades the misconception that adoption is a stigma. The stigma has diminished over time, but it’s still lurking out there in the form of this type of “humor.” Plain and simple, adoption is not at all a bad thing or something to be ashamed of.
Circumstances vary from person to person, but in every adoption, at least one or both parties involved are acting out of love. Most biological parents who put their child up for adoption do it out of love so that their child can have a better life than the one that they can offer. I know that some adopted kids struggle with the idea that someone gave up on them early on in life, but even those kids have adoptive parents (or as I like to call them, parents) on the receiving end who choose to love them as their own. That’s such a powerful choice to make.
Can you comprehend how selfless those choices are? Those acts of love are absolutely nothing to be ashamed of.
You might look at these memes and think that everyone knows they’re just jokes. The thing is, though, kids don’t know they’re jokes—kids can sense when there’s a greater truth or message behind a joke. Humor can be a wonderful way to break down barriers, but only if everyone is in on the joke.
Plus, not all adopted kids have parents like mine who didn’t put a stigma on adoption. I’ve always known that I was adopted—there was never a special sit-down chat where my parent’s “broke the news” to me. If you’ve gotten to the point where you’re “breaking the news,” you’re essentially telling the kid that adoption is a secret that you have to hide as long as possible.
Here’s an example: I watched a movie called Kung Fu Panda 2 a few months ago. In the movie, the titular panda goes on a quest for his “real” parents (another ridiculous concept, in my opinion. An adopted child’s real parents are the ones who raised him and parented him. Rather, the correct term is biological parents). The panda’s father is a stork who has hidden the adoption for his son’s entire life. A number of jokes are made about the panda not realizing that he’s adopted.
Kung Fu Panda 2 is a kids movie. Somehow the writers of this movie thought that it would be a good idea to convey the idea that adoption is a dirty little secret that you should hide from your child, and that if you’re an adopted child, you should be ashamed (as the panda is when he finds out). Eventually the movie gets around to the idea that the panda is grateful for the life his father gave him, which was a nice touch, but that’s literally at the very end of two Kung Fu Panda movies rife with adoption humor.
This topic is close to home for me because I know how…well, how normal it can be to be raised in a household where being adopted is openly discussed and shared (my brother and sister aren’t adopted). This stigma doesn’t have to persist. If we stop making adoption jokes, the stigma will go away.
If this message resonates with you, I’d invite you to share this post. Share it with anyone: family, friends, adoptive parents, adopted friends, and the writers of Kung Fu Panda 2. Let’s all choose to stop making nonsensical jokes about adoption so that we can remove all stigma or shame from adoption forever. Let’s all make adoption seem like the very normal, loving act that it is. I’m sure you know some adopted kids—do it for them.
How have the people in your life approached adoption? How have you?