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Touched by Adoption–Glossary Spotlight

by Laura on February 27th, 2013

Warning: it’s return-to-the-snark this week on “Adoption Wednesday.”

Wait, did she just say it’s Shark Week?

Nope, it’s s-n-a-r-k, as in snarky, snide, sarcastic, perhaps just a little bit sassy.

I feel like a DJ, and that’s cool. I’ve been “accepting requests” for additions to my ultimate-yet-non-definitive Adoption Glossary.

Touched by Adoption

Rebecca Hawkes at Love is Not a Pie asked me to talk about the phrase “touched by adoption,” and how it doesn’t seem to capture the true essence of adoption’s effect on those involved, or its true impact.

Brooke Randolph, a licensed mental health counselor who specializes in the treatment of trauma and adoption (among other areas), suggested that “touched by adoption” may more aptly apply to the grandparents or friends of adoptive children, or perhaps the extended birth family.

Of course, all of that is up for debate, depending upon the family. Even birth-aunts, birth-uncles and birth-grandparents can be “gutted by adoption,” as opposed to merely touched and caressed like a cool, gentle breeze on a beautiful spring day.

Touched, as in “touched in the head”

Rebecca made the incisive point that “touched” is also a euphemism for mentally unbalanced. Touched is defined as as “1. moved and stirred: They were touched by your generosity,” and:

2. slightly crazy; unbalanced: touched in the head.  

Awesome … Made-crazy by adoption, wonderful. In some cases, perhaps it’s not too far off-the-mark.

But, Laura! Adoption is beautiful, it’s a blessing! It gives unwanted children to loving, stable homes!

Perhaps, perhaps. But. [And this is a big "but"] Often the baby was wanted by the mom, she simply had no support. Specifically, Don’t-come-home-with-that-bastard-child no support. Yes, adoption is great for adoptive parents who complete their family, and that family can and should be celebrated. However, the onus is on adoptive parents to remember that their (appropriate) joy accompanies an adoptee’s loss of original family, ethnic heritage, biology, and more.

I’ve written about the troubling intersection of adoption and mental illness before. It’s a tough subject because while adoptees do have higher rates of suicide and issues with mental health in general, they are loathed to be “defined” as damaged or mentally ill.

The euphemistic qualities of “touched by adoption” remind me of my issues with Gotcha Day. If adoption is so “touching,” like the stroke of a soft feather, then why do some (yes some, not all, I’m aware) adoptive parents insist on celebrating adoption with such an aggressive and possessive phrase?

Gotcha!

Ack! I’m surprised, overwhelmed, not touched or caressed. Hmmm.

Alternate phrases to capture the adoption experience

tackled by adoption — works well when surprises inevitably come one’s way. Adoption can have the feeling of having the wind knocked out of oneself, after all.

punched-in-the-gut by adoption – especially accurate during those always-super-fun “secondary rejections,” as so insightfully described by first mom Claudia Corrigan D’Arcy.

[Could also describe the initial panic experienced by adoptive parents who haven’t fully prepared themselves for the impact of their child’s first family reunion.]

pulled-in-a million-directions by adoption — for when the adoptee has to juggle the sometimes competing needs, desires and, yes, demands of both the birth family and adoptive family.

split-in-two by adoption — piggybacks off of pulled-in-a-million-directions, for those times when the adoptee feels he must choose one family over another.

*  *  *  *  *

Do you have an adoption reunion story that begs to be told? Do you have tips, advice, insight for others navigating the murky, emotionally wrought waters of adoption reunion? Consider submitting to Adoption Reunion Conclusions. Email me right away if you’re still working on something … Laura @ adoptedrealitymemoir.com (no spaces). Let me know and I’ll hold a space for you!

image from freedigitalphotos.net

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48 Comments
  1. Jung Sun permalink

    Omygosh! Ha! I've heard the expression "she is touched in the head" in books set in the 1900's or earlier but I never thought of the connection it could have with being "touched by adoption". It seems very appropriate. Can I then use this to explain away my "irrational" emotional upsets that pop up now and then? :p "Hey, don't judge me! I've been touched by adoption!" This also got me thinking of other more suitable words.

    • Laura permalink

      Jung Sun,
      Oh, this is awesome. Yes, you're just "touched," that's all, it's no big deal. :)
      Yes! Let me hear your alternate suggestions!
      Laura

  2. JackieD permalink

    My favorite is "thrown under the bus of adoption." I don't know – it just seems fitting somehow. But I guess that would most definitely be "touched."

    • Laura permalink

      Jackie,
      Good one — I like 'thrown under the bus.' That was one of the buzz phrases of my corporate America days, it's apt!
      Laura

  3. Touched. Just another piece in the jigsaw of bad messaging around adoption, like all those pictures of a two point two family skipping in afield with a balloon. I love this post, it grabs me by the heart and swings me around in a maelstrom; just like adoption has. Can i link to your site on my blogroll (and welcome to WASO by the way)? Mx

    • Laura permalink

      Yes! That would be awesome, I was trying to figure out how to get "linked up" thanks! I love the maelstrom — awesome!
      Laura

  4. I've never heard this phrase used here in the UK, and I'm pretty glad I haven't. With regards to Gotcha Day, I've only heard this used quite recently and by one family. Neither sit comfortably with me. I do wonder who comes up with these phrases? Adopters? Adoptees? Social workers?

    Thanks for linking this up to the Weekly Adoption Shout Out and I hope you'll link again in future.

    • Laura permalink

      Vicki,
      Thanks for commenting! I'm so happy to have found your Adoption Shout Out–these round-robins can be really great for understanding perspectives outside of our own. … I think Gotcha Day is something … uniquely American. It's used a bit in Canada, and yes, I've read even agencies encouraging adoptive parents to use the phrase.
      I'm still amused by all of the differences between British and American English. In American parlance (and in my admitted limited experience), "adopter" is often used pejoratively, and so when I read your blog and saw you referring to yourself "as such," I realized it's a difference in language usage. Here, I've seen "adoptive parent" used by adoptive parents, and "adopter" is often used when someone wants to accuse adopting adults of unethical behavior.
      Anyway, great to meet you!
      Laura

      • Gosh, I had no idea about using 'adopter'. It's common in my (again limited) experience, and by Social Services, friends etc I would be considered an adopter, simply because I have adopted (my son). Thanks for educating me!

      • Laura permalink

        Vicki — I think it's totally an American adoptee thing. :)

  5. It must be people who have not lived through adoption that make these phrases up? surely? You are right the phrase has a relaxed easiness about it that is so far away from anything we've experienced in our family. I hope to god my children never feel pulled in a million directions by adoption, I know at times the turmoil is enormous for them but I would never ask them to chose between their families. All great points for discussion and thanks for linking up to the Weekly Adoption Shout Out. x

    • Laura permalink

      Sarah,
      Thanks so much for visiting! I know, where do they come up with this stuff? I think those more extreme phrases are often felt by adult adoptees who lacked the benefit of openness growing up. Those of us from the Closed Adoption Era in the United States, or the Baby Scoop Era, were often subject to mis-information, secrets and lies. I feel lucky that I was never lied to, but I do know how hard it is to juggle the large extended family that adoption reunion creates.
      Thanks so much for including me!
      Laura

  6. love the glossary – you could – sadly – go on for a while – and yes certain phrases are used too freely and loosly – like the word adopted – when people say they have adopted parents meaning they are close to them – no they are not your adopted parents…. but I love the pulled in different directions phrase – but not for the having to chose as that really would be torn and incredibly heart wrenching.

    • Laura permalink

      Elle,
      Thanks for visiting the blog! Yes, sadly, adoption language needs some revamping for our modern day-and-age. I'm not a super PC-type of person, but I do think that educating the general population as to the issues involved in post-adoption is a good thing.
      Laura

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