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Reluctant Family

Adoption "jokes"

I’m a new adoptive mom to a beautiful little three-month-old boy. I was checking Facebook this evening when I saw that one of my friends had posted a photo that I found disappointing. It shows two babies: one is laughing and one is crying. The laughing baby says to the crying baby, “DUDE, I’m JOKING you are NOT adopted!!!” (If you run a Google image search on that quote, the picture will come up right away.)

I’m posting this discussion topic in the “Reluctant Family” group, but what most surprised me about this “joke” was that my family has been anything but reluctant. The people who “liked” the photo are the same ones who threw us a “Meet the Baby” party, sent gifts and hand-me-downs, and have called often to check up on our little guy.

Of course, the message of the photo is that adoption is something to be used to taunt children, to make them feel bad about themselves. And of course I found this hurtful, even in light of all the support we’ve gotten from the same folks who find the photo funny. But I’m hesitant to say anything for fear of being labeled “too sensitive.”

What are your thoughts?


I saw it, too, and wasn’t sure whether I should be offended or not!  smile  I remember very clearly being a child and telling my doesn’t-look-like-me sister that she was left on the doorstep by gypsies.  My looks-like-me sister chimed in and we kept her going with that gag for almost a week.  This, in spite of the fact that we have two (adopted) cousins we absolutely adore who have known all their lives they were adopted and are cherished by our whole family.  It wasn’t that we thought anything bad about adoption or adopted people, it was just a way of rattling our sister’s cage by poking at the things she thought she knew about herself.  Nobody remembers being born, so it’s an easy target for older siblings to tease younger siblings about. I think the “joke” in that photo is that the two babies are obviously identical twins, albeit experiencing really different emotions in the picture.

Anyway, I would let that one slide and save your educational efforts for when someone wants to show your sweet baby boy the movie “Despicable Me” some day. (Contains a plot line in which the Despicable title character adopts three children and then abandons them.)

Posted by Thalas'shaya on Jan 25, 2012 at 2:36pm

Sorry, but I do not agree with the advice to let this go.  Maybe because I work directly with groups of adopted children through my practice and hear their pain and shame over the attitudes that so-called “jokes” like these perpetuate, I do not advocate looking the other way when adults tell them/laugh at them. 

    As adoptive parents and advocates for children, I think we have a responsibility to stand up to this and work to raise others’ consciousness about their impact.  Intent vs. IMPACT—- it is essential, in my opinion—that we give that LOTS of thought.  Our children often suffer MIGHTILY because of the IMPACT of others’ words and attitudes, which, by the way, are cuumulative over time.  The root of these attitudes, the jokes at their expense, the misinformation that stigmatizes them and the way that they joined our families comes from ADULTS.  And so it is with the ADULTS that we must start to be gently confrontive, even IF they try to paint us as “too sensitive.”

    If and when someone says that to us, we can and should counter with: “and how would you know.  How many adopted people have you queried so that you know whether and to what extent these types of so-called “jokes” cause them to feel pain, shame, and stigmatized?  I do NOT wish for my child to have to grow up feeling that way because it will rob him or her of their sense of self worth, and that is WHY I am asking you to reconsider whether these are truly “jokes” and why you would wish to tell them at the expense of others who are vulnerable to them.”

    If your family, friends, and acquaintances value you, they will sit up and take notice, and they will stop.  THAT is the way to start a new, constructive trend: people having more awareness and sensitivity to adopted children and their family members.  Some might have their feathers ruffled for a bit because they feel a little embarrassed, but that is a small price for them to pay to welcome in and show their caring for a new, adopted family member. 

Jane A. Brown, MSW

Posted by Jane Brown on Jan 25, 2012 at 11:10pm

I don’t think you’d be out of line at all to message the friend and let her know that “jokes” about adoption are hurtful and inappropriate. You don’t have to be harsh about it, maybe just say “Hi (insert name) I was hoping I could share my heart with you on something. Although I know you didn’t mean to be hurtful, I was hurt by the picture you posted regarding adoption . We want our son to know that adoption is a beautiful thing and nothing to be ashamed of and not a punch line. I hope you can understand how that line of joking can be hurtful to many families and children.”
Most likely this person has no idea that what he/she posted is hurtful, but as adoptive parents we must advocate for our kids and educated the generally uneducated public about appropriate lingo and conversations.
I would rather come off as overly sensitive a have others take note as to what not to say around my daughter, than come off as not bothered and subject my daughter to ignorant comments.

Posted by Kel.Nic. on Jan 26, 2012 at 3:27am

I have seen this pic, and as someone mentioned above the babies pictured are identical twins. I personally don’t think it is something to lose any sleep over. I also think in this particular case making a big deal out of this will make people thing we are hypersensitive and crazy. I am all about taking opportunities, but I don’t think this is one. How about posting something on your FB page about adoption jokes in general and how they can be hurtful even if not mean spirited. Now, if someone tags you or posts this on YOUR page, it’s fair game to let them have it. BUT if it is on their page, in this case, I would not directly address it. I guess if you do feel like you MUST address this directly, I would not comment, but message the person so as not to shame them in front of all of Facebook. Shaming people puts them in a corner, and we want to help them understand more about how amazing adoption is.

Posted by ShannonM on Jan 26, 2012 at 5:18am

Ohiomary, others in the adoption community saw this same Facebook “joke” and had a similar reaction as you.  Here are some replies to your thread over on our Adoptive Families Facebook page:

Leslie White Clay I have seen that picture alot and I hate it!

Hillary Moore there is adoption jokes??

Becky Dykins Rottmann Luckily noone in my family makes adoption jokes…5 out of 6 grandchildren on my husbands side of the family are adopted…and only 1 out of 5 grandchildren on my side is adopted.

Jeremy Podolski You can’t always expect people/family/friends to “know better” even though you’d like them to. But you can use it as an opportunity to educate (at least to educate those you feel are worth it). Just don’t let them convince you that it is harmless. This “joke” gives adoption a negative connotation. Although loss will always be part of the adoption process, shame never should be.

Sara Orr Floyd I had a friend post that picture, too, and I came right out and said I thought it wasn’t funny and that I was honestly offended. She apologized but it didn’t really mean anything after the fact.

Susan Loyacono yeah i didn’t think that “joke” was a bit funny. I didn’t say anything which kind of surprises me.

Deb Guinn Donatti Confront, but be prepared for people to be hostile and defensive, no matter how delicately you approach it. Adoption is part of the life you are living now, and to do nothing is as bad as commuting the error yourself.

Kellee Wilkins-Hall Usually I just say “What do you mean by that?” and let them feel uncomfortable for a bit. I’ve had someone get abit defensive, but I haven’t heard them say anything again. There’s nothing like being embarrassed by your actions or words to change your future actions and behaviors.

Patti Lewis I confront in love and use it as a chance to educate. I find these types of things are usually done out of ignorance not maliciously which still isn’t an excuse. So I personally never let adoption jokes go or comments about “blood”..etc

The Adoption Advocate I agree with Jeremy’s and Patti’s perspective and loved Kellee’s method. Let’s not jump immediately on the attack, 99% of the time people did it innocently and will geniuenly feel bad/regretful after we bring it to their attention.

Frannie Crockett-Wolfe Just as we ask our children to think before you speak we should think before we post! This happened in my family as well and I simply commented “hope my kids don’t cry like that!” of course no response, ignorance is bliss and no excuse for it!

Traci Scott I didn’t know there were adoptions jokes. If I did,I’d say…luckily God forgives and adopts each one of us as His.

Robin Sedlak Great response Traci Scott!

Jocelyn Conway Malone My sister posted that ignorant “joke” on FB with the babies. I called her out on it, and she still didn’t see the harm. I had to spell out that even if my DD is 2 and not on FB she should never have to feel that the way she joined our family is a joke. Ever. Sis finally got it, but man, did it boil my ass.

Erika Harbart Ellerbe That really is a shame that people don’t see the harm. We all have heard these jokes on TV etc and as an Adoptee it is not funny.

Amy Deragon Gill I have a relative who commented that one of our sons, who is of Mexican descent and very artistic, must have “had a tagger for a father”. I was so shocked at the time I was speechless and we were surrounded by a roomful of party-goers, but I had my husband—her brother—do a little consciousness-raising with her later on in private.

Margarita Gonzalez I had a “friend” from high school post on thanksgiving that he was soooo hungry he was going to eat like an Ethiopian orphan !!
Needless to say I was not pleased and what was his response to my objection ” ah come on you of all people know how hungry they are ”
This was followed by a curse out and a defriending of course !!!

Amy Deragon Gill However, I also have a relative who was adopted at birth and he happens to find that picture of the two babies very funny—not offended by it at all. I don’t like it because I hate the way it makes adoption sound less desirable than “bio”. Why can’t people just accept that children come into families in a variety of ways and it’s all good?

Tracey Falkiner de Hastie I find it offensive and sad as if being adopted is something that children (even babies) instinctively know as something bad.

Robin Pridgeon Stinnett I would confront and educate ignorance, I would ignore evil.

Posted by Danielle Pennel on Jan 27, 2012 at 2:51am

Say something!  NO WAY I would let it go.  I’ve seen these jokes before in relation to Steve Jobs being adopted - it was a post on Facebook.  My husband and I were offended and said something.

Posted by J Mac on Jan 28, 2012 at 4:39am

I saw it, too, and thought I should say something, but couldn’t think of what to say. I really regret it, and if I can find it I will speak up. Thanks for empowering me.

I grew up in a small community with very few minority people. Jokes about skin color were not uncommon. When I was very young I didn’t even realize they were bad. Of course if I heard a racist joke now, there’s no way I would let it go by for fear of someone thinking I was being oversensitive.

Now our society is beginning to realize adoption isn’t a dirty word, but we’re not quite there yet. Let’s help our kids by educating people. The person who I saw post it probably doesn’t actually think adoption is negative. I think she just thought it was an extremely cute picture of two babies, albeit with a poor caption. She probably didn’t realize it was offensive, just as I didn’t know racist jokes were offensive when I was a young child.

Here’s what I think I’ll say: “What a cute picture! I’m not sure we want to make fun of adopted kids, though, as this could be unintentionally hurtful. Who has a better caption idea for this cute picture? How about: Dude, I’m joking, Mom doesn’t really love me more than you! or Dude, I’m joking, I didn’t really spit in your sippy cup!”

Posted by sueb on Jan 28, 2012 at 6:08am

I like Kel.Nic’s response…  To write you your friend privately and just say something like ‘it made my heart heavy.’  Not that you’re furious and outraged, or anything she might perceive as combative… but that you’re saddened, and sad that people might see your own baby’s adoption as something to cry about.  I bet she’ll get it.

Posted by VintageMom on Jan 28, 2012 at 6:20am

Jokes that target the afflicted are never funny, they are cruel. It is important to raise awareness and let people know when something they think is a joke is hurtful.

Posted by Mizzlaurajean on Jan 28, 2012 at 7:14am

My “best friend” just posted this on my FB wall today with the comment, “I know you’ll LOVE this!”  Really?  why would I love something that insinuates that the way I joined my family (I am an adoptee) and the way my husband and I are starting our family is something to be ashamed of?  I haven’t commented, and don’t plan to;  I just don’t want to be the bitter, childless woman who can’t take a joke…even tho I guess I am.

Posted by cyd525 on Jan 28, 2012 at 9:49am

I’ve also found myself being “oversensitive” to rude jokes.  I’ve defended the feelings of the innocent – for those adopted, disabled, socially awkward, ethnically diverse, overweight, etc.  It seems each generation develops new ways to tease each other – at the expense of a certain group of people.  But that’s the root of it all, isn’t it?  “Put-downs” simply are NOT funny!  Recently I called someone out on a similar subject on FB and was told I “had issues” because I couldn’t see how funny she was, and I got offended.  All I could think was how the woman defending herself (and sadly, one of my old college friend) sounded like an adult “bully”…and this is how the cycle continues.  I’d hate for my child to be on the receiving end of what her child will learn to dish out.  So now I look closer at what I laugh at, and realize there’s much work to be done, even in my own family.  I guess I need to go find a clean joke book!

Posted by Lara on Jan 28, 2012 at 8:43pm

I actually like the suggestion early on that states “cute picture however…”  and post educational links.  No reason to get nasty with those who just may not know better.  Polite redirection of facts and positive adoption information would go over better than doing some defensive attacking.

Posted by Todd & Tree on Jan 29, 2012 at 2:15am

In a bit of irony – the laughing baby that is referred to in the “Dude ......” joke mentioned on this post is adopted - it is me, taken in the late 1950’s, and that is my cousin Cindy crying (I had just pinched her at her birthday party). We did not create any of the hundreds (thousands – millions?) of internet jokes (including this one) that joke sites (and sports rivalry sites)have used it on, nor have I complained about the fact that it is a copyrighted and registered image, because it has not been used for commercial purposes that I have yet found. It is a family treasure, and sits on both of our credenzas – where everyone cracks up when they see it. I think the message below the photo could say anything (or nothing at all) and people would laugh outloud. Just wish my dad had lived to see the internet (he died when I was very young). I posted the photograpgh on my FLICKR account about a year ago and people have been taking it ever since (without asking of course, despite it being copyrighted). I guess I just wanted to give the history, point out that I am adopted, and that it is really my cousin and I that are the funny part. No idea who made the original joke. Andy (Andrew Howe)

Here is the original photo:

Posted by cranewoods on Jan 31, 2012 at 6:19am

I agree with the posters above who said to approach your friend privately, and let her know it bothered you.  My family and friends have been very supportive, and our two beautiful children are completely accepted, but I still had to educate some close family members about adoption language.  If you treat these episodes as teachable moments, the people who care will apologize and learn something, and the ones who accuse you of being “sensitive” and “easily offended” will probably never get it, but at least you will know you tried.

Posted by jszmom on Feb 01, 2012 at 4:06am

I was sitting at a baseball game the other day and a mother kept telling her 12 year old she was going to put him up for adoption and laughing… so not funny to the adopted 31 year old sitting next to her.  It never ends.

Posted by EST on Jul 07, 2012 at 5:51am

I had that same picture on my facebook. I don’t even know who posted it. One of my neices having a bad day posted “wanted adoption agency for my three children.” I don’t think anyone means anything personal by it and I just let it roll.

Posted by carolrn on Jul 07, 2012 at 6:34am

I’m not too fond of adoption jokes, but I find it more painful when adoption is referred to as a wonderful or beautiful thing. It labels the pain of a mother losing her child as ‘beautiful’. It paints the pain of an infant crying for its mother as ‘wonderful’. Many of us who were adopted ‘at birth’ were held about five days. Several nurses have expressed to me that by five days even the slow ones have realized there’s no point in crying anymore and stopped, no one is coming back for them. Looks better to the new parents if they see a quiet child, they think it means we’ll be well behaved.

Jokes are a way that humans deal with pain. If there were no pain in adoption, there would be no jokes.

Posted by ScottK on Jul 07, 2012 at 7:56am

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