I am not too sensitive about adoption

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“Be careful how you phrase that question about egg rolls,” a comment from someone near and dear might go. “Jill’s sensitive about Chinese stuff.” adoption

My two boys are adopted from China. My nearest and dearest have commented on my “adoption sensitivity” a time or 700 over the past few years. But I don’t think I’m sensitive at all (especially about egg rolls).

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I am not too sensitive about adoption

Yes, I unfriended someone on Facebook for posting a meme referencing Chinese kids coming in to the world via a “vachina” instead of a vagina. But that’s because I decided I didn’t want to see stuff like that on my newsfeed, so I clapped my hands three times and chanted “I unfriend thee, I unfriend thee, I unfriend thee.”  Just kidding.  It was a simple, very liberating click of a button.

This person called me out for unfriending her and told me I should have let her know I was bothered before taking such drastic measures. It wasn’t a positive exchange and it ended with her calling me the “S” word. “You’re just too sensitive.”

This person was a casual acquaintance I was willing to sever ties with. If she’d been a closer friend would I have cut her some slack? Would I have talked to her about why this kind of joking bothered me? Maybe. I don’t know.

Who hasn’t heard the joke about “flied lice” on the menu at your local Chinese place? Maybe you’ve attempted some sort of Chinese accent. A few years ago, I might have thought that kind of crap was funny. Now I don’t. I don’t think I’m particularly sensitive about adoption or Chinese stuff in general but I have a different sense of what is and isn’t okay to say than I did a few years ago. My perspective is different.

There’s a difference between sensitivity and calling BS when someone says something they shouldn’t. I’m not the sensitivity police. I’m not obligated to justify my right to be bothered when someone says something thoughtless. Or posts it on Facebook or Instagram.

Simply put: Anyone who chuckles over one of my kids coming from a “vachina” isn’t someone I want to interact with. I get to make that choice. I don’t have to explain why that “joke” bugs me. Slapping a scarlet “S for sensitive” on my chest doesn’t mitigate the level of offensiveness.

It’s not funny when someone suggests my kids might find our household pet tasty if served up in a stew. It wasn’t cute when someone jokingly referred to them as “Wang Chung and Ching Chang.” I don’t react well to any version of:

how much did they cost OMG that is the cutest thing ever, I want one, too I wish I would have known you were going to China you could have picked up an extra one for me he’s so lucky is he your real kid do you have any real kids are you going to tell them they’re adopted wow do they eat dog.

I’m not sensitive because I don’t like comments like this. They’re tacky and hurtful, intentional or not. I’d probably get some dirty looks if I asked someone their credit score. If I said “Say, how much did that tummy tuck set you back? Just curious!” most people would probably perceive me as rude. My retort of “Aw…you’re just sensitive” probably wouldn’t fly.

My kids aren’t things. To compare them to cartons of milk we can grab off the shelf at a store is wrong. I take offense to the comparison. That doesn’t make me sensitive.

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My skin is a lot thicker than it used to be. I can often blow off the tasteless but well-intentioned comments and questions just as easily as I can bite someone’s head off. My anger or hurt over something that crosses the line of appropriate or polite shouldn’t be labeled sensitivity. And yes, I said hurt. Some of these comments sting, regardless of intentions.

Firing back with the “you’re so sensitive” defense is nothing but an attempt to deflect something that was thoughtless, if not deliberately hurtful. I call foul. A simple “I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have said that” might be a better response.

I am not an overly politically correct person. I’m a mom protective of her kids, as most moms are. Am I going to rid the Internet of thoughtlessness and insensitivity? Uh…no. But I owe it to my kids to stand up for them and teach them to do what is right.

If I have zero reaction to someone laughing over a picture suggesting my kids came from a “vachina” doesn’t that send the message that it is okay to giggle and share the joke with others? I doubt my indignation makes any real difference to the number of people who laughed at or shared that picture. But did it just make one person think twice about clicking the “like” button and sharing it with a new group of people? I’ll never know for sure, but I’d like to think so.

I’ll do my best to make sure my boys grow up to be strong, confident men. They may someday have enough angst over their beginnings in life without having to contend with someone telling them “Hey dude, you popped out of a vachina.”

My “sensitivity” isn’t going to shield them from every situation where they’re going to need thick skin. Just like their mom.

A version of this post was previously published on Washington Post's On Parenting 


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  1. As someone who as been labeled “too sensitive” all her life, I get it. And I support you & and your right to defriened those who are insensitive. I’m tired of being told I need to “learn how to take a joke.” Perhaps they should learn to understand that their definition of funny is different than mine.

  2. Hi Jill! I just read an article of your on the Washington Post and hopped on over. I’m a mom to two adoptive boys and two biological ones…my kids don’t look alike but we’re all Caucasian so if I never told anyone they were adopted no one would know. We also adopted from foster care and people don’t usually tend to make jokes about foster kids. Even so, I feel overly sensitive and passionate about adoption and adoptive issues and causes…people like the ones you’ve described are insensitive and racist and should be told so. Thank you for letting that acquaintance know.

  3. I read this post before and laughed all the way through, and just reread it and enjoyed it just as much the second time. I really relate to what your saying here. It’s not that we are overly sensitive people, it’s that we are rightly worried about how all the comments make our kids feel. And also, a lot of the jokes really aren’t funny at all.

  4. Jill, your boys are adorable. My wife and I have an adopted daughter from Guatemala, and have endured the stupid comments as well. I was told I was too sensitive ONCE. After I said my peace, I didn’t have to worry about hearing that word again 🙂 Adopted children are special gifts from God.