Posted by: DD | April 5, 2007

no. 414 – Revisiting Adjective Families

I’ve been mulling over the information in Rosemond’s article and although I still think he still has some valid points, there are some points that are rather inexplicably rigid, i.e. “children should not be allowed to call adults by their first names”. Certainly this is a reflection of Rosemond’s age, not of his intelligence.

My son does not call his friends’ parents Mr. Smith or Mrs. Smith. Maybe I’m lax about it and don’t believe in the familiarity-breeds-contempt bullshit, but maybe it’s because I feel like a hypocrite telling my son to call my his friend’s mom “Mrs. Smith” while I call her “Andrea” when we all get together for playdates and I would have to defend my position that it’s showing respect. He would smartly wonder why then, don’t I call her Mrs. Smith.

I enjoy being called “X’s Mom” by his friends. I take great pride in that title. I get called Mrs. DD by politicians and telemarketers. How can I take that as a sign of respect? Blech.

On the other hand, I call his teacher “Mrs. Jones” in front of my son even though I know her personally as “Mary”. That’s the school’s policy and I fully support and encourage that specific application.

I’m sorry, but I seem to be going off on a tangent…back to the main issue:

After I read through all of your comments, I had to do a little more mental exercising to see that there’s definitely room for improvement in my perceptions. I’m reminded of how important a flexible brain is. As I’ve mentioned in earlier posts, opinions are like assholes, everyone has got one; however, unlike assholes, opinions can and do change frequently based on the amount of poop one has to sift through.

In a recent People magazine there was an interview with Cathy Silvers (played Piccolo on Happy Days) and when asked about her family she said she “has four children and one step-son.”

Maybe it was because I read Rosemond’s article before seeing the interview in People that I found myself a little put off by her statement. Why would she separate the son away from her other children, especially in a tabloid article? It was completely irrelevant to the rest of the interview’s context. Remember the hullabaloo that surrounded Angelina’s birth to Shilo? She now had “one of her own”? I honestly don’t think the media was trying to piss off the adoption communities. It’s just painfully clear in today’s strangling PC mentality that no matter what they (the media) had said, someone, somewhere would have taken offense. It was because of that blow-out that I find myself more cautious with my phrasing when it comes to similar situations. I also have become more sensitive to when I hear statement of the like.

Here’s where I think Rosemond opened the adjective issue and made it too general. In my very personal opinion, I agree that parents should never use the labels/adjectives to routinely describe their children, whether it’s step-, adopted-, bio-, or foster-. However, I also agree with those of you who said that you have to make alterations in how you raise these very same children keeping in the forefront the respecting and honoring of those labels.

I had my eyes snapped open recently by Baggage in her post about rules she follows as a foster-parent. If my husband and I were to look more into foster parenting, many of the moments I specifically enjoy and cherish with X would have to immediately become off limits (cuddling in bed and open bathroom doors) with the introduction of a foster child in our home. To the outside, we would have two children, not one bio- and one foster-child. Inside our home, the dynamics would be drastically different.

Another example is Erin at PCOS Baby who is adopting from Ethiopia. She has a “bio” son and with the addition to their family a child who is of a different culture, they have wisely chosen to make sure that the culture becomes something the entire family participates in and contributes to. Rituals, holidays, language, and thoughts that weren’t even a consideration a year ago for her and her family will within a year from now probably become second nature…because of her “adopted” son. However, when the average Joe asks out of polite curiosity, how many children she has, she will proudly announce she has two sons . . . not one bio-son and one adopted-son.

Maybe that’s the difference when it comes to Adjective Families. To raise better children, we have to be acutely aware of their differences within the home. To the general populace? It should’t matter one iota what the means of creating or expanding a family uses, but just that we follow the basics in that “All children should be raised according to common principles, foremost of which is that parents should balance love and discipline in training children toward becoming productive, responsible members of society,” not in spite of their label, but because of it.



  1. The rules for fostering kids contributed to our decision to give having a baby the natural way another shot, since the only way to adopt in our county is to foster first.

  2. I didn’t read all that you did, but I’m guessing the “stepchild separation” in the article was a result of an overabundance of caution in not offending the biological mother. Being a step-parent is very different from being a parent and the family dynamic is different. I am not bothered by the stepchild description at all. Adoption is an entirely different topic, in my opinion.

  3. I love this post. I have mentioned before that I don’t throw “he’s adopted” out there in conversations with people about The Boy. True, I don’t have to because he resembles us. Even so, he is simply my son. It doesn’t matter how he came to be.

  4. You have touched one of my exposed nerves. I have very strong feelings about this since I am the mom of 3, one of whom is adopted. It completely pisses me off when someone (in front of my kids!) asks “which ones are yours” or “oh, is HE the adopted one?” or other various bullshit versions of being boneheaded. I want to scream–ok asshole are you gonna help me pay the therapy bills for making this child feel like less of a member of the family? Thankfully my son is well grounded and knows how much he is loved (even to the point of knowing I have accidentally found his birth mom-as I posted on my blog a couple months back) and he can even joke about how much smarter he is not being of our gene pool 🙂 but it still makes me want to come out shootin when I hear people that don’t even try to get it.

  5. In some ways I understand the stepson thing. With my foster kids, is it ok to say that they are mine? Is *that* offensive to them? Or is offensive to say they aren’t?

    I love the quotation at the end.

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