I see these lists all the time. WHAT NOT TO SAY…to an Adoptive Parent, to an Autism Mom, to Kids with Scars, to People Wearing Blue Shirts. (Are you a smurf? I kid, I kid, but I kinda sorta feel we’re one HuffPost piece away from this.)
I have a Chinese adopted son. He was born with a cleft lip and palate, is autistic with some side dish diagnoses that mean “your kid might double as a tornado.” He can be a, uhhh, noticeable child, and we sometimes get questions.
I decided to write my own “What Not to Say” list. Here it is:
What the what?! Cray to the cray! There is no list.
In this arena of adoptive / special needs parenting, we spend a lot of time discussing the trifecta of awareness, education and acceptance. These are solid goals, y’all. But tough goals to achieve if we answer every question posed to us with “OMG HOW DARE YOU.” Be aware! Educate! Accept our kids! But if you ask us a question that might help you understand our lives, we will march with torches around our online backyards and burn you to the facebook stake.
The “What Not to Say” lists generate fear. Fear of offending, fear of saying the wrong thing, fear of having genuine kindness and curiosity misinterpreted as cruelty. Fear does not breed acceptance, fear breeds silence. Fear slams the door to communication, and leaves our kids on the side of lonely.
No, thank you. I am throwing out the What Not to Say lists. Adios lists.
If someone sees my son and is interested enough, compassionate enough, human enough to want to learn more? Yes, please. Because this is how we educate.
Let’s start a movement. The “As Long as Your Intentions Are Kind, I Will Not Be Offended, and I Will Be Honest With You” Movement. (Ok, so maybe it could have a catchier name. We can work on that.) Our movement will look a lot like what we’re all teaching our kids: Be nice. Respect other people. Tell the truth. Look for the good.
No one has ever accused me of being a Pollyanna, that’s a fact, but don’t you think this could work? It could be this simple, right? I’m going to give it a go. You’re invited.
Rebecca Masterson is a writer, speaker, and an advocate for children. For more from Rebecca, follow her on Instagram.