Lucky, saved, rescued…

06 Nov


With November being Adoption Awareness Month and the over glorification of adoption message this month always sends, I’ve been thinking about the dreaded lucky, saved, rescued comments that get directed to adopted children, even if it is a societal message vs. a direct statement made to them.  The reason I’ve been thinking about it is that for some, it will continue to be the message reiterated over the course of their lives (we have an entire month every year dedicated to doing just that) and the broader implications of that on people who are adopted.

How those statements of lucky, saved, rescued give other people the belief that they have the right to voice their opinion on what the adoptee should, or shouldn’t do.  How it’s used to shame them for making choices on how to live their lives, whatever those choices are.  If that choice is to search, society (people) still treat them like recalcitrant children that must be told who their real parents are.  That same message is given if they remove themselves from a toxic relationship with a parent (and yes, even an adoptive relationship can be toxic).  If they are dealing with an addiction they have an added level of shame put upon them because they were given opportunities, and they failed. Even just admitting they feel loss, grief, or have anger and need help, society is there to judge them, and tell them how lucky they are, and why can’t they just move on.  Sometimes that message doesn’t even have to be reiterated, because it was given often enough while the adoptee was growing up – that everything they do they judge themselves as not being good enough, and there isn’t any point…

But you all know me by now, and that’s really not what I want to talk about today, that’s just the reason behind my thoughts below…

What I’ve seen over the years is the adoptive parents countering that message with the reverse, no, we are the lucky ones, or, she saved us, or rescued us (dependent on which word was used in the comment).  For years I’ve wondered if this is the right approach, but, I’ve hesitated to open the discussion because I don’t want anyone to think I’m telling them they’ve done it wrong.  I don’t know if what adoptive parents have done is wrong.  I’m just asking if there is a better way, a way that reduces the number of times that message is given and received over the years when the child is most impressionable, and more importantly that the parent has told them the message is wrong.  That belief that allows the societal disapproval and belief that the adopted child, now grown up can still be judged because they a so lucky, they were saved, rescued.  So adoptive parents who happen to read this – breathe, just breathe, because I’m not bashing you, just opening a discussion…

Should the response be a message that speaks to what is wrong with the statements themselves?

Of course, like everything else in life, you would need to decide whether there is any point in trying to get them to see why your child is not lucky, not saved or rescued. But, what if, instead of reversing the statement to apply to you – that you looked at the person with bewilderment, and asked the speaker point-blank something like this…

What is lucky about losing your entire family?  Do you think that is something good, or that she should be thankful for it?

I’m not sure why you would think she needed saving? Saving from what?  Do you think she needs to feel extra grateful for something she had no control over?

Why would you assume she was in danger?  What or who do you think she needed rescuing from?  What message are you trying to tell her?  That she needs to be extra good as compared to a non-adopted child?

The above are just off-the-cuff responses, and I’m sure other people more skilled in crafting words could create better responses to use, and are only meant to give you an idea of what I mean when I say is there a better way to deal with the comments.  A way to stop and get people to really think about the messages they are sending to children who are adopted, and stop and consider exactly what a child has lost, and often, what they have gone through in their very short life.  To think about the added burden they are putting on the child with their unsolicited and often ignorant preaching.  Unless people stop and think – they won’t get it.  They won’t get it because as a society we glorify adoption, no one digs deeper when everyone cheers about how wonderful adoption is.  The children are special, lucky, they’ve been given such a wonderful opportunity and they better never forget.

So, tell me your thoughts, is it better to simply reverse it, and put it on the adoptive parents?  Or is there a better way, and what way to do you think would make a difference?  Is it possible to change how people think about adoption and the burden they can place on the child with the message?




Posted by on November 6, 2014 in Adoption, adoptive parents


Tags: , , , , , ,

24 responses to “Lucky, saved, rescued…

  1. Erin

    November 6, 2014 at 5:48 pm

    Absolutely! I’ve been feeling uneasy about the message on many of the memes going around. I do think people should know that there are many children in foster care who do not have permanent homes. And I am proud of our family. But how can we say this without the savior mentality? I’m looking forward to reading the thoughts of others.


    • TAO

      November 6, 2014 at 5:50 pm

      Thanks for responding – never know if my point was clear until some gets it… 🙂


    • Beth

      November 7, 2014 at 12:58 pm

      “I do think people should know that there are many children in foster care who do not have permanent homes. And I am proud of our family. But how can we say this without the savior mentality? I’m looking forward to reading the thoughts of others.”

      By chance, I heard someone IRL speak on this a few weeks ago. So I am happy to find the perfect opportunity to type about it 🙂 Tks TAO and Erin

      At the ball game, a seasoned foster mom was talking to a couple who were thinking of trying foster care. ‘Bob’ says he so wants to help save a child from a bad situation, since he has so much to offer. The FM says great! But you won’t be saving a child so much as you could be helping a family.

      Think of how it would be if your kids were still young, you loose your job and take another that doesn’t pay as well, your wife finds some serious and expensive medical issue that requires months, if not years, of lost time at work, and some serious pain medications, and help in the home. Dad does all he can to make the bills, keep the home, one of his income choices leads him to jail for 3 years, but he managed to keep the money he’d made and got caught up on their house payment. Would you want someone to rescue your child, call them lucky, expect them to feel lucky and saved for being rescued From You – or would you want them to help for the family’s sake?

      Can you imagine being in some sort of situation like this and having the county intervene and remove your child to foster care?
      Can you do it for our fellow parents that are having a very difficult time, other parents who need your help with their child, whether it’s foster to RU or foster to adopt? Or is it all about wanting a child to save and love? Could the first make you feel as good as the latter?

      She said it better than I typed it 🙂 Hoping you can imagine how this went.
      I’d never really heard anyone turn it in that direction before like that, and I liked it.

      Still is about saving, rescuing the lucky. But, it takes on more of a helping other parents, families, feeling to me – rescuing/saving the whole family seems to be different to me than rescuing the child. Finding the need for some, to tell the whole family how lucky they are, just doesn’t seem the same, and probably not as frequent as hearing Lucky Kid.


      • TAO

        November 7, 2014 at 5:02 pm

        Good for the Foster Mom…some people are just clueless…


  2. Jess

    November 6, 2014 at 11:13 pm

    I must admit that my reflexive answer has been a curt “I’m the lucky one.” But it is said in a tone that tells the person that the comment’s a dud and we should just move on in order to save everyone further embarrassment. Because I haven’t heard it in awhile–my daughter’s about to turn 18, and if people are going to crank themselves up about us, usually it’s because they cannot figure how we “go together”–I haven’t thought deeply about my response in a long time. I very much enjoyed your piece. The only thing I would add is that sometimes these remarks are off the cuff, on the fly, if you will, and it’s hard to do any education in those circumstances. But I like your “Why would you assume?” question. Like it a lot.


    • TAO

      November 7, 2014 at 5:02 pm

      Thanks Jess…


  3. cb

    November 6, 2014 at 11:14 pm

    “What I’ve seen over the years is the adoptive parents countering that message with the reverse, no, we are the lucky ones, or, she saved us, or rescued us (dependent on which word was used in the comment). For years I’ve wondered if this is the right approach, but, I’ve hesitated to open the discussion because I don’t want anyone to think I’m telling them they’ve done it wrong.”

    I also feel uncomfortable with the “she saved/rescued us” message too. I don’t mind “we are lucky ones” so much. I think the problem with “she saved/rescued us” is that it sounds like the person adopting the child feels that that act saved their sanity and that alone can put pressure on a child.

    I had a conversation on a train once with a lovely lady who had been a nurse in the 1960s. I was on my way to the town where my bmother grew up and so we got talking about adoption and she had worked in that field. She was sympathetic towards bmothers but it is what she said about the adoptive parents that made me think – “Those poor women, they needed those babies” – I got the impression that she felt that being able to adopt those babies literally saved many women’s marriages and sanity. When one reads magazines from the time, that is often the main message that was sent, i.e. that being able to adopt *us* literally saved many childless women’s lives. Thus in the end, that was what was considered important – I think in the minds of many well meaning SWers, doctors professionals, they felt they were doing what was “for the greater good”.

    I think that is actually behind some of the older generation’s reluctance to see adoptees search for their parents – they worry that by searching, we might undo the “good work” that we have *done* by being their child and thus affect our parents’ sanity.


    • TAO

      November 7, 2014 at 5:01 pm

      I don’t think as a small child I disliked the lucky comment – growing older I sure did…

      Probably the nurse was right in her belief – our era if you didn’t have the 2.5 children then something was terribly wrong with you and so many thought it must be in her head…and of course all men can reproduce (wish I could add the rolling eyes emoticon)…


  4. Tiffany

    November 7, 2014 at 12:35 am

    I totally get what you are saying. I think those answers can only apply in certain situations as they are quite blunt. And I’m a very blunt person. But I wouldn’t say many of those to, say, co-workers. It can come across a little too… “put you in your place” to me.

    Here’s how I typically handle it when I get “Oh, you are so wonderful! She’s so lucky!”:

    “Oh, I’m frickin’ fabulous, obviously. But not because I adopted my daughter. She’s the most amazing little girl. I am beyond blessed to have the opportunity to be her mother, and a thousand times over, I am the lucky one, not her. Her other mom and dad are wonderful people, and we are thankful to have them in our lives.”

    That’s my very well-rehearsed response. I start in a humorous manner rather than a defensive one, which is how I feel, so if I gave into that emotion, I could come across really rude. I then definitively say she is not “lucky” to be adopted by me. I make sure that it’s clear that I am the blessed one, as are all parents, IMO, since we are given the amazing opportunity to shape a life and love unconditionally. Then, I make it clear that she was not in need of rescue and shut down any follow-up remarks that might try to say something negative about her first family (the people I apparently rescued her from).

    Honestly, I know the statement comes from a genuine place rather than an offensive one, so as much as it angers me, I try to respond firmly and to the contrary, but in a nice way. If pushed, though, which I have been, I will get increasingly abrupt in my responses. I will say no one has ever used the word “saved” with me. I think that I might be non-plussed by that one, and I would likely respond with a blank look and a “Saved? From what?” I imagine that happens pretty frequently to international adoptive parents. That word does cause me to bristle.

    Sidenote, I replied three times to the other post just to say I was sorry about your headache and hoped you were feeling better. Also that I think we were saying the same thing. I hope it was just a glitch that it wasn’t coming through.


    • TAO

      November 7, 2014 at 4:48 am

      Just popped in to shut off the computer but wanted to respond – I only got one comment re the headache – it’s in the post and I responded. I have no idea what happened to the other two – will look tomorrow to see if I can figure it out because that shouldn’t have happened.


      • TAO

        November 7, 2014 at 4:58 pm

        Your comments didn’t go to moderation or to spam – I have no idea what happened.

        I can see how open adoptions can stop people in their tracks – if they are, then now I’m confused… 🙂


  5. JenniferS

    November 7, 2014 at 5:57 am

    oh thank you for writing this! it totally sums up how i feel about the whole saving/saviour thing, just off in all sorts of ways. and turning it around is so smug & self serving i think. when anyone has said my son is lucky (which hasnt been that often) i have asked them back “what do you mean?” and it has always put them on the spot. just too presumptuous and sticky beaky for my liking. although i have been tempted to be rude and say their kid obviously hasnt been so lucky . . . nark nark nark!


    • Beth

      November 7, 2014 at 1:08 pm

      oh my, as a rude defiant teenager I said that out loud to someone that insisted I was lucky.
      “Sure lady, I’m lucky, it’s a bummer your kid isn’t so lucky.”


    • TAO

      November 7, 2014 at 4:56 pm

      Really glad you make them qualify their remarks with “what do you mean?”

      The saving/savior thing – just waiting for an adoptive parent to tackle that in a post….sometimes I think that for ***some*** they secretly enjoy the kudo’s…(please don’t take that wrong)


  6. flrpwll

    November 7, 2014 at 10:51 am

    Reblogged this on Totally Awry and commented:
    Saved? From myself, it would seem … looking at what my brothers and sisters do for jobs, and the completely wrong boxes I used to try to fit myself into.
    It wasn’t until I was in my 40’s that I finally got the kind of job that suited me, and I actually enjoy.


  7. AdoptiveBlackMom

    November 7, 2014 at 12:52 pm

    I hate that savior stuff, and given Hope’s age and how few kids her age find permanent homes, I get that “lucky, saved, rescued” line a lot. A lot, a lot. I usually find myself responding with a pained smile that’s followed by something along the lines of “No, she’s really not lucky. We are fortunate in that we found one another for this purpose, but it’s crappy that she was in a position to need me.” Sometimes it’s delivered nicely, sometimes with a side of snark because it can be so irritating. People largely don’t understand. But they also don’t understand that it is ouchie for both the adoptee and the parents. So many on both sides come to these families with profound loss. Often it is a relief and a blessing and all that stuff on the surface, but there’s still a lot of pain there for almost everyone involved.

    i actually had a commenter tell me on one of my posts that my daughter should be grateful I adopted her. Sigh.


    • TAO

      November 7, 2014 at 4:53 pm

      “i actually had a commenter tell me on one of my posts that my daughter should be grateful I adopted her. Sigh.”

      Exactly the mentality I want to change. I like your response: “No, she’s really not lucky. We are fortunate in that we found one another for this purpose, but it’s crappy that she was in a position to need me.”



  8. stephanie

    November 8, 2014 at 12:36 am

    As an adoptee who just found her birth mother, it only took two months and I am pretty happy about that. It is going better than i ever expected. I do consider myself lucky. I am lucky because my birth mom choose life for me. My birth mom was handed a raw deal and instead of aborting me she gave me life. She made a tough but responsible choice. My family choose to take me into their home and give me a wonderful life. I was not rescued but my birth mom was, my coming into this world ended something terrible for her. So for some yes they may not be lucky or special, or any of those other things but I am lucky and i am grateful. I am grateful that God helped her through quite possibly the worst time of her life. I am grateful I was, as she describes, her gift to give to my mom and dad. Thank you to my birth mom for giving me life and thank you to my mom for teaching me life!
    And for our reconnecting I just want to say how awesome it is to look at pictures and say I stand like that, that’s my smile, and i make that face too. I never considered my life was missing anything or I as not complete until I made contact with my birth mom. The connection we have is undescribable.


    • dpen

      November 8, 2014 at 2:21 am

      I feel your unlucky that you and your mom were put in this position to begin with. I DON”T feel lucky I had to be adopted to begin with. I find that sad and very unlucky. Your mother made a very sad choice to give you away….however needed it was. I was happy I ended up with the family I did but would choose not to be adopted to begin with…either have my biofamily be able to raise me or be born into my adopted family. but the half in and half out feeling is lousy.


    • TAO

      November 8, 2014 at 2:10 pm

      I very glad that you are happy and have the opportunity to meet your mother by birth, having genetic mirroring is important and the chance to create a lasting relationship is good.. I’m sorry you were to be aborted, even sorrier that your mother by birth told you she intended to abort you…


  9. stephanie

    November 8, 2014 at 2:58 am

    I guess it never bothered me to be adopted me never even thought it should bother me. I am sorry you feel like that. There’s only 14 yrs between me and my birth mom. It also ended a great hurt she was going through things that she had to go through and thought were normal was done. In sense as she puts it I saved her. I was also blessed with a wonderful adopted family where things were discussed openly and no secrets kept. Even with this reunion, the person i confide in is my mom. Every situation is different and everyone feels different. I hope things get better for you.


  10. dpen

    November 8, 2014 at 5:48 pm

    stephanie, Things are just fine for me. I felt like you for many years but now that I am middle aged and more awake I see what adoption does to children and i really hope that you did have a totally open relationship with everyone involved for your sake. I am really glad for you if so. Yes,m adoption is needed but the bad part of it can not ever be dismissed or minimized . there are many adoptees from wonderful adoptive homes, that have had “wonderful” reunions that still hurt. they need to be listened to and supported not condescended to. General society needs to change their attitudes on how adoption is done. the onus is on the adoptee to make the rest of the players happy. If not we are ungrateful that we were”saved” and rescued”..we are considered “angsty”,”an adoptee with issues”,”something wrong with us”. I say those feelings are totally normal for any human that has been through the same thing. Just stating facts here, not looking for attention…just telling the truth. I think that mindset puts adoptees at an automatic disadvantage. Just by be born and conceived we deserve less. I KNOW I deserved the same as any other child born, food,shelter,love…and I won’t be on my knees being grateful for something i deserved to begin with. The need for adoption is very sad to begin with, the child loses a secure place in a biological family and needs to prove they are just as good as adoptive family…being a chameleon is very common for adoptees. No matter how loving and great ever family is. Normal developmental stages are harder for adoptees just due to the fact they were relinquished…even for the best of reasons.

    with all of that being said…I love my aparents, they are both gone now and I AM grateful that they were wonderful peole and wonderful parents. My gratefulness comes from a place that ANY child feels..adopted or not for having great parents. Still not grateful I had to be adopted to begin with. Normal feeling if you ask me


  11. stephanie

    November 8, 2014 at 8:26 pm

    When I decided to send in my paperwork for information I thought I would start looking online for blogs and such because I was curios about other searches and reunions and what to expect. I am pushing 40, therefor my adoption was closed, and held onto the paperwork for 20 years because of being unsure if i was ready for what I may find. Its been just interesting reading up on it. Most of what I read are things I honestly have never felt. I didn’t even know there was a month dedicated to adoption. After reading blogs and books and anything else I can get my eyes on its just been an eye opening experience. I think all adoptees react differently to the thought of adoption and their adoption. I don’t think I will ever feel sad about it, I am sad my birth mom had to endure the abuse but she has forgiven the past and is welcoming the future.
    I guess my feelings may be different too because I was never called lucky or special and I was never treated differently for being adopted. I always thought it was cool to have this mysterious family I knew nothing about. Maybe it is just my happy go lucky positive attitude, I just wanted to give another opinion because I don’t think everyone feels those are such horrible phrases.



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