Did you hear about NBC commentator Al Trautwig’s tweet regarding Simone Biles’ family? If not, here it is:
“They may be mom and dad but they are NOT her parents.” (Al Trautwig via Twitter)
Soon after, he received tongue-lashings from others about this very offensive statement, and a #FireTrautwig campaign has started. He has since deleted the tweet, and has apologized,
“I regret that I wasn’t more clear in my wording on the air,” he said in a statement emailed by NBC Sports. “I compounded the error on Twitter, which I quickly corrected. To set the record straight, Ron and Nellie are Simone’s parents.” (USA Today)
More clear? Sorry, I don’t buy it. The fact that Mr. Trautwig took the time to capitalize the letters of the word “not” speaks of great intentionality with his words. Even though the tweet has been deleted, the impact of it has lingered. You just can’t flippantly say something like that and expect it to just go away. Words, whether kind or full of ignorance, always have a way of causing a visceral reaction with people.
Now, I know that some might say the adoptive community is just too sensitive. We don’t like to use the word “real” when it comes to defining biological family. We don’t enjoy hearing others ask, “Where did you get him from?” or “Aren’t you worried she will look for her real parents?” We don’t appreciate any of these types of comments or questions, but we understand fully that education and awareness are greatly needed in the area of adoption.
Perhaps, we (adoptive community) are too sensitive at times. We like to use a certain verbiage on our terms, but get defensive when others do. We strive to be viewed as a “normal” family and want to be seen as not differing from others, even though we all know that adoption is different and the way our families were woven together are as diverse as the terrains we all come from. I understand that we can be (at times) a little snobbish about who we are. We all know the in’s and out’s of what it is to parent a child not born to us. We are incredibly good at making things seem rosy all of the time, yet we know there are moments that are just ugly.
Sensitive? Maybe. Strong and persistent? ABSOLUTELY. Al Trautwig’s tweet was offensive. In just a few words, he completely diminished what it is to be a parent through adoption. I literally lifted out of my chair when I read them. I recalled the moment my son was told that I was not his “real” mother. After reading the tweet, my mind went to my children. How heartbreaking it would be for them to read something like that.
To even suggest that Simone’s parents are NOT her parents is exactly the opposite that all families formed through adoption strive to be.
The Merriam-Webster definition of the word parent is this:
1a: one that begets or brings forth offspring
b : a person who brings up and cares for another
2a: an animal or plant that is regarded in relation to its offspringb: the material or source from which something is derivedc: a group from which another arises and to which it usually remains subsidiary <a parentcompany> (Merriam-Webster)
Am I not a parent when I’m wiping away tears from my sad child? Am I not a parent when I’m paying for the various activities my children are involved in? How about when I’m advocating on behalf of my child at school, or doctor’s office, or in a social group, or when I come to the defense of my child? Am I not a parent when I feed, nurture, and take care of my child’s daily needs? Am I not a parent when I invest in my child’s physical, emotional, and spiritual growth?
After all, who else would be doing this?
Adoption may be different, but it is very much PARENTING. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure this out, and it sure shouldn’t take a tweet from an ignorant sports commentator to diminish it.
Adoptive families have nothing to be ashamed of. We are all explorers in the landscape of children who needed a family. Let’s leave the definitions of parenthood up to those of us who are doing it, and let’s give children, who have been adopted, the right to call us what they want.
By all definitions and standards, we are parents. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.