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My Daughter Is Adopted. Stop Calling Her ‘Lucky.’

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In the 15 months since our daughter was born, dozens of people have commented that she is “lucky” to be part of our family.  People clearly intend it as a compliment, and I don’t mean to seem ungrateful – but I really wish they would cut it out. 

Time and again, people say things to us like, “What a lucky little girl!” Or,  “She is blessed to be a part of your family,” and so on. By contrast, in the 10-and-a-half years since our son was born, I can only recall hearing similar comments about him maybe a handful of times 

So what’s going on? Why the difference? After all, if such comments are intended to compliment our “ace” parenting skills or our strong family ties, it would seem to apply equally to both of our children. Both my son and my daughter will grow up with the same parents and the same grandparents. They will go to the same schools and have the same opportunities for activities and, eventually, college. 

So why is it that people use the word “lucky” so much more with our daughter than with her brother?

I don’t think it’s a gender thing. The only reason I can think of: Our son was biologically born into our family, and our daughter came to our family through adoption.  

I don’t mean to seem oversensitive. But if I’ve noticed the contrast, surely she will one day, too. And as her parent, I feel the need to protect her from the implied — though certainly unintended implication: that her brother is somehow entitled to the love and opportunities he gets in our family, whereas she is lucky to have them.  

Are the love and care our daughter receives in our family positive things? Absolutely. But she and other children who come to their families through adoption should hear consistently and unequivocally that they deserve the love and care they receive in their families, as fully as if they were born into that family. 

The “lucky” narrative also glorifies the positive aspects of adoption — of which there are certainly many — while glossing over the ways that being adopted can feel challenging or difficult for a child. Perhaps one day our daughter will decide that she feels lucky to have been adopted into our family, but there will also almost certainly be times in her life when she struggles with feelings of loss, abandonment, or uncertainty. And she needs to know that it’s OK to feel that way. After all, most of us can imagine how stressful it would feel if suddenly the primary person we relied upon was no longer there — and my daughter had to experience this separation when she was just minutes old. 

Telling her she is “lucky” to be adopted by our family subtly and inadvertently minimizes the difficult experience she has been through, and the complicated feelings she may experience in the future. It may leave her feeling that it is not safe to express or explore those feelings as they arise over the course of her life, which is the exact opposite of the message that we want her to hear from the people who care about her.  

If you’re one of those people who has told us that our daughter is lucky, please know that we understand and appreciate the positive, loving ways in which your comments were meant. Please take this feedback in the spirit in which it is intended – as an opportunity for all of us to express our happiness at our daughter’s arrival in ways that also leave room for all of the complex emotions that adoption may entail. 

Image via Malte Mueller/Getty Images

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