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Sister's 'ready meal' analogy

20 replies

ThisName · 20/06/2014 21:53

DH and I are in stage 2 - halfway through home visits - and I told family yesterday for the first time.
The reactions were all positive, supportive and lovely but my sister made a comment which really rubbed me the wrong way but they cannot see why at all. Now I'm starting to wonder if I'm being oversensitive, so what do you think?

(background) I'm a really keen cook and love to buy nice ingredients and make things from scratch. I have no bc.
My DSis has 3 BC. She hates cooking and will opt for ready prepared food every time.

When I told them my news, she 'quipped' that it's ironic that I haven't been able to carefully choose my ingredients and watch everything cook and be very careful to only add the best of everything and care for and nurture this, but rather will be getting a 'ready meal' and taking my chances and crossing my fingers that it's nice!
She genuinely didn't mean to be hurtful and when she saw my face she was eager to assure me that she loves ready meals(!), rarely has a 'bad' one and that she meant that something great can come out of unknown ingredients which have been prepared by a less-skilled and careful chef.

I really don't know whether to let it slide as a well-meant if slightly ill-judged comparison or to be militant from the get-go about what is appropriate/ hurtful/ helpful to say when discussing adoption?
My sister is lovely, and very supportive, but adoption as a concept is completely new to them all so I expect a few clangers along the way Confused

OP posts:
excitedmamma · 20/06/2014 22:03

I'd have been upset at that too...

I think I've found that you certainly have your eyes open and your heart broken by the most unlikely people during your adoption process.

I don't think some people have a clue how to react, and often say the wrong thing... a bit like when you meet a recently bereaved person.. its always awkward and you tend to bumble and say something inappropriate...

Hopefully your news will 'grow' on your sister and she will learn with gentle guidance to think differently and be more sensitive.

Don't let anyone P* on your parade... well done on your progress so far...

Sillylass79 · 20/06/2014 22:21

This reply has been deleted

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

DwellsUndertheSink · 20/06/2014 22:27

A ready meal might open your heart to a new flavour, a new taste experience. One which you will replicate at home, adapt, modify and make it your own signature dish.

Think about her comments this way, and they lose the power to upset you,

Suddenlythereare4 · 20/06/2014 23:38

I ready your post and it made me smile as my husband and I have just been approved to adopt siblings, and I can completely understand that it's tricky to explain & hard for families to understand. My husband decided to try to explain our future family as being like a microwave family the other day, because where most families have a long time come to terms that one baby is on the way, we really won't, as hopefully very soon we'll suddenly go from just the 2 of us to having a 2 year old and a 4 year old pretty much overnight. I can see the analogy is pretty graphic, and if it came from my sister I'd find it a little insensitive, but when my husband has used it with our friends and family, it's helped them understand the speed at which our lives will undoubtedly change completely. I'm now super excited about the microwave family we hope to have in the near future :)
I wish you all the very best with the process. I hope approval and matching goes well for you, and that you and your children become a wonderful family.

Barbadosgirl · 20/06/2014 23:55

Dear sister, possibly what started out as an apt and fun analogy went badly awry. Try to avoid these in future.

I understand why you are upset bit I imagine, ironically, that she was trying to make this all great and lovely by using a reference point you all recognised. And yet...

Perhaps a bit of education will help, there are some wonderful books for families new to adoption. Good luck xxx

ThisName · 21/06/2014 00:13

Thank you all for your lovely kind responses.
TBH I think it's quite an apt analogy and I think that's why I'm confused.
I'm a bit caught up in expecting people to say the 'wrong' thing and preparing myself to put them right that I'm doubting my own judgement.
There was absolutely no malice in my sister's comment so it feels mean to pull her up but I want them to be sure, before our LO joins us, of what is acceptable to say in front of them and others.
I worry that things like that, I brush of or agree with and then experienced adopters or SWs would be aghast and offended by.
But the more I think about it the more I smile at the thought that we will be getting an amazing little 'dish' that other people have prepared and we get to experience and enjoy and if necessary 'season' and 'flavour' to suit our family.
Yeah - I've taken it too far now, haven't I? Wink

OP posts:
drspouse · 21/06/2014 01:13

I can see why you'd be hurt but sometimes you have to laugh. We got a hand me down Gro bag for DS that says "home grown", well not only was he not grown in our home but he wasn't even grown in the UK because he was adopted from abroad! BUT we got the grobag from a couple whose son was born as a result of IVF so HE wasn't 100% home grown either!

So we did laugh at that.

Italiangreyhound · 21/06/2014 09:52

Thisname it was an insensitive thing to say and you were right to be offended. Although I know she did not mean it and I would not make a huge fuss. But I do think it may be helpful for you to understand why you or others would/might be offended.

If you want to pull her up on it I would do it quietly when no one else is around and just explain that adoption is complex. We all know we might talk about babies as buns in the oven and say stuff like I'm cooking up my baby etc. But the ready meal analogy is (IMHO) very insensitive.

I have a dear friend who said something like, "Adopting is just like having a birth child, except you don't get to pick their name!"

No it's not!

Another friend told me I was lucky as I did not have to potty train my son.

The flip side is that I do not know all his experiences, not only have I missed out on crucial bits of his life so far but he has missed out on having me there for crucial bits of his life and might have missed out important stages that all kids normally go through.

The early experiences he had, including being taken into care, have given him anxieties that he would not have, and have moulded him in a negative way.

It's not the end of the story because I hope I can make up for some of these things but it won't be as easy as eating a ready meal!

I think the reason adopters get offended by flippant comments is because it over simplifies things. You take these fresh natural ingredients and make this or someone else takes these ingredients and does this and that and you get a meal. But everyone's intention is to make a good lasagne or cottage pit etc.

With adoption you are taking a child who someone else has parented badly and let down, and you will have to help them to overcome those early experiences and, ideally, flourish. With a very few exceptions I think this is the case.

I think (so far) adoption is very hard and also amazingly rewarding.

I hvae just helped my son to learn to jump into the swimming pool, I am so proud of him. He is almost 4. My (birth) daughter was having baby swimming classes from age 6 months. It is a very different experience. It is a good experience (a lot of the time) but is parenting a child who has had (perhaps) very difficult experiences.

So trust your instincts when people say things that are offensive, pick your battles in terms of helping people to understand and make sure they do know that those types of comments are not acceptable around your new child (even if they are pre-verbal).

One of my friends kids kept referring to our son as our adopted son. My friends kid is a bit quirky and I know he did not mean any offence, what he was saying was true but I quietly said when we were alone. "He is our son, we adopted him and just call him our son, it doesn't matter how he joined our family." I made a point to tell him when he was alone rather than with our ds or other kids and he was fine. If I had not said anything he could probably have continued to say it thinking it was fine.

We are our children's advocates in things big and small but must do it in a nice way because you never know when you will need your sister to drop everything and run round to prepare a ready meal for you and your family if you are all ill or something!

Good luck.

Italiangreyhound · 21/06/2014 09:54

Sorry But I do think it may be helpful for you to understand... I mean But I do think it may be helpful for you to understand and explain nicely...

Kewcumber · 21/06/2014 10:25

Man that would have pissed me right off even if I knew it was kindly meant. And no I'm not a believer in sucking it up if it offends you in this particular case because if you don't nip it in the bid and make very clear that any kind of folksy homespun philosophy about how great adoption is not appropriate then you may well spend years cringing as she repeats it in front of your child. Italian is right it takes a complex and often traumatic situation and over simplifies it and puts a lovely socially acceptable spin on it.

You will become your child's advocate so you might as well get started now!

My my mind the only congratulations were straightforward one - "congratulations" "How exciting" blah blah. I didn't dwell on the harder to deal with aspects of adoption publicly but I certainly don't put up with any attempts to gussy it up into sometime prettier for others amusement.

You don't need to "pull her up on it" - have a quiet word... "I'm sure you could tell I was upset by your comment, it was because it trivialises what is a traumatic situation for a child - imagine if it were your child and it made me cringe. I now you didn;t say it with any malice but lets start out with this imaginary child the way we mean to carry on by not oversimplifying their experiences and marking them out as differnt to the rest of the family"

64x32x24 · 21/06/2014 17:25

What I find problematic about the 'ready meal' analogy is two things:
One, most people get ready meals when they don't have the time, or can't be fussed, to cook; so they 'throw money at the problem' and instead of cooking, buy something ready made. It implies that a) you chose the easy way out (because you can't be fussed?), and b) that you can 'buy' a child.

And two, meals - cooked from scratch, or ready meals - are there for us, to consume and hopefully enjoy. Whereas a child is not for consumption. And although we desire to have a child 'of our own' - the child is always their own person; and the point of their existence is NOT to provide us with pleasure, though we obviously do hope to derive some pleasure from having them in our family.

So if you feel some disquiet at the analogy, I would agree that there is plenty that you could point out, that makes it 'wrong' - in addition to what previous posters have said, that adoption is always more complex than any simple analogy like that.

That said, every analogy has it's limits, but that doesn't mean that there can't be something that the analogy DOES help to illuminate or understand, as well. Unknown 'ingredients' - some of them of dubious quality - that sounds reasonable to me. And to spin it further - I suppose with a dubious ready meal, you CAN make it palatable by adding some seasoning or maybe covering it with a home-made sauce - but doing that, you won't be getting rid of those dubious ingredients. In fact, you CAN'T get rid of them, whatever you do. So maybe just hiding them behind some seasoning is not the best strategy - rather, you will have to learn to live with them, to work with what is there rather than always perceiving the meal as failing the standards you would usually expect, to find ways to mitigate the effects of those dubious ingredients. If the ready meal is already very high in salt, say, then maybe you will have to delete salt from other food totally, so as to not increase the levels even further.

Overall, most people use analogies to help themselves make sense of things. That doesn't mean that they don't see the limits of those analogies; or that they perceive these analogies as 'final wisdom'. So what you could do, totally amicably, is, to dissect this analogy together with your sister, pointing out where it does illustrate and make sense, but also pointing out where it fails; and most of all, discussing why it should never be used in hearing of an adopted child. Even if it does have it's merits, the implications that an adopted child is there for the consumption and pleasure of their parents, who couldn't be fussed to make their own, could be very harmful.

Kewcumber · 22/06/2014 10:26

People use a lot of language around adoption that I don't like. I used to take the polite british stance of smiling and sucking it up because I didn't want to offend them because they "meant well".

Well sod that for a game of soldiers! I have a child who doesn't need to hear that he's a "take away" rather than home baked or to hear about his real mum etc etc

I'm not at all aggressive about it. But I have zero tolerance for it now because its what my child deserves - that I will fight battles for him that he isn't able to fight himself as most children won't challenge an adults language.

Start taking the initiative now.

drspouse · 22/06/2014 13:42

I think it is easier when you have a baby that doesn't understand. For example, someone commented very negatively about their niece's birth parents in DS' hearing (no idea why the uncle would know this, though maybe it was another family member or he was making assumptions). I just nodded and smiled as DS was under 1 at the time but I'd perhaps have had to say "well, we don't think that information is for sharing outside our family" or "we don't like to use those words in our family" if he'd been older.

Kewcumber · 22/06/2014 14:16

thats true drspouse though I think I used the pre-verbal stage as my practice ground! And so far in advance you won;t have any idea what age you might end up with in which case you have to hit the ground running.

bendywillow · 24/06/2014 00:09

Maybe your sister was trying to suggest that you might not know what you're getting by adopting? Her approach was a bit cack-handed, but the message, to me, seems quite clear and not at all nasty - indeed, it seems like she has your best interests at heart. She might have been making the point that, up to now, someone else has determined the ingredients of your soon-to-be child, and that when you're left out of the early part of the process, the results might not be what you would expect. I think she's been a bit insensitive about how she's worded this, but I think she might be genuinely concerned, and it might be worth speaking with her about her concerns. I'm sure everyone on this board would agree that the early cooks in our kids' lives haven't done the best of jobs, and as a result, we struggle each and every day with an array of behaviours that, on a good day are bewildering and mildly challenging, and on a bad day, are outright dangerous and heartbreaking.

Appletini · 24/06/2014 08:52

Maybe your sister was trying to suggest that you might not know what you're getting by adopting?

You don't know what you're getting by having birth children either!

Kewcumber · 24/06/2014 09:15

Well you can be pretty sure you're not getting a drug addicted, alcohol exposed baby or a child who was neglected or abused or had food withheld or lived with a variety of strangers at an age when they should be learning to trust one carer!

Unless of course you choose to do that to your birth child.

Kewcumber · 24/06/2014 09:17

And on reflection the main reason that I would object is that however your sister rationalises it - most people consider ready meals to be inferior to home cooked. Otherwise pubs and shops wouldn't be so quick to label everything they can get away with "home-cooked".

bendywillow · 24/06/2014 14:48

Kewcumber - thank you for your response - it's almost, word-for-word the response I would have posted.

Appletini - also want to point out that even when you think you might have some idea of what you might be in for with an adopted child, there are a whole bunch of other issues that can present, either because the social workers didn't know the child's full history, or because they did, and they have chosen to not disclose or to down play problems in order to move a child from foster care to adoption.

I was trying to be kind about the OP's sister because I think she might deserve the benefit of the doubt. In my experience, most people appreciate how insensitive it is to be (positive or otherwise) critical of any person's decision to adopt, but family members might have genuine and well-intended concerns to air, but are completely unsure about the language to use.

OP, I have a sister like yours - I know she's dropped a clanger, but she obviously cares about you and has an inkling just how different and challenging your life is about to become. Talk to her - let her know that you know what you are getting into, maybe? I doubt she sees her children or your future child as a commodity in any way, shape, or form.

It could be worse - my boss once asked me if I could send the kid back to the shop if he started being a pain in the a**e. Hmm Just his sense of humour, but he dropped this clanger without any of the love or concern that your sister is probably feeling towards you.

Italiangreyhound · 24/06/2014 23:35

ThisName One lovely and dear friend once asked me what would happen is it was not working out. I am sure she meant no harm but no one dream of asking a birth parent what they would do if it was not working out with their new baby!

PS Kew I agree, ready meals are often looked down on generally so although she may not have meant that (as a regular eater of them) that would be the general though that popped into some people's heads.

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