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My Kids Aren't My 'Adopted' Kids

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The Woody Allen-Dylan Farrow saga is one of those train wrecks where we just can't avert our eyes no matter how hard we try. But for adoptive parents, it has an added layer of injury. Story after story describes Dylan as Allen's "adopted" daughter -- as if the origin of their relationship has some bearing on what he did or did not do to her in the attic of that Connecticut house 21 years ago.

Ask yourself this: Would the allegations be any more or less salacious if she had been born to him biologically? Of course not, although we have a word for that: incest. Or are we supposed to infer that the fact he adopted her is in some way a factor in what is being accused and denied? Nothing has been reported thus far indicating that's the case.

Journalism 101 requires that we know which facts are relevant to the story and which ones aren't. How Dylan Farrow came to be Woody Allen's daughter has no relevancy that I can see. She is his daughter. Period.

Yet journalists insist on identifying her by how her relationship with Allen originated. In introducing a piece written by Dylan, New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof referred to her as Allen's "adoptive daughter." When Allen took the Gray Lady's megaphone a week later, Dylan Farrow was again introduced as "the adopted daughter of Woody Allen and Mia Farrow." Even Vanity Fair's Maureen Orth, who has written two major stories on the allegations that Allen sexually abused Dylan Farrow, also called her "his adopted daughter," when she set out to correct some of the "irresponsible claims" now flying wildly all over the Internet and in print. I would propose that it is irresponsible to continually underscore Dylan Farrow's adoption when Orth refers to her.

I have no personal knowledge of the Allen-Dylan Farrow case, but I do have some first-hand experience with adoption because it's how I chose to form my family. Since my two children are Chinese and my husband and I are not, most people can surmise from looking at us that my kids were adopted. But they are simply my children, not my adopted children. I love them no less because of the method by which we became a family.

When we first brought them home from China -- they were 5.5 years old and 4.5 years old -- I frequently wrote and spoke publicly about the adoption process, hoping to encourage others to consider the adoption of older special needs children. I would gladly answer strangers' questions about my experience -- especially if I thought the stranger was contemplating adoption. I was an adoptive mom back then, doing PR for the cause.

But I remember very precisely the moment that that changed. I was out grocery shopping with my daughter and a stranger approached, looked at us, and asked "Is her father Asian?" I replied, "I assume so. I never actually got a look at his face."

Then I grabbed Sophie's hand and turned away, leaving the stranger looking stunned and speechless. What had happened, I realized, is that it stopped feeling OK to me to turn my family into a poster for adoption. It no longer felt right to let strangers into my family's story or my children's lives. I think it was at that moment that we stopped being an adoptive family and just became a family.

Yes, there are certain issues that are unique to the fact that my children were older adoptees. But for the most part, when my kids' have struggles, they are the struggles of every kid -- not adopted kid struggles. When homework is hard, it's because they have a hard teacher not because they were adopted. When a best friend disappoints, it's because that's what happens in Middle School, not because they were adopted. When they don't get picked for the team, it's because others played better, not because they were adopted. And when Dylan Farrow says Woody Allen sexually abused her, it is because he is either a criminal or stands wrongly accused -- but it has nothing to do with the fact that she was adopted.

So how about going forward, we keep adoption out of it?