Now that Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes are splitsville, celebrity media are turning their attention to their daughter, Suri — Who’s going to get custody? Was Katie afraid of what Scientology would do to her daughter? Who would be Suri’s stunt double in Mission Impossible 27?
OK, I’m making the last one up. But my mind has turned a bit to the absurd, because as reporters are writing about Suri, they’re also talking about Tom Cruise’s older children — the ones he has with ex-wife Nicole Kidman. And, it seems, that those cranking out the celebrity tabloid fodder can’t get enough of reminding us that those children were adopted.
You pretty much can’t read a story about the current Cruise divorce without innumerable references to his older “adopted” children. Why do they care how these children, who are now 17 and 19, became part of the Cruise/Kidman family? What’s the fascination with constantly reminding the reading public that these teen-agers aren’t Cruise’s biological children?
You may also be asking, “Joanne, why do you care so much?”
This isn’t just about semantics or a question of appropriate journalism rules to me. I care because I’m a mother by adoption.
And as long a reporters and writers keep making distinctions about how children are added to families, they diminish mine. After a short trip down fertility lane, my husband and I decided to add a child to our family through adoption. And if you’ve read any if my other writing here or at my place, PunditMom, you know that my husband and I adopted our daughter from China.
But that was 11 years ago. She’s not our “adopted” daughter. She’s not our non-biological daughter. She is our daughter. Period. (Yup, that’s her at the top of this post!)
When we shared with some of our friends that we were going to adopt a child, more than a few asked, “But don’t you want a child of you own?” Some suggested we would be sorry if I didn’t get more hormone shots or give IVF a try. The not-so-subtle implication was always there in an unspoken thought bubble above their heads — why would you want somebody else’s baby? How will you know what you’re getting? The idea that only children who come to us through biology are “real” should be tossed out the window, but I’m not holding my breath.
I’m glad I’m not the only one calling out those who are uber-focused on the fact that Nicole and Tom became parents as a result of adopting their children. And I’m glad, because for the most part, newspapers, celebrity magazines, and so many other outlets do that either without thinking or because they still view adoption as something that is merely an adjective to give a story color — like telling us someone’s hair color or height. Writing in a story that a child was adopted — more than a decade after the fact — has no relevance in describing that person.
That’s why it’s important to me. Because there is no need to give our kids who came to us through the adoption process one more reason to feel insecure or different or somehow apart from how all other families are depicted. And that’s exactly what that sort of “journalism” does, whether it’s meant to or not. Just as it’s meant to raise questions when stories suggest that adoption is a celebrity fad or that it’s being used as a political tactic, making families, like mine, feel like we’re fair game for extra scrutiny because our child didn’t join our family the “old-fashioned” way just continues to make it acceptable for the rest of the world to stare at us and wonder whey we’re not like them.
Read more from me at my place PunditMom and in my Amazon best-selling book, Mothers of Intention: How Women and Social Media are Revolutionizing Politics in America.
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Image via Joanne Bamberger. All rights reserved